As the latest in a spate of urban action video games, "Crackdown" was getting little attention until Microsoft's game studio played a trump card -- giving buyers early access to the latest version of blockbuster game "Halo."
Microsoft in early January announced that retail buyers of "Crackdown," due out on February 20 for the Xbox 360 console, would also get a special key allowing them to be on the team that will test "Halo 3" this spring. But it also sparked complaints from some gamers, who in online forums have charged that Microsoft is forcing people to buy a $60 game they may not have otherwise purchased to get pre-release access to one of the most hyped games of 2007 -- "Halo 3".
"('Crackdown') was not highly anticipated," said Garnett Lee, managing editor of video game network 1UP.com. "Millions might pick ('Crackdown') up now."
Microsoft defended its strategy.
"I can understand why people might think that," said Craig Evans, Microsoft's director of marketing. "But the bottom line is that "Crackdown" is a game that stands on its own."
Evans said over 600,000 people downloaded a free demo of "Crackdown" over the Xbox Live online service in just a couple of weeks, demonstrating its worth as a game.
"People are definitely saying "I'm getting a free beta with 'Crackdown,' not the other way around," Evans said. "The 'Halo 3' beta isn't going to push the game's sales into the millions. 'Crackdown' is going to push its sales into the millions."