Halo. It's a video-game franchise that stirs the hearts and minds of hard-core gamers everywhere. It's no surprise, then, that the next installment in the series, Halo: Reach, is making an impact on the video-game market -- before it even hits store shelves.
Halo: Reach is the prequel to the number-one game series of all time, and it debuts in the U.S. on Sept. 14. Halo: Reach follows the story of Noble Team, a squad of Spartan soldiers, as they make their final stand on planet Reach. Planet Reach is humanity's last line of defense between the terrifying Covenant and Earth.
Bungie developed the game exclusively for the Xbox 360. Judging by the history-making beta release of the game, which drew 2.7 million gamers to a multiplayer test drive on Xbox LIVE, Microsoft and Bungie both have something to smile about.
"It's certainly good for Microsoft to have the Halo franchise as part of the Xbox experience," said Michael Gartenberg, a partner at Altimeter Group. "Halo has traditionally been one of those titles that not only sells a lot of copies, but also sells a lot of hardware as well. There's no reason to think this next version of Halo won't continue in that tradition."
Halo in Pop Culture
Just how popular is Halo? The last game, Halo 3, sold about eight million copies. Halo: Reach might surpass that. In the multiplayer beta on Xbox LIVE, gamers played Halo: Reach more than 13 million times and logged more than 16 million hours of online game play. That adds up to more than 1,826 years of total play time in just over a two-week period. Halo fans have logged more than two billion hours of game play on Xbox LIVE in the past decade. To date, Halo titles have exceeded sales of 34 million.
Beyond the numbers, one could look at how Halo has seeped into other parts of pop culture. During the past 10 years, the Halo franchise has inspired multiple New York Times best-selling novels, comic books, action figures, and apparel. Fans have also shared millions of pieces of user-generated content, created original Halo machinima series, and even held Halo-themed weddings.
Multiple Flavors of Halo
Bungie is selling pre-orders of Halo: Reach in three flavors: Standard, limited and legendary. The standard edition sells for $60, and the limited and legendary editions will retail for $80 and $150, respectively. What's the difference? The limited and legendary editions include extras.
For example, the legendary edition offers a 10-inch-tall, hand-painted, and individually molded Noble Team statue. Fans can get a token to unlock an exclusive in-game Spartan Recon Helmet by picking up a copy of the game on launch day at North American retail stores, and outside of North America by making a pre-order reservation at participating retailers.
"There's no doubt in my mind that Halo: Reach will be one of the biggest games and hottest entertainment products of the year," said Bob McKenzie, senior vice president of merchandising at GameStop. "Pre-orders for Halo: Reach have been off the charts, with fans snapping up the limited and legendary editions since they were introduced just a month ago. Overall, it's a real testament to the passion of the Halo fan base."