Microsoft made a splash recently by announcing (among other things), Halo 3: Recon, which is slated for release next Fall. According to the company, the title will feature a new protagonist and be a prelude to the events we played through in the original Halo games.
At first glance, the game sounds like a smart idea: Halo is one of the most celebrated titles in the history of gaming and is one of the main reasons the Xbox and Xbox 360 are relevant today. But the question of whether or not we should have another Halo hit store shelves is not an easy one to answer.
The original Halo title for the Xbox was undoubtedly one of the best games of that generation. It featured outstanding gameplay, a pretty good story, and a multiplayer experience that was unrivaled at the time. Since then, though, the Halo franchise has become a shadow of its former self.
Sure, Halo 2 and Halo 3 may have been embraced by gamers and the latter made $170 million in its first day of availability, but anyone who played through the last two games knows all too well that the experience couldn't match the first game, the stories weren't nearly as appealing as the first, and the gameplay couldn't quite compete with the first title.
And now, Microsoft wants to go back to the well to see if it can squeeze every last ounce of cash out of the Halo franchise before it enters gaming's retirement home. Financially, it will probably behoove Microsoft to do so. But from a long-term perspective, will it do more damage than good?
I think so.
How many times have we seen games stretched out for too long, only to see a once-beloved franchise turn into a bundle of crap? It has happened with the Madden franchise for one, but it's endemic in the video game business. Once a company thinks it can make a large sum of cash on a franchise that has been embraced by so many, it forgets about the gameplay and the story and forces developers to rush a game out the door to turn a quick profit.
And although Microsoft is trying to play it off like Halo 3: Recon will be different and the next logical follow-up to Master Chief's exploits, it's not pulling one over on those of us who want to see proud franchises stay that way.
Halo 3: Recon will sell out on too many levels. It'll be the same basic game with a barely-updated design that features a new storyline and a new protagonist that we probably won't even like. The purists among us will desire the old days of Master Chief and those new to the franchise will wonder what all the fuss is about.
Of course, I could be wrong and Halo 3: Recon could be the greatest Halo ever released. But let's be honest with ourselves: does this game really sound like one that has "great game" written all over it? If you ask me, this has "let's make lots and lots of money off Halo" written all over it. And that's not good for anyone.
Why can't Microsoft let Halo retire at the top of its game? Yes, I know that the company's executives have to make money for the company and the best way to do that is to exploit its most popular franchise, but can't it see that if it goes to the well one too many times, it'll dry up eventually?
Microsoft should let Halo go away and watch as a grassroots campaign starts by those asking for a new game to be released. Then, in tandem with the release of the Xbox 360's follow-up, Microsoft should release a Halo title.
By doing so, it'll sell like gangbusters and the console will take an early lead thanks to rabid fans who have been drooling over the possibility of another Halo game for years.
See, it's not that I have a problem with Microsoft releasing another Halo game. Instead, I have a problem with Microsoft releasing it too early in a thinly-veiled attempt to make some quick cash.
The golden rule of gaming is to create a wildly popular franchise and let that franchise become more popular while it's absent from store shelves. Then, when the time is right and there is much more to gain than a few extra bucks, developers should release the next iteration, rinse, and repeat.
I think Microsoft has made a mistake. It should have waited until the time was right to offer another Halo title. And in its haste, it may ruin the franchise for good.