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Time’s Up: Halo Will Never Be A Cross-Platform Mega-Franchise
Microsoft’s Halo franchise has been around since the launch of the original Xbox in 2001. Halo: Combat Evolved was a ground-breaking title and a huge win for Xbox as they secured exclusivity for the franchise. All three games from the original trilogy were fantastic and are remembered extremely fondly. The platform was there for Microsoft to build something huge. However, in 2014, hope of Halo becoming a media platform-transcending powerhouse needs to be put to bed, because it’s not going to happen.
I think a lot of people forget just how massive the Halo franchise was. Think back to September 2007 and the impending release of Halo 3 for Xbox 360. It was MASSIVE. I was in Year 8 of secondary school (or seventh grade for American readers) and it was all anybody could talk about for months and months. It was the highest selling game of 2007, grossing $300 million in its first week on sale and shifted 11.5 million copies in total. If there were ever a time when Halo was meant to break in to the mainstream, it was then. Why? Because the whole world cared. World famous media outlets were covering it much like they did for new Call of Duty games between 2010 and 2012. It broke out; suddenly it was BBC and CNN covering the release rather than just IGN and Gamespot. A film was then planned; Peter Jackson was hired to produce the movie. But, after years of changes and stalling, it never came to fruition. And it was all downhill from there.
When one looks back at the history of the Halo franchise, it’s easy to see where it went array. It’s called ODST. Halo 3: ODST was a really bad moment for the franchise, if ever there were a time they didn’t need an unimaginative spin off to keep things ticking over, it was then. This was the Batman: Arkham Origins to the Arkham franchise if you will. The game scored well and was generally well received, but it wasn’t what Microsoft needed from Bungie. It was more of the same, but with a story nobody cared about. Then, just a year later, Halo Reach was released. Once again, the game reviewed well and was a good game but it was another spin off. These two games took a lot of the wind out of the franchise’s sails. Mainstream media didn’t care anymore. It was now just a games franchise, when it could’ve been so much more.
Things continued to go from bad to worse, with Bungie separated from Microsoft to create new IPs such as Destiny the keys to Microsoft’s precious franchise were handed to 343 Industries. It was then announced that there would be a whole new trilogy, beginning with Halo 4. Halo 4 subsequently came out in November 2012 and once again scored very well and was a great game but unfortunately, 5 years and a few missteps after the release of Halo 3, the magic was gone.
I’m not saying that ODST, Reach or Halo 4 are in any way bad games, don’t confuse my point here, because they were all great and they all sold well. However, the overarching theme here is one of what could have been. In 2007, the potential for the Halo franchise was huge. Coming off the third game in the magnificent trilogy, concluding the story we’d all been following, it could’ve blown up. TV shows, movies, books, expanded universes and mainstream merchandise were all real possibilities. But, for some reason it just didn’t happen that way, maybe it was never meant to be. The important thing is that people who make important decisions over at Microsoft and Xbox realize that the boat for Halo was well and truly missed. It almost feels like they’re trying to make up for the missed opportunities now because they know how bad of a missed opportunity it was. Think about it, had a Halo TV show produced by Steven Spielberg been announced at E3 2006 or 2007, the world would’ve lost its mind, it would’ve been broadcast on a huge network and would’ve been a massive win. Now, in 2014, it’s merely an interesting idea. The show could be fantastic, but the attention it could’ve amassed 7 years ago would be reminiscent of The Walking Dead now, I’m almost certain of it. The Walking Dead came from another non-mainstream form of media (comic books) and has set itself up to be a hugely successful franchise for years and years to come through the TV show, video games, merchandise and potentially movies down the road. This is definitely a fair comparison to what Halo could’ve been had things fallen properly.
Halo is, and always will be the most important gaming franchise in Microsoft’s history. The popularity and quality of those original 3 games should never be questioned or understated. But now, in 2014, one has to look back at the franchise and wonder where it all went wrong and accept that it’ll never be as popular as it once was.
To me, the sign Microsoft should be consigning Halo to the history books was in the reaction to the announcement of the new game for Xbox One at last year’s E3. Were people excited? Of course. Was it and overwhelming feeling of enormous anticipation? No. Up until 2007, Halo felt special. I think Xbox would be better served looking to the future and trying to develop new franchises and IPs that’ll have that same aura, because it’s never coming back to Halo.
Halo had the potential to be a Hollywood blockbusting, media platform-transcending powerhouse of a franchise if done right, now it’ll always represent a huge missed opportunity. And that’s a massive shame.