Why Microsoft Has a Lot Riding on ’Halo 5’

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When you’re falling behind the competition, what do you do? If you’re Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), and you see that Sony’s (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation 4 is outselling the Xbox One month after month, you need to do something bold. That’s just what Microsoft did earlier this week when it announced a cheaper version of the console that doesn’t include a Kinect peripheral. The company has just followed up by announcing more details about its most highly anticipated game, the next Halo.

In a post on Microsoft’s website Friday morning, developer 343 Industries revealed that the next installment of the popular series will be called Halo 5: Guardians. The game is set to release exclusively for Xbox One in the fall of 2015.

Bonnie Ross, the general manager of 343 Industries wrote, “Halo isn’t simply a perennial game franchise, it’s a part of the Xbox platform itself. In terms of innovation and ideation, it’s sometimes important to people who might not even play Halo.” That’s not an exaggeration. The original Halo gave the first Xbox console a major boost back in 2001, putting it on the map for many gamers who favored Sony or Nintendo hardware. The game also revolutionized first-person shooters on consoles, helping the genre become a dominant force for the next decade. To say there’s a lot riding on any new installment of Halo is an understatement.

Ross goes on to write, “Halo 5: Guardians is a bigger effort than Halo 4.  That applies to the content and scope of the game, as well as the technology in what’s now a brand new and more powerful engine. Certainly there are some core elements carried over from prior games, but we’ve invested a huge effort in retooling our tech to take full advantage of the Xbox One’s hardware and ecosystem to create worlds and experiences worthy of next-gen.” She also promises that the game will run on dedicated servers at 60 frames per second.

While other AAA game makers like Ubisoft have been announcing that their upcoming games will be available on older as well as new consoles, it’s important to note that Halo 5 will be an Xbox One exclusive. Since Halo is owned by Microsoft, they can get away with investing huge amounts of money in this sequel, hoping to raise the new console’s profile and spur sales. For reference previous Halo games have sold in the 10 million range. But as yet, only about 4.6 million Xbox Ones have been sold. Luckily for Microsoft, there’s a long time between now and the fall of 2015.

Accompanying the upcoming game will be a Halo television series that will be made in collaboration with Steven Spielberg. The series will “stand alone, as well as complement and enrich the game experience.” It will also debut in the fall of 2015.

But the fall of 2015 is a long way off, so what can gamers expect in the meantime? To answer that, we can look back at a teaser trailer Microsoft released at last year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. The video shows series protagonist Master Chief walking through a desert toward an enormous machine that rises out of the sand. Text appears, saying “2014 your journey begins on Xbox One.”

At the end of the blog post, Ross addresses this cryptic message. The “journey” to Halo 5: Guardians begins this year, she says, with a “giant leap, rather than one small step.” For details, however, we’ll have to wait for the Xbox E3 media briefing being held on June 9.

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