As the entertainment industry comes to the conclusion of the summer movie season, filled with rehashed blockbuster sequels to popular franchises, only one trilogy has penetrated the hearts of minds of video gamers everywhere: Halo 3.
For a generation of video game fans, the Halo series represents their own big-budget blockbuster; chock full of great special effects, heroic protagonists, and enough hype to catch the attention of the entire entertainment industry in the same way Star Wars did over thirty years ago.
On Sept. 25th, hundreds of thousands of gamers will line up in front of their local electronics outlet for the chance to play the last of a trilogy of games that have transcended the boundaries of what has traditionally been a niche pastime.
The Star Wars comparison has been used many times for the Halo series, as it has drawn the same sort of attention and fanaticism that is associated with Star Wars fans.
Most recently Wired magazine called Halo “a cultural touchstone, a Star Wars for the thumbstick generation,” noting that the Halo 3 is the “latest sequel to one of the most innovative and beloved videogames of all time.”
USA Today investigated further, and found that both the Halo and Star Wars series developed their roots in classic Greek mythology such as the stories of Prometheus, Jason, The Aeneid, The Iliad, and The Odyssey, which is the reason why the resonate with such a large audience.
Like Star Wars, Halo 3 innovated and changed the medium from which it sprang.
Halo: Combat Evolved is identified as the first console first-person shooter to nail the controls, creating a standard that every other game in the genre has used since.
It also introduced a new health system. In previous shooters, gamers would walk over health kits to regain lost health, a method which was very unrealistic and took gamers out of the experience. In Halo, the main protagonist Master Chief has a shield that automatically regenerates when he leaves combat for a few seconds.
Developers added to this realism by only allowing Master Chief to carry two weapons at a time. In previous shooters, gamers could carry over twenty weapons, which was unrealistic and created complicated control schemes.
In Halo 2, Bungie expanded their vision further, adding dozens of online multiplayer modes. The foray into the online space made Halo 2 the top Xbox multiplayer game, and it is still one of the most popular online games in the world, 3 years later. The addition gave the series extra shelf-life, prolonging the game’s impact on the global consciousness.
One of the other main selling points of the series is the story and universe. As with Star Wars, Bungie created a huge back-story with Halo, full of memorable characters, vehicles and settings.
Just as Star Wars legitimized Sci-fi to the casual movie fan, Halo made blasting aliens cool to the mainstream audience, who wanted to see what all the fuss is about
Bungie has encouraged the fans releasing books, comics, videos and viral campaigns to expand the story, and the audience has responded.
At a worldwide movie premiere, fans lined up for almost a day to catch a glimpse of the game in preview events at IMAX theatres across the United States.
Microsoft is planning launch events in New York, Seattle, L.A, Miami, Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, Milan and London, where hip-hop star Pharrell Williams will host a bash at the BFI Imax.
The company has been marketing the game hard, recently launching a $10 million TV ad campaign, an ad budget that rivals most blockbuster movies. The campaign features a massive diorama depicting a Halo-themed battlefield, and focuses on the emotional impact of war. Microsoft is hoping that by not bombarding viewers with in-game footage, they can attract the casual fans who have not yet bought into the hype.
The launch of Halo 3 is representative of the coming out party for the industry. No longer are gamers shunned, as consoles are leaving the bedroom and entering the living room as one of the entertainment staples for most families.
The games industry has seen a 43% sales increase this year according the latest NPD sales figures, and the number is expected to grow this Holiday as more casual gamers pick up the next generation of video game systems.
Analysts expect this success to transfer over to Halo 3, as they predict that the game will sell 3 million copies in its first 12 days, generating over $200 million its first day alone.
The video game business is primed for a landmark title, and developers at Bungie are hoping that Halo 3 is the Star Wars of the video game generation.