As one of the biggest videogame franchises in history, the Halo series has sold more than 42 million copies to date, generating nearly $3 billion in total sales.
The game has been so successful it has inspired books, graphic novels and so-called “strategy guides” that have sold more than nine million copies. What’s more, eight of the 10 novels have made the New York Times best seller list.
And now, with the launch of Halo 4 on Nov. 6, the developers of the game are trying their hand at TV.
Well, sort of.
Frank O’Connor, franchise development director at 343 Industries, said this week at E3 that they wanted to create a narrative surrounding the game which would prompt players to talk about it on a regular basis, similar to how co-workers chat about the latest “Game of Thrones” around the water cooler the day after it airs.
He said the game studio asked the question, “How do we create these shared experiences?”
The answer was something they are calling Spartan Ops, which will deliver free “episodic” content on a weekly basis to anyone who buys the regular or limited edition of the game for $60. The episodes are actually not TV shows, but mini-missions that tell a side story to the main Halo game.
It’s different from the main game because players will cooperate with one another rather than compete in order to finish the mission.
“People will typically buy a new game, they’ll talk about the big set-pieces in that game, and then they’ll move on to the multiplayer component, and often just stop talking about it,” he said. “We wanted gamers to have a continual water cooler conversation that revolves around shared gameplay experiences.”
The content won’t be shipped with the DVD, but rather will be delivered weekly through Xbox Live.
During a demonstration on Thursday at the Xbox booth on the floor of the Los Angeles Convention Center, O’Connor said the computer graphics for the first episode aren’t done yet, making the process very similar to a TV show that produces content just in time.
He also said if players don’t get around to playing the content, “they will stack up on your Xbox, like TiVo, and you can play them later.”
O’Connor declined to say how many episodes would be developed in all, but did say that the weekly series will continue on for “months, not weeks.” Each episode will take about 15 minutes for four players to complete — and longer if there are fewer players. In all, he says the weekly episodes will nearly double the amount of game play in Halo 4.