I guess I’m buying all the numbered Halo games again, and I’m looking forward to it. With today’s official announcement of the “Master Chief Collection” of Halo games, which I absolutely plan to purchase, it’ll be the third time I buy the original Halo, the third time I buy Halo 2, the fifth time I buy Halo 3, and the second time I buy Halo 4.
Now what I’m *really* looking forward to is the follow-up collection of the Halo titles that didn’t star Master Chief. And the remaining Halo games have their fans: “Halo 3: ODST” has arguably the best singleplayer campaign of all the Halo games (especially when played solo), “Halo: Reach” has a lot of fans for its take on multiplayer and has arguably the best co-op campaign, and finally there’s “Halo Wars”.
Ah, Halo Wars. It was recently decreed to still be a “viable franchise” by the head of 343 Studios, the people behind Halo. If there is to be a collection of all the *other* Halo games, I expect Halo Wars to make the cut. It’s sold over 2 million copies, unheard of for a console real-time strategy game. Whenever I go into the game there are typically 1500-2000 people playing concurrently at any given time, which probably adds up to something like 100K individual player over the course of a month. Most console games are a ghost town 6 months after release, but Halo Wars soldiers on, despite new consoles pulling people away from their Xbox 360s. Finally, they released four games for the Master Chief Collection, and they’ll want to get as close to that number as they can for a follow-up. Perhaps they would include Spartan Assault in such a collection as a fourth game, or even the “Forward Unto Dawn” film.
But when? Microsoft has had annual Halo releases each “holiday” for several years now. Most people point to 2009’s “ODST” as when this began, but if you dig a little deeper I would argue it spans a little further back.
While there was a three year gap between Halo 2 on the original Xbox and Halo 3 on the Xbox 360, The PC version of Halo 2 came out in spring 2007. To me, this is the beginning of the “modern era” of Halo releases. Halo 3 then came out in late 2007. “Halo Wars” came out over the course of the winter of ’08/’09 (specifically early ’09). “Halo 3: ODST” then came out in late 2009. “Halo: Reach” was released in 2010. “Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary” came out in late 2011. “Halo 4” was the holiday 2012 release. Spartan Assault was spread out more than most, coming out in July 2013 for Windows Phone and Windows 8, December 2013 for Xbox One, January 2014 for Xbox 360, and finally a release on Steam in April 2014. So after lengthy waits for the release of Halo, then Halo 2, and then Halo 3, we’ve had regular releases ever since. Microsoft has smartly bridged platforms and genres to keep things a whole lot fresher than, say, “Call of Duty” which not only has annual releases for the main game (that comes out on a raft of platforms), but spin off games for handheld game systems, and even more spinoffs for mobile platforms. Call of Duty is criticised for too many releases, and too little change from one to the next. Few people complain about that with Halo thanks to genre changes, and an expanded universe of webisodes, books, comics, and more that give more heft to the stories.
So if we believe that Microsoft is focused on releasing one (and only one), Halo game per year, that they’ve had success jumping genres in the past, and that every viable genre is open for consideration, then we look forward to late 2014 being the Master Chief Collection, and late 2015 being the Halo 5: Guardians release. With the Guardians multiplayer beta featuring in the Master Chief Collection, it’s all but a sure thing that we’ll see Halo 5 in 2015, and by that time they’ll have three years to work on it which is about how long the big Halo games take.
If we’re lucky, we’ll get something “Gears of War” related in-between those two, and I’d love a Gears collection as much (or more) than I’d love a Halo collection. Gears has slotted itself into the spring release with Halo taking the winter release honours, and that’s a good one/two punch right there.
So a collection of the remaining three (or four) Halo games, if Microsoft is to ever do one, is likely to have to wait until late 2016. I’d like to see it happen, as a fan of the creepy paranoia of ODST, the great campaign co-op of Reach, and the fast and frantic strategy action of Halo Wars. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll get a proper Halo Wars sequel later in the Xbox One’s life. I can dream.