What makes the most important game of a decade? Most many units sold? Best critical rating? Most swear words per sentence/nude pixelated women? I think we can take it one step farther. How about most consoles sold?
Individual game don’t sell consoles. That’s a general rule that you find for game consoles, something PC gamers don’t have. If you wanted to play Doom 3, you bought a brand new videocard, and that was final. But if a game comes out on the N64 and you have a PlayStation, screw it, you’ll play it at a friend’s house.
And then there was Halo.
Halo: Combat Evolved was critically acclaimed as not only the best console shooter of its time (better than the N64’s GoldenEye), but also the best launch title in the history of console releases. It’s unique in that it sold a million copies in the first six months, then another two million in the following year, and yet another two million four years after its initial release (includes PC sales, from September 2003).
Yet while the game itself was great, it’s not the game of the decade because of that. Here are five reasons why Halo: Combat Evolved is the most important game of this Decade.
5) It made First Person Shooters (FPS) popular on the console
Before Halo: Combat Evolved, the only good FPS was GoldenEye on the N64. Halo was the first game in the 6th generation of consoles that pushed FPS’s, previously reserved for PC Gamers, into the console market. It wasn’t long for more FPS titles, like Tom Clancy’ Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six 3 came along to further push the Genre along, until of course Halo 2 came to sweep audiences off their feet.
4) Halo Popularized Machinima
Today, you can go to USC’s film school and take a class in machinima. No joke.
Machinima has been around since the early 90’s, but it only became popular by a little show you might have heard of called Red VS. Blue. Originally made by a group of friends who liked Halo and found a glitch, these guys now own a production studio from their work. Thousands upon thousands of machinima videos are online on Youtube today, thanks to Halo, and in fact developers are even implementing tools just for that sole purpose.
3) Halo Led to So Much More
Like how Mario is recognized by everyone, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know the Master Chief. Everyone knows about Halo, but not because of the single game, but because of what it brought about. Namely, a franchise, books, action figures, and of course, more games.
Halo 2 revolutionized the interface for online gaming, to the extent that the Xbox 360 was based off of it initially, among other games. Halo 2 was one of the first games to use dual-weilding on consoles, and now practically all do. Halo 3 was the first console game to have not only map creation and sharing, but game recording and video uploading, to friends and to your PC. Halo: Combat Evolved has a lineage that cannot be denied for console FPS’s.
2) Halo Sold the Xbox, and in Effect the Xbox 360
The Xbox was a dud for Microsoft. They built it all wrong, and every console they sold cost them money. They literally were pouring their money down the drain. Chances are, even as the most powerful 6th generation console, the only way Microsoft would have succeeded would have been to buy the rights to games from publishers. Otherwise, why make games for a console nobody owns?
Halo changed that. It was so good that people literally spent hundreds of dollars to buy it. For one game. Within two years, it sold nearly four million copies. With this success, Microsoft kept going and released Xbox Live, along with titles like MechAssualt, Splinter Cell and Ninja Gaiden. The sale of Halo pushed the Xbox into the spotlight, and demanded the attention of game developers.
Yet more importantly, Halo brought the promise of sequels, and thereby gave the Xbox a future. Halo 2 was announced, and after its release everyone realized that there was a Halo 3 in the future. Microsoft had already announced the Xbox 360, and people were buying up consoles in preparation for the final chapter in the franchise. Not only did the Xbox sell because of one game, the Xbox 360 sold because of the promise of a game.
1) Halo Kept Microsoft in the Gaming Industry
Microsoft had never wanted to get into gaming. Interviews with Bill Gates and other high-ups in the company stated that they saw the potential, but didn’t like the setting. Gates himself stated on numerous occasions that Microsoft is not a hardware company. It would have been so easy to back out of the Xbox and videogames entirely.
Then Halo sold a record-breaking million copies in six months, and continued selling itself and consoles. Microsoft’s Xbox division made some excellent decisions and got more high-quality titles published that competed with Sony’s PlayStation 2. Point being, Microsoft’s initial investment either had a future, or was a dud. With Halo, that fuzzy line remained unclear, and gave Microsoft the initiative to move forward.
With that, they released Xbox Live, the Xbox 360, and even Games for Windows all because Halo succeeded. We may not even have a console from Microsoft were it not for Halo. Without Halo and Halo 2 on the PC, Games for Windows may not exist. Online gaming may have died out on the 360, or it might have taken several years for it to take off. Halo was a catalyst to keep Microsoft in the game.
Without Halo, there are too many possible ways things could have turned out. Chances are that without it, Microsoft would have not had the initiative to push for the Xbox 360 as hard as it did, and it wouldn’t have released a year early, giving it the competitive advantage it still has over the PlayStation 3, if at all. Sony would have had an unprecedented advantage, with developers having equal time to adjust to the unique architecture, and the much larger game resources Sony, at the time, had.
If you’re still reading this, then what the hell? If not for Halo: Combat Evolved, the world would be a very different place. Imagine if the Xbox 360 released alongside the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii. Imagine if it had never released at all, if you never bought an Xbox in the first place.
Chances are things wouldn’t be so different that the 360 wouldn’t have existed, but it’s possible. The point is simple: Halo may not have been the cause of these five points, but it was the catalyst that pushed the industry, and Microsoft, in the direction both ultimately went in. And we’re here today, with a crowded FPS genre, popularized console gaming, and actual competition in that market for us, the consumers, to enjoy. Whether or not you agree that Halo was a great game, the world would be very different without it.