Since its 2001 debut, the Halo series has become one of the most iconic video game franchises in history. For a long time however, the series has remained exclusively on the X Box. While some spinoff titles, like the strategy based Halo Wars could be found on PC, no entry in the main saga has seen the outside of the Microsoft owned console since the original game. That all changed this year when Halo returned to the PC in a big way, to a response that few could have foreseen.
Before we continue, it’s important to talk about platform exclusivity. Video games are a unique art form not only for their interactive nature, but also for the hardware required to play them. Because of this, certain companies are able to claim exclusive rights on certain titles. It’s been this way since video games began, and continues today. Though popular, the Pokémon series has been largely confined to the consoles of Nintendo.
The Halo series became the flagship franchise of Microsoft, and was largely responsible for the popularity of the X Box console. When Halo 2 was released, those in charge made the decision to have the game only available on the X Box itself in an effort to boost console sales. The X Box became a very popular console largely due to this decision. However, making the game exclusive to the Microsoft console did have its drawbacks. For one, it left a large market for the game untapped. Many people unable to afford the console found the game out of their reach. This was certainly the case with me. I played the games often in high school and college, but with the economic pressures of adult life, acquiring a new console became difficult.
The sheer magnitude of that untapped market was revealed when Halo returned to the PC on December 3rd. Halo was released as The Master Chief Collection, an anthology of six of the franchise’s most memorable titles. It was the first time any of these games left the console outside of Combat Evolved. This was done in part to promote the release of Halo: Infinite, the next entry in the series and the first to be released directly to PC since the original.
Everyone expected the games to be successful. What few could have predicted was just how massive an impact Halo’s PC debut would have. Halo: Reach, the first in the anthology to be released, was a bona fide gaming blockbuster, becoming one of the most played games in the history of Steam mere days after its release. As of this article, the title has claimed the title as the 3rd most successful release in Steam history.
This, of course, shows several things. One is the popularity of Halo never waned. The other is that in spite of being exclusive to the Xbox, there was a large, untapped market for Halo beyond its Microsoft home. That Reach still had such blockbuster power almost a decade after its release leaves one to wonder if Microsoft shouldn’t have tapped this market sooner. Is platform exclusivity really a good idea?
Other game companies have found success with examples of cross-platform releases have proven very successful. A prime example is Sega. During the console wars of that era, Sega was initially one of the top contenders. However, the company eventually shifted away from consoles and started to deal exclusively with games instead. As a result, many Sega titles became available on a variety of platforms, including the consoles of its former rival company Nintendo as well as on PC. Over a decade later, Sega has continued to enjoy success without its consoles and remains one of the top game distributors in the world.
Games being available on multiple platforms has numerous advantages, such as reaching beyond the company’s initial base. The success of Reach proves that. There were many no doubt who hadn’t been able to play Halo before due to not owning an Xbox. Thus, the arrival of the games on the PC would have not only attracted older fans but also brought new fans into the franchise. Given the stellar sales of the game, one has to wonder if platform exclusivity is actually detrimental to the success of titles like Halo.
Halo’s return to the PC has proven an unexpected milestone for the series, and this is only the beginning. Throughout next year, five more titles will be released as part of the Master Chief Collection, all building up to the arrival of Halo: Infinite on the PC. If they are as successful as Halo: Reach, it may be one of the best decisions anyone has made for the series. It’s certainly been a blast for me. With the X Box out of reach (pun intended), the series was quickly becoming a distant memory. When Halo’s arrival on Steam, it’s a memory no more. When the rest of the Master Chief Collection arrives, I’ll be ready to don that Spartan Armor once more.
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