Reach is already a distant memory to me. Bungie's swansong might have just hit shelves a scant few months ago, but my displeasure with their final effort has my gaze firmly now fixed on the horizon and what 343 Industries has in store for the industry juggernaut. A new game is a given, but in what form? Is a Halo film a fanboy dream or, as rumours seem to suggest, an idea taking shape? At Dealspwn, we're such Halo nuts we just had to know what we can expect from the future of the Halo franchise. Read on to see what we discovered...
"Wake Me, When You Need Me"
And with those final words, Master Chief descended into the cryo-chamber, his not-so-implicit instructions hanging in the vacuum for whatever studio brave enough to take up the Halo mantel. Make no mistake, it's no simple feat developing a Halo game. We've seen even experienced outfits like Ensemble Studios stumble in replicating the Halo experience in RTS form. It has a soul and a heart derived from the core of Bungie's ethos, but even that had begun to dwindle following Halo 2 when the old-school of Bungie opted to focus on ventures other than Master Chief.
So 343 has it all to conquer. Comprised of industry veterans, former Bungie employees and with the full financial backing of Microsoft, it's not as if they're in a particularly difficult position. But their relative silence, choosing to only speak publicly of the Halo Portal and their involvement in mass-media ventures like the Halo Anime Collection, suggests 343 has yet to finalize their videogame plans. But they're hiring at a rampant rate. Such is 343's importance, it's major news on the likes of N4G when they advertise for a new position.
And I have no doubt 343 is set to resurrect Master Chief from cryo-sleep aboard the severed half of Forward Unto Dawn, currently drifting beside a mysterious planet of unknown origin. Frank O'Connor, who was once community chief at Bungie and is now Franchise Development Director at 343, has stated it's likely we'll see Master Chief return. O'Connor claims 343 and Microsoft have a six-year plan for Halo, and the latter have already declared an interest in annualizing the series, ala Call of Duty. So a new Halo game is, as they say, an inevitability.
Games, Novels, Comics, And A Film?
Once, the Halo film was so close to being real, props had been built, sets created, scripts written and even a director chosen. But a number of issues, namely Hollywood politics and financial greed, derailed the production and reduced it to a slumbering wreck. It was a major disappointment for all involved. Microsoft had shelled out millions to Alex Garland, writer of The Beach and 28 Days Later, to pen a script, then delivered said script to studios with a courier dressed as Master Chief. 20th Century Fox and Universal agreed to co-finance the film, which Lord of the Rings honcho Peter Jackson would produce with the backing of his visual effects company, Weta Digital.
Problems began when Fox and Universal learned of Microsoft's financial pre-requisites. The Silicon Valley giant required studios to pay 10 million dollars directly to them, plus hand over rights to merchandising and a cut of the film's eventual gross. It was a shaky agreement, but Fox and Universal acquiesced to Microsoft's demands. However, the proverbial nail in the coffin came when Jackson announced who he'd chosen to direct the film. Neil Blomkamp, a South African visual-effects artist with only a handful of commercial credits to his name. Fox and Universal balked and subsequently dropped the film. The project collapsed, each carefully wound mechanism unraveling with tragic haste.
Since then, the Halo film has lain dormant. Last year, rumours ran wild with the news Spielberg had earmarked Halo as a new franchise for Dreamworks, who had lost Transformers to Paramount. And Microsoft continues to revise the script, hiring a slew of writers since Garland to tinker with his original story. Most recently, Frank O'Connor, in his new role at 343, confirmed a Halo film will happen. O'Connor claimed Microsoft doesn't necessarily need a Halo film, but would like to see one made, and if studios continue to avoid the project, the company may end up funding it personally. A TV series isn't outside the realm of possibility, either, according to O'Connor.
On The Horizon
Whether or not we ever see a Halo film is so dependent on numerous opaque issues, it's not worth troubling ourselves with. I'll jump for joy if its announced, but I won't be chattering in my seat, awaiting such news, either. Microsoft's plans to deliver a Halo game each year, however, are troubling. Doing so would most certainly burn out the series, and so far Microsoft have been very wise with their strategy. We've seen successful comic runs, novels reach the New York Times' bestsellers list, even the line of Halo branded toys, figurines and clothing prosper. It's a true mass-market property, and for Microsoft to endanger its most vital component, the videogames, would be a considerably stupid move, indeed.
So it's comforting to see the likes of O'Connor, a Bungie stalwart who truly understands Halo and its fans, in charge of shepherding the franchise. 343 is hard at work on the next chapter in the universe, which is most likely a continuation of Master Chief's adventures. It's more than likely to be a straight-up FPS in the mold of Bungie's recent efforts, but who knows what else is in store. Halo Wars might not have received the same success as its step-siblings, but that shouldn't ward Microsoft off exploring other opportunities in the Halo universe.
Where would you like to see Microsoft and 343 Industries take the Halo franchise? Would you like another game, every year? Or maybe a big blockbuster film? Are you growing tired of the series or does your love know no bounds? As always, sign off below!