Finished the Fight: Ten Years of ‘Halo 3’
In the same year that saw the theatrical release of “The Simpsons Movie,” Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone and J.K. Rowling publishing “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows,” one of the biggest entertainment launches of 2007 belonged to Bungie’s first-person shooter video game “Halo 3.”
Millions of gamers worldwide waited outside of video game stores to get their chance to once again play as Master Chief, a super soldier saving Earth from an alien invasion. On Sept. 25, 2007, players were able to “finish the fight” set up by the previous installment’s cliffhanger ending. “Halo 3’s” launch was so large, Microsoft founder Bill Gates was in attendance for the official launch event in Bellevue, Washington, where he personally handed out the first copy.
This was the first “Halo” title to appear on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console, and “Halo 3” gave people a reason to own one. “Halo 3” included new features such as an in-game film mode that allowed players to record and review multiplayer matches and campaign playthroughs, file sharing, a four-player campaign mode through online play, and a map editing mode called “Forge.” A story of epic proportions, an addictive multiplayer experience and a mesmerizing soundtrack composed by Martin O’Donnell had people playing arguably the best Xbox 360 video game for years after launch.
The in-game player count exceeded over one million active players for about a year. For the next two years, hundreds of thousands continued to play. “Halo 3” remained the most-played game on Xbox Live until November 2009 when it was surpassed by “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.”
With major hype leading to its release, “Halo 3” delivered, receiving universal acclaim and earning numerous Game of the Year awards. In 2010, the game was listed in the book “1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.” In 2012, “Halo 3” was ranked 23rd in G4’s “Top 100 Video Games of All Time” TV miniseries.
“Halo 3” set the then-record for the highest gross of an entertainment product within 24 hours of release, making $170 million. The previous record belonged to “Halo 2,” which made $125 million within 24 hours of its launch in 2004. In its first week, “Halo 3” made $300 million worldwide with 3.8 million copies sold. As of August 2017, the game has sold 14.5 million copies. The sales represent that “Halo 3” is the best-selling Xbox 360 exclusive game while ranking fifth overall for the console.
Through a marketing deal, Microsoft teamed with PepsiCo to create Mountain Dew Game Fuel to go along with the launch of “Halo 3.” Mountain Dew has since released a special edition of Game Fuel almost every year to coincide with a major video game release. Games which had a limited edition of Game Fuel include “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” in 2011, “Titanfall 2” in 2016 and “Middle-earth: Shadow of War” coming this October.
With the game’s new “Theater Mode,” players were able to record in-game clips and add voice-overs and effects to create original content known as “machinima.” “Halo 3” machinima saw its peak in popularity in the late-2000s with series such as “PreGame Lobby,” “Matchmaking,” “Phil” and “Arby ‘n’ the Chief” having episodes reaching one million views on YouTube. Standalone videos such as “Gears of Halo Theft Auto 5” and “Oh, Hayabusa!” proved to be popular with their satirization of video game culture and in-game references. These videos helped the build and maintain an audience for the Machinima YouTube channel, which now has 12.5 million subscribers.
State of the Game:
With the release of the Xbox One console, two mainline sequels and decline of the franchise’s popularity since its launch, “Halo 3” does not have the same large audience it once had, but thousands of people are still enjoying the landmark title. On an average day, “Halo 3” can be seen with around 2,000 players online. For each anniversary, a large spike in players can be seen with the game’s player counter. In 2016, “Halo 3” had over 50,000 players online, which was more than the population of “Halo 5: Guardians,” the series’ latest entry.
“Halo 3” was made backward compatible with Xbox One on Sept. 21. 2017. Prior to this, “Halo 3” was only available on Xbox One through the bug-ridden 2014 remastered compilation “Halo: The Master Chief Collection.” Having the game backward compatible allows players to play on the game’s original servers, meaning people on Xbox One can play with or against friends still playing on Xbox 360.
With backward compatibility and the ten-year anniversary, “Halo 3” is expected to see a jump in player population. The population might not reach one million players, but there should be a healthy amount of people reliving the glory days of Xbox 360. Now is the time to contact old friends in attempts to make a machinima, play “Jenga Tower” in custom games or complete the warthog run in the final mission in one try.
Happy 10th birthday, “Halo 3.”