Back in 1999, Bungie Software, the US video game developer based in Bellevue, announced a new game concept called Halo. Although it is mostly associated with its huge success on the Xbox platform, Halo was originally unveiled as a software proposition for both Windows and Macs. Indeed, Steve Jobs announced Halo during the final Macworld Expo of the last century. However, things soon took a significant turn – and most gamers are quite happy that they did. With the Xbox Kinect being an incredibly popular console today, let’s take a look at the company’s story with Halo.
By the summer of 2000, Microsoft had acquired Bungie which – up to that point – had enjoyed only limited success with titles like Marathon, a first person shooter, and Myth, a strategy game. At the time, Microsoft’s strategy was to move into gaming in a big way and clearly the executives saw Bungie’s Halo concept as something to bet on. Following the acquisition and the subsequent branding of Bungie under the Microsoft Game Division banner, Halo was developed as an exclusive first person shooter for the Xbox. At the time, Jason Jones – one of Bungie’s founders – said that chance to work with a company that took the games seriously was exciting and the opportunity to work on the Xbox was one that was not to be missed. Remember that the first generation of Xboxes would only go on sale in the US in November 2001, giving Halo’s programmers the chance to be among the first to work with its chipset architecture and distinctive controllers.
Even though the Xbox was new, it provided a stable platform and the initial Halo offering Halo: Combat Evolved went on sale in 2001. Introducing all of the gameplay features and characters well known to gamers, the initial game was extremely well received by critics and the first version went on to spawn two sequels. Halo 2 featured a special edition with a funky aluminium case. In September 2007, when Halo 3 first appeared, it made in excess of £100 million within its first 24 hours of release, something that Hollywood blockbuster producers dream of. The game’s designers were now working on the Xbox 360 platform with all of the improvements that came with it. The phenomenal success of Halo 3 meant that the Bungie team had found themselves responsible for the Xbox 360’s most iconic franchise. As such, the series of three games had turned Microsoft’s Xbox 360 from a mere competitor offering to a platform like Sony’s Playstation into the gaming industry’s most important console. Furthermore it had done so within only a few short years.
Despite the team at Bungie and the Microsoft Game Division going their separate ways after this success, Halo has continued to amaze gamers with each subsequent re-imagining of the game concept. When the Xbox Kinect concept was launched in 2010, many in the gaming industry saw it as a move away from role playing shooting games, like Halo. Despite the huge popularity of the Xbox Kinect way of gaming interactively with body movements, a controller-based game like Halo continues to be something that Microsoft cannot do without. By 2011, no less than 40 million copies of the various Halo game had been sold. Indeed, by the following year, the franchise had earned Microsoft well over £1.5 billion. As such, the love affair between the game’s designers and the Xbox engineers looks like it not about to end any time soon. And that has to be good news for gamers, doesn’t it?