UPDATE: Here's Activision's statement, which seems to say early players are in the clear.
"We value and appreciate the community’s support. We have no interest in banning legitimate copies in these last few days," said a company spokesperson over email. "We just ask for everyone to wait for Tuesday when everybody can play the game together.”
No, this isn’t a joke. No, this doesn’t make any sense. Yes, I’ve contacted Activision.
Microsoft has traditionally allowed anyone who managed to legitimately purchase an early copy of a game the right to play online without issue. If you didn’t pirate the game, you’re free to play.
"For those asking about MW3 pre-release play: If your copy is legit and obtained legitly, have fun. It's a great game.” he said.
Then, Toulouse reversed his position this morning, issuing a vague warning to early players.
"clarification: dblchk'd with Activision. Mw3 pre-release play not authorized,” he clarified. “So pls be patient. Playing early may impact your account!"
It’s not clear what “may impact your account” means, as it’s hard to imagine Activision would ask Microsoft to ban players who paid $60 for a legitimate product, let alone Microsoft following through. The whole situation reeks of weirdness.
So far, Activision has not issued a response. It should probably look into doing that very soon.