The FPS gaming year revolves around November releases and it’s no secret that Halo 4 releases in just under a month. The game has fans excited for its launch and there is no doubt that it will be a financial success.
However, Halo 4 has a lot more at stake than some of the previous titles in the series. It begins a fresh new trilogy and it also welcomes 343 Industries as the franchise’s lead developer after Bungie’s farewell with Halo: Reach. It’s anyone’s guess how this new installment will resonate with gamers and what kind of influence it will have years down the road. So to paint the best picture of what Halo 4 will potentially be for the series, let’s go all the way back to the beginning: November 15, 2001.
A strong case can be made that Halo: Combat Evolved’s release was a godsend for both FPS games and the original Xbox console. Before the launch of Xbox, FPSs were already getting a lot of buzz with games like Perfect Dark and 007 GoldenEye for Nintendo 64 and Counterstrike for PC. Halo took that buzz and used it as a launching pad to become one of the most influential games of the early 2000s generation of consoles. What’s to say the original Xbox wouldn’t have been a failure of a console without a system seller like Halo. Heck, we already saw the downfall of the Dreamcast months prior to the release of Microsoft’s green and black system, so no one could really rule out anything. And maybe saying the Xbox might have failed is a stretch for a system backed up by Microsoft, but it’s safe to say no one could have predicted the company’s gaming debut would eventually outsell Nintendo’s GameCube. The most telling sign that Halo gave the system a great start was that it was the only game to make it as a top-seller in 2002.
Halo: Combat Evolved would again be a top-seller across all consoles in 2004, and one would have to assume this was the result of folks getting ready for Halo 2’s release on November 9, 2004. With the highly anticipated debut of Halo on the already booming Xbox Live, Halo 2 would go above and beyond the original. Hardcore players no longer had to use tunneling software to play with their friends online. Halo 2 took console FPSs and brought it into the future with features that have become industry standards. Matchmaking, an entirely separate friends list for your clan, a TrueSkill ranking system, automated online stat tracking, and elaborate customization options may have been done before, but Halo 2 offered it all in one neat little package.
A year after Halo 2’s launch, Xbox 360 took the torch from its predecessor. Even a year after the next-gen console’s 2005 launch, Halo 2 remained the most popular game played on Xbox Live, only to be dethroned by mega hit Gears of War. Its popularity was still very healthy, but people were anxious for the next Master Chief saga, one that boasted both graphical and gameplay enhancements.
Halo 3 arrived on September 25, 2007, and it was welcomed with opened arms. It was the top-selling game in 2007 and also beat out FPS rival, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Halo 3 finished off the main trilogy of games with fans and critics very satisfied. The next few years saw spin-offs, a remake and a prequel, but the fire that was once burning for the series died down just a bit after news that the Bungie team would be leaving. Competition from other high profile FPS contenders like Call of Duty and Battlefield didn’t help either
Nothing may ever come close to the success of the original Halo trilogy, not even Halo 4. Expecting it to match or exceed how the original trilogy started would be as crazy as assuming The Phantom Menace ever had a chance to do the same with the Star Wars franchise. We are in 2012, where the FPS market is going to be healthy with or without a new Halo every few years. In 2005, if you were playing on Xbox Live, chances are you were playing Halo 2. Today, fans are scattered all over the place with not 1 or 2 thriving shooters, but dozens. So what can Halo 4 do that is different from the last handful years?
A brand new trilogy means a fresh start for the Halo franchise. New ideas, new enemies, and a new development team mean a whole lot more creative potential. With a trilogy ender, a remake and a prequel, there was just so much fans could get excited for, because they knew what they could expect. Something radically new could bring a spike in popularity for a series that remained largely the same for so many years.
Halo 4 arriving as Xbox 360’s last Halo title is a big possibility, and it could set the platform for the almost guaranteed new Xbox 720 system. Halo 4’s success could be a big indicator of the magnitude of influence Halo 5 will be as a system seller. Much like Halo gave people reason to buy an Xbox and Halo 2 gave people a reason to connect their systems to Xbox Live, Halo 5 can be the big player for the 720.
Lastly, one has to assume Microsoft wants to bring back home the title of best FPS games. Much like Nintendo would never let other developers outshine their first-party games on their system, Microsoft reaps all the benefits if their shooter comes out on top. Royalty wars over Call of Duty and Battlefield DLC exclusivity could be a thing of the past if the number one FPS game is homegrown. As a console with so little first-party success compared to Wii and PlayStation 3, a lot has to be riding on Halo 4.
11 years after Combat Evolved, the Reclaimer Trilogy is about to begin. Whether fans agree with the move or not, as long as there is money to be made, Halo will be around. And that means Halo will be around for a long while. So what do you think? Are you excited? Has your mind changed since its announcement and now a month before its release? Let us know.