These days, the Blockbuster Game, a release from a major publisher that hopes to be an event that grabs everyone’s attention and keeps Game of the Year discussions busy, is an institution. It’s easy to tell what such a play is in its current state, as it’s typically about fathers trying to bond with their formerly neglected children, or features a prominent B-list actor or two in its cast. But in the early days of this trend, its definition would probably be Hello 3.
Developed by Bungie and released on September 25, 2007 for Xbox 360, Hello 3 was, in every sense of the word, a major problem for Microsoft and the wider gaming landscape at the time. With a sting Halo 2 cliffhanger ending in 2004 still fresh in gamers’ minds, whether Bungie could deliver a satisfying closer to its trilogy — a word that seems dated now, as franchises either don’t make it to the trilogy or go way beyond it — was a big question of time . It was a question that grew as Bungie devoted much of its marketing focus to the game’s multiplayer, and was noticeably wary of the game’s campaign until months before release. When it was eventually revealed that the campaign was actually a team-up between series leader Master Chief and Halo 2 deuteragonist, the Arbiter, to save Earth from the Covenant and the Flood felt like a real surprise to me.
Halo was always a pretty popular franchise, but that was during Bungie’s original tenure and with the release Hello 3 especially, that streak was at its peak. Halo 2 it had a healthy life thanks to the DLC, and the 360 playability through backwards compatibility served as a good incentive to get the console long before the threequel’s release date. Enthusiasm for the game and desire to play it was so high that they included it in the next Xbox 360 Crack down helped increase the sales of this game. (As it turned out, it became a beautiful piece of serendipity Crack down was pretty good in its own right.) Even after the game came out, Microsoft knew it had a golden goose and didn’t let you forget about it. Similar haul, both Halo Wars and Halo 3: THE EPISODE as of 2009 it had DLC maps for Hello 3 as an additional incentive to buy these games.
Beyond the beta, Microsoft and Bungie have tried to make the game’s release seem like a big deal, and not just with merchandise like limited edition consoles and controllers. Microsoft wanted to make sure the game would be marketed beyond the fans who had already bought it, and spent over US$40 million ($56) million to make it happen. There were a number of commercials that remain memorable to this day, such as the “Believe” minifigure promo, the “Iris” alternate reality game, and the “Starry Night” commercial that made it famous when it premiered. once, during an ESPN game in December 2006.
Finally, Hello 3 would sell 5 million copies by the end of the year, become one of the best-selling games of 2007, and bring over a million players to Xbox Live within the first 20 hours of release. It was such a success that film executives blamed its release on Ben Stiller’s flop The Heartbreak Kid (seriously). It was the kind of hit – one that attracted both fans and people who might not have known what Halo even was — that games just aren’t always today, at least until then The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in 2017. That games are slowly but surely becoming a more widely accepted cultural institution can be attributed in part to Hello 3 and the effort Microsoft has made to make it seem appealing to people outside of those already riding or dying for the franchise.
There were games that excelled Hello 3 in terms of sales and critical reviews. You could certainly argue that it was at the low end of the best games of 2007, a year that had some very great games towards the end. But in terms of what Hello 3 is, as a cultural touchstone that has come to serve as a measure of what makes a triple-A game stand the test of time and matter beyond its insular audience, Bungie’s closer trilogy is in a league of its own.
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Editor’s note: The release dates in this article are US based, but will be updated with local Australian dates as we know more.
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