Finishing the Fight, Chicago Style
Have you noticed the photos and merchandise featuring a green metal soldier throughout the city? At your local 7-Eleven there are Slurpee cups featuring the same soldier carrying a flag, there is a strange red-orange new flavor of Mountain Dew called Game Fuel, there is a commercial with a elderly man talking about the great battle where "Master Chief" saved his life, and there's another where "Master Chief" seemingly comes alive in the middle of a massive diorama. There are books, comics, web "machinima," toys, and even an article in Time Magazine. This is Halo.
You are on one of two sides of this — you will wait outside of a Wal-Mart, Best Buy, or even a 7-Eleven until 12:01 a.m. tonight to buy Halo 3, or you don't know what in the world this article is about.
Halo 3 is Microsoft's futuristic space shooter for Xbox 360 featuring a 7-foot, green-armor clad solider simply referred to as "Master Chief." The game, which will go on sale early tomorrow morning, isn't just a game, it is a franchise. Microsoft spent an estimated $10 million to market the game (including a commercial in the middle of Monday Night Football last season). Ten million isn't that bad, though, considering there were already over 1 million pre-orders of the game (including the ridiculous $129 "Legendary Edition" which included a cat-head sized Master Chief helmet).
So, where did this insanity over a video game begin? At the University of Chicago, when two undergraduate students, Alex Seropian and Jason Jones, formed Bungie Studios. They developed a few small titles including a cult favorite, Marathon, for the Macintosh platform, but during a presentation of what would eventually become Halo at MacWorld 1999, Microsoft took notice and decided that their yet unannounced Xbox needed this game. After purchasing Bungie, Halo: Combat Evolved was released with the original Xbox and became a huge hit. The sequel, Halo 2, sold $125 million on its opening day, eventually selling 8 million copies. The online multiplayer part of Halo 2 has been played for over 700 million hours. However, the game's single-player mission resulted in a huge cliffhanger ending, which mandated that a third installment be released.
As for the developers, Jason Jones remained at Bungie near Seattle and continues to lead the development of the Halo series (which will soon include a Real Time Strategy game, a possible movie, and a project with Lord of the Rings' Peter Jackson). However, Alex Seropian returned to Chicago after Halo 2 to open an independent game developer, Wideload. Seropian's first game with his new studio was a lighthearted comedy-meets-living dead game, Stubbs the Zombie, and he is currently developing the upcoming Hail to the Chimp.