Fans will get their hands on the latest Halo video game this week, as Microsoft completes 20 years of the franchise that turned its Xbox console into a hit.
Halo Infinite is out on Wednesday — but to celebrate the cult sci-fi series’ 20th anniversary, Microsoft and developer 343 Industries have already released a free-to-play “beta” trial version.
Within an hour of its launch on November 15, nearly 100,000 people logged on to play simultaneously via the online platform Steam, in a taste for the excitement of the sixth installment’s return to the 26th-century space war.
“The entire Halo community is eagerly waiting for this game to come out,” said 28-year-old Jen, a competitive Halo player who goes by gaming aka Queen x3.
“The beta was a lot of fun and it generated a lot of excitement leading up to the official launch.”
As far as the appeal of the game is concerned, seen through the eyes of a heavily armed cyber-soldier, he said it was in the thrill of the challenge.
“Halo really is one of the most competitive first-person shooters out there — not many people can pick up a controller for the first time and be great.”
Set in a future where humans have colonized multiple planets, Halo: Combat Evolved arrived in November 2001 as the first game for Microsoft’s brand new Xbox console.
The series quickly became known as a “killer app” – the Xbox’s product driving sales – as Microsoft sought to transform itself into an American rival to Nintendo of Japan and Sony in the already lucrative market for gaming consoles. demanded.
Two decades after the Xbox One remains a major player in the video game industry, which is now considered bigger than the movie sector, market research firm Mordor Intelligence has valued it at $173.7 billion (about Rs 13,05,820 crore) in 2020.
Its Xbox Live platform was a pioneer in turning online gaming into a social phenomenon, in which people logged on to play against friends or strangers. It now has over 100 million monthly users.
According to an analysis by Ampere, the Xbox console still lags far behind the Japanese giant, with an estimated 6.7 million sold by 2021 compared to nearly 90 million Nintendo Switches and 12.8 million PlayStation 5s.
But according to Microsoft, the latest versions of the Xbox, Series X and S are the fastest-sellers in the company’s history.
NPD gaming analyst Matt Piscatella said of the new Halo release, “It’s not like the title needs to move the console off shelves, although it will certainly help drive demand.”
red ring of death
The sports series – which has sold 91 million copies – has spawned an entire media franchise with movies, books, comics and an upcoming TV series starring The Wire actor Pablo Schreiber as the protagonist Master Chief.
It has also given rise to the expression Hello Killer, which means a game that can beat its success.
Joshua “Mash” Mashalan, a professional coach at the Hello e-sports tournament, remembers its rise as a time when, after all, “you weren’t stupid enough to like the game”.
“Everyone wanted to play,” the 28-year-old told AFP.
He was so excited about the beta version’s release last month that he set a day’s work to play it, and is enjoying it despite “a lot of minor glitches”.
“This is the new beginning of the game we have been playing for 20 years,” he said.
It’s a pleasant surprise for a title whose release has been delayed by more than a year, in part due to complications associated with COVID-19 teleworking, but also players’ criticism of the early artwork, ridiculed as the original.
Microsoft has launched several initiatives to mark the two decades of both Halo and Xbox, including a virtual museum that explores key moments in the console’s history.
These include the infamous “Red Ring of Death” crisis in 2007, when a defect prompted mass failures of the console, resulting in an ominous red flashing light on the box. The resulting recall cost Microsoft over $1 billion (about Rs 7,520 crore).