Video-game news site Joystiq reported yesterday that the October issue of the Official Xbox Magazine (which is “official” in the sense that it has a licensing agreement with the company, not in that it speaks for the company) will carry an item suggesting a game studio other than Kirkland-based Bungie is at work on a fourth installment in the blockbuster “Halo” series for the next-generation Xbox, i.e., whatever follows the 360.
Got all that straight? For the record, this is all rumor.
That was followed today by a report on the blog of Variety reporter Ben Fritz, who checked with a source close to Gearbox Software, the other studio reportedly referenced in the Xbox Mag story. Fritz writes:
“[T]he best info I can confirm is that Gearbox has definitely had conversations with Microsoft about doing a new ‘Halo’ game and is very excited at the prospect. However, last my source heard, there was no deal in place.”
So why does this matter?
“Halo 3,” released about 11 months ago, gave Microsoft and the Xbox 360 a substantial boost. Sales of the game helped the company to an outstanding first quarter of the 2008 fiscal year, which drove the stock price to its highest point in six years.
Want more? The franchise has already surpassed $1 billion in sales. It is closely tied to the success of Microsoft’s console gaming effort (“Halo” was an exclusive launch title for the original Xbox). And there is presumably still an audience of millions of fans of the series eager for more.
There was a major bump in the road, however, when “Halo”-maker Bungie split from Microsoft last October.
“We own the ‘Halo’ [intellectual property] and our intent is to continue investing in it and growing it,” Shane Kim, then the head of Microsoft Game Studios, said at the time.
The full scope of Microsoft’s plans for that IP remains the subject of speculation and rumor. By Joystiq’s count, the possible Gearbox “Halo 4” is the fourth “Halo” title currently on the radar. The others are:
— “Halo Wars,” a real-time strategy game from Microsoft’s Ensemble Studios due out in the first half of 2009.
— Another Bungie “Halo” project, which Bungie was set to talk about around E3 in Los Angeles last month, but Microsoft put the kibosh on the announcement.
— The long-in-the-works partnership with director Peter Jackson on “Halo Universe.” It started out as a movie deal that went south.