Here we are, five years to the day after finishing the fight. Well, at least, we thought we had finished it. By all accounts, it certainly seemed finished. We killed the big, bad aliens, saved the girl, and blew up the Destroy-All-Life-in-the-Galaxy Machine, so by most people’s standards, that would be enough to leave a situation thoroughly finished.
Little did we know, though, the true battle was for the cash in our wallets, and the good folks at the Microsoft corporation had- and still have- every intention to leave that fight unfinished…
It all started in 2001, with the launch of the original Xbox and what would soon become its killer app, Halo: Combat Evolved. The game unquestionably elevated the Xbox brand to the recognition it enjoys today, and after the first year, Microsoft made a concerted effort to capitalize on the shooter’s success.
The next retail release was the Gearbox-developed PC port of Halo in 2003. The following year, the titanic Halo 2 launched.
Now, here’s where Microsoft’s sneakiness comes into play. A retail disc was released in 2005 that contained all the downloadable maps for Halo 2, and Microsoft’s streak of Halo releases stayed alive.
The year 2006 came and went without a Halo title, but it wasn’t without Microsoft trying. The company obviously wanted to launch the Windows Vista version of Halo 2 with the rollout of the new PC operating system, which was originally scheduled for Christmas 2006. Vista was delayed, and the team dedicated to porting the game was too understaffed to hit that launch window, and instead, released in May 2007.
A mere four months later, Halo 3 brought the exploits of Master Chief to the Xbox 360, and Bungie, the series’ creator, detached itself from the Microsoft mothership.
Even though Microsoft had lost the House of Halo, the next four years saw the releases of Halo Wars, Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, and Halo: Anniversary.
Now, we’re only weeks away from the release of Halo 4, which will usher in the Reclaimer Trilogy. So how is Microsoft going to rake in the Halo-bucks in the years between fourth and fifth numbered installments? Based off of industry rumors and blatant speculation, we can take a couple of reasoned guesses.
Next year will see the launch of the next Xbox console, and it’s entirely possible that Microsoft is going to release a supped up version of Halo 4 to show off the console’s muscle. Whether that comes in the form of a patch or a retail release remains to be seen. So that covers 2013.
What will 2014 hold? Look for Halo 2: Anniversary to launch on the next Xbox to celebrate the game’s tenth year.
With three years of development time, 343 Industries will be ready for Halo 5 by 2015.
For those of you keeping score at home, that’s fourteen retail releases in fourteen years. Shit may be given to Activision and EA for iterating their big franchises each year, but Microsoft could dish out a master class in sneaky annualization. Plus, when you take into account the graphic novels, anime compilation, soundtracks, and eleven books, it’s easy to see how exhaustive Microsoft has been in milking its cash cow, and it’s clear that they’re not going to stop working the golden utters anytime soon.
As a man with a giant Master Chief helmet and Noble Team statue on my desk, this leaves me conflicted. The same part of my psyche that compels me to buy anything with the word “Halo” on it also wants to see the series thrive. However, I feel Microsoft might be in real danger of oversaturating the brand. By the time Halo 5 rolls around, it won’t quite have the same impact has Halo 4, much in the same way that my monstrous excitement for Halo 4 pales in comparison to the world-consuming events that were the Halo 2 & 3 launches for me.
So, in the end, I worry about the games I love. I only want the best for them. The brand may diminish under the weight of its own annual releases, but on November 6, I’m sending Microsoft a hundred of my hard earned bucks, so their strategy continues to work.