On Crowns and Emulation

Halo. There I said it. Whether you align yourself with the Sony Defense Force or swear allegiance to the X-Bots, you know that Halo is a big deal in the gaming industry. Millions upon millions of games have already been sold to consumers around the world. Master Chief is a video game icon. So rare is the game that can promote its central figure to mascot status, but Halo did it. It has gotten to the point that anything with Halo in the title is guaranteed to have a noteworthy return on investment. But as the Halo universe continues to expand in to other games, literature and other media there is a little piece of me that wonders if it is too much. Is Halo running the risk of over expansion to the point of devaluing its prominence in the industry?

Obviously you all are aware of the success story of Halo 3: ODST. Over 2.5 million units have graced consoles around the world in merely 2 weeks. Despite the hesitation from some about the price of the game, the length of the campaign, and the legitimacy of firefight, this thing is a financial success. When it comes to the bottom line, that’s all that really matters. Halo still makes money. Lots and lots of money. Naturally when a company has an opportunity to make even more money, especially in These Troubled Times, it’s hard to turn down a sure thing. What this means for you and me is that Halo will be around for a long, long time. And not just in a format managed by an Xbox Controller.

In a recent interview with USA Today, Frank O’Connor, creative director for 343 Industries outlined the future of the Halo franchise. Depending on your love for all things Halo, it’s intense. We all know about Halo: Reach due out next year. We’ve seen the trailer for Halo Legends, the multi-part anime series. Marvel Comics is currently publishing one series, Halo: Helljumper and a new series, Halo: Blood Line will be out this winter. And of course there are the books. To complement the current catalog, Halo: Evolutions will be out before the holidays and a new trilogy of books focusing on the Forerunners is also being developed. Oh, and there continue to be new lines of action figures being released to compete for our dollar bills. The amount of content that is and will be available outside of the proper Halo games is expanding at an impressive rate, but I can’t help but wonder if Microsoft and 343 Industries risk over-saturation.

Granted, this article is coming from someone who has read all of the books. I am fully committed to the cannon and all things Halo. This means that when I talk about Halo, I am not doing so to participate in the conversation. I care, probably too much for my own good, but I care about my Halo. When I see all of these side projects and tangential experiences being developed I worry that the Halo product risks losing value because there may be too much out there. I understand that there is a certain cache with being recognized as a prominent player in the Video Game industry but a little restraint couldn’t hurt. Is there a tipping point where consumers will just not care about the next Halo thing?

The author of this article opened up by saying that Bungie has “created a space-opera mythology for the Microsoft Xbox game systems to rival Star Wars. Now it appears the franchise is aiming to emulate George Lucas’ expanded universe.” That statement scares me. Star Wars might still have a lot of meaning to mine and older generations but it doesn’t have the impact it once did. There are countless novels, action figures, video games and other forms of licensed Star Wars goodies for consumption by the masses, but I think we can all agree that there can be too much of a good thing. Over expansion reached its pinnacle with the Star Wars Prequels. Now look at how we view the Star Wars name. Most have simply ignored the existence of Episodes 1-3 because they tainted the fond memories of the original Star Wars Trilogy.

It is my fear that Halo could approach Star Wars territory, in a bad way. Reaching out to forms of media increases the chance of failure. If Bungie can learn anything from Star Wars, it might be that they need to know when to walk away. If not, who knows how far this could go. Who knows what might result from trying too hard to surpass the legacy of Star Wars. I don’t want that to happen to Halo. I don’t want the equivalent of an Episode 2. I don’t want Midi-chlorians. I don’t want Jar-Jar.

I know the potential for profit is hard to ignore, so I can only hope that the people in charge are not motivated solely by greed. If the Halo franchise becomes an exercise in exploitation and over-saturation, I along with millions around the world will feel cheated out of the time and money we have invested into Bungie’s masterpiece. Hopefully nobody working at 343 Industries is named George Lucas.

PS: The author of this article spells his last name the same way I do, but he’s not related to me. I swear.

You can read the referenced article here: http://www.usatoday.com/life/lifestyle/2009-10-05-halo-spins-off-products_N.htm

This post is featured on Talking About Games.

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