Throw Down The Bubble Shield!Mark Fossen

Posted on May 16th, 2007 in Gaming, Xbox 360, News, Opinion by Mark Fossen

In case you’ve been living under a rock, here’s some news for you: the public beta test for HALO 3 launches today.

(It appears that some in Redmond have sub-rock domiciles, as the beta isn’t actually available at this point to the mass of gamers who bought Crackdown. I’m not sure how you blow something like this when all eyes are on you … but it is apparently possible. I’m sure the Red Bull is flowing freely in the Live offices as they sort this one out double-time.)

There’s been a frenzy of press and attention paid to this beta test, which is a situation unique in the history of gaming. If there’s been a case where a beta test has gotten this much buzz, ink, and pixels I certainly can’t remember it. It’s hard to argue the franchise needed any more momentum than it already had, but it can’t hurt to utterly control the news cycle when you finally drop the press release announcing your release date. (September 25, 2007.)

However, there’s a risk here. A risk that Bungie’s taking, and a risk that perhaps only HALO could withstand. That risk is backlash.

You could see the seeds forming for a few weeks now, but it can’t be made any clearer than this nugget from Evil Avatar:

I talked with Justin Grant of Reuters for a good 10 minutes regarding Halo 3. We discussed the new gadgets, the myriad of new weapons as well as some details of the new maps. We talked about how the Halo franchise is a growing juggernaut in the console world, and that Halo 3 will be no exception selling just as many if not more than Halo 2 did over the console’s life. Finally Justin asked me if there was anything that needed improvement. We talked about how the graphics didn’t take quite the leap they probably could have. Comparing the game to others on the platform it didn’t match up in terms of visual fidelity.

Justin decided that his article should have the somewhat negative approach to stir up the controversy (and hits).

The “HALO is great” story has been written a few times now, and another re-iteration won’t sell papers or generate ad clicks. There needs to be a new angle, and we all love reading about a fall from grace. There’s almost no way that that HALO 3 can live up to the expectations being placed upon it. This is the most anticipated game of the new generation, and is expected to single-handedly win the console war for Microsoft. As good as it could turn out, it’s not gonna create world peace, cure cancer, or make you breakfast in bed.

That’s not to say the negative reaction is pure press invention, however: there’s grist for this particular mill. What’s being released today is a beta. That means it is intentionally unfinished code. Though Bungie’s certainly getting all the buss they can handle, this is at core a technical exercise. This is far from the finished state of the game, and it’s is in a state that really isn’t intended to withstand this kind of public scrutiny. The graphics in particular have taken a knock, and will continue to do so in countless messageboard posts. What’s easy to forget is that this isn’t finished yet.

There’s going to be a lot of messageboard and blogosphere fodder in these next few weeks, and this beta will be endlessly dissected between now and the end of September. A lot of it will be negative for various reasons. Think it’ll effect sales even one iota? I don’t.

Beyond the discussion of the moment, this beta could be talked about for years. That discussion won’t be on internet forums: it’ll be in classrooms. This is a historic experiment, and one which could drive the future of the gaming business.

2 Responses to 'Throw Down The Bubble Shield!'

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  1. Sully said,

    on May 20th, 2007 at 6:21 am

    I have Crackdown. I have XBL. So, why exactly haven’t I downloaded the Halo 3 Beta yet?

  2. Mark Fossen said,

    on May 21st, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Because you like your shooters with complex and not-so-jumpy?

    The grand disappointment for many seems to be that the beta of HALO reveals that … it’s HALO. :)

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