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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 October 2006, 07:50 GMT 08:50 UK
Halo universe expands as fans wait
Halo 3
Halo 3 is due for release in 2007
The announcement of a new videogame spin-off from the popular Halo franchise has fans buzzing but the developers of a third title in the series remain tight-lipped.

At the end of Microsoft's Xbox event last week, the lights dimmed and the screen filled with the recognisable characters and crafts from the Halo games.

With a third game in the series under development you will have been forgiven for thinking this was a new trailer for the fans to digest.

But the studio name at the start of the short film was Ensemble and not Bungie, and it quickly became clear this was a new addition to the Halo universe.

Halo Wars is a real-time strategy (RTS) title being developed for the Xbox 360 and its unveiling followed Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson's announcement that he is developing a new form of interactive entertainment based around the Halo games.

Coupled with a movie based on Halo, ongoing novels, a graphic novel and the third core Halo title, it's clear Microsoft is keen to cash in on one of the most popular franchises in the games industry.

But is it a sign that Bungie, the developers of Halo, are letting go of their precious creation?

Brian Jarrard, community manager at Bungie, said: "It is a precious franchise and that hasn't changed.

Halo 3
Halo and Halo 2 have sold more than 13m copies worldwide

"We can only do so much as Bungie. It's Microsoft's IP (intellectual property).

"Halo has been extremely popular, it's a valuable franchise for Xbox."

Claude Errera, who runs the popular fansite Halo.Bungie.Org, said reader reaction to the new game had been mixed.

"There is of course the group that resists all change and thinks that Bungie is selling out.

"But equally there are those who feel Bungie can do no wrong but are afraid the company will have no involvement in the game, and those who are adopting a wait and see approach."

Mr Jarrard said it made sense for Ensemble to make a Halo RTS.

"Halo started as an RTS. Would the Bungie team love to do one themselves? Possibly.

"We are not focused on that. We've got a lot of work to do on Halo 3 and a trilogy to finish."

The people who are interested in expanding the franchise who work at Bungie want to do so because they have a lot of stories to tell
Claude Errera, Halo fansite editor

He added: "When it came down to having awesome partners that are the best in the business at what they do you don't feel so bad about sharing the baby at that point.

"I don't think we would have been supportive of these projects if we didn't feel they would bring something new to Halo and add value to franchise.

"We are excited on both fronts."

Mr Errera said there were many more stories left to tell in the Halo universe.

"The people who are interested in expanding the franchise who work at Bungie want to do so because they have a lot of stories to tell.

"The games are going to run out at some point. They have already said that Halo 3 is the end of this particular story arc.

Halo Wars
Halo Wars is being developed by Ensemble Studios

"The entire team has been working on Halo games since 1998 and they are probably tired of it. But there are still stories to tell."

But even if the Halo RTS fails, the movie bombs at the box office and Peter Jackson's new form of interactive entertainment turns out to be suspiciously like the old Dragon's Lair game of the 1980s, the core fans will forgive all, if Halo 3 turns out to be a success.

For the hard-core fans, the new spin-offs are little more than a distraction as they wait to hear more details about Halo 3.

And Halo fans are a patient bunch - few details escape from Bungie before launch.

"Community has always been super important to Bungie - it's sort of at our roots," said Mr Jarrard.

"We have this mantra of under-promise, over-deliver. We are perfectionists.

"We should have some more information about multiplayer soon; a screenshot or two.

"When things get a little quiet we stoke the coals a little bit."

Expect Microsoft to stoke the fires like a furnace when the game is released next year.

With PlayStation 3 finally on shop shelves in November and available worldwide by next March, Halo 3 will be Microsoft's less than secret weapon.

Director Jackson signs Xbox deal
27 Sep 06 |  Technology
Halo aims for epic end to trilogy
14 Jul 06 |  Technology
Halo 2 gamers face Vista upgrade
09 Feb 06 |  Technology

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