The FBI on Tuesday launched operation "Cyber Strike" in eight U.S. cities in a bid to track down elusive computer software pirates who have cost game and program manufacturers millions of dollars in losses.

The FBI, which searched homes and businesses as part of the probe, would not say how many people are under investigation, and no arrests were expected immediately.The victims of this underground network of software pirates include major players such as Microsoft Corp., Sony Computer Entertainment and gamemakers Sega of America Inc. and Nintendo of America.

Overseen by the FBI's International Computer Crime Squad in San Francisco, footwork for the investigation began in the spring with the help of several software companies.

Those companies include Novell Inc., based in Provo; Autodesk Corp., based in San Rafael, Calif.; Adobe Systems, based in San Jose, Calif.; Intuit Corp., based in Redwood City, Calif.; and Symantec Corp., based in Cupertino, Calif.

Perrin Kaplan, a spokeswoman for Nintendo, based in Redmond, Wash., said the company has lost "millions and millions and millions upon millions" to counterfeiters, who are especially hungry for its Donkey Kong and Mario series games.

"Whatever's popular - that's what they want," Kaplan said.

The FBI said it expects to seize computer hardware, documents and records in Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio; Miami; Oklahoma City; Des Moines, Iowa; Pittsburgh; and San Leandro and Cedar Ridge, Calif. FBI spokesman George Grotz, who's based in San Francisco, said agents would be questioning more than one person in each city.

The nine companies listed as victims are based in northern California, Washington state and Utah.

The proliferation of the Internet has aided software pirates who illegally make copies of copyrighted software programs and games. Bootleggers also use bulletin board services, a slightly more outdated form of data transmission, which requires dialing up the specific BBS site by telephone.