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Why ‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’ Will Save the Xbox One

Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) Halo: The Master Chief Collection, a remastered bundle of the first four Halo games, will arrive this November on the Xbox One.

All four games will be remastered at 60 frames per second at 1080p HD. Halo 2 will receive a complete graphical overhaul on par with the one Halo: Combat Evolved (2001) received in its Anniversary edition for the Xbox 360 in 2011. All the multiplayer modes and additional content from the original games will be included, and players can even string together various missions from the four games in any order like a playlist.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Source: Microsoft.

This love letter to Halo fans offers Microsoft a chance to redeem itself after being clearly outgunned by Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) and Nintendo (NASDAQOTH: NTDOY  ) during E3 2014. The general verdict was that Microsoft offered plenty of games, but few compelling exclusive titles compared to Sony and Nintendo.

Let's take a look at why Halo: The Master Chief Collection could be the killer app that finally gets the Xbox One back on track this holiday season.

Master Chief is Microsoft's Mario
If Bungie Studios hadn't created Master Chief, the original Xbox might not even have survived long enough to evolve into the Xbox 360.

Halo: Combat Evolved, the original Xbox's most popular launch title in 2001, was arguably the first game to make first-person shooters playable on home consoles. Many modern shooters -- including the Call of Duty and Bioshock series -- still retain the control scheme introduced in Halo. Halo also introduced the concept of regenerating shields and melee attacks -- now both standard features in modern shooters.

Master Chief. Source: Microsoft.

That pitch perfect gameplay turned Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 into modern classics, and Master Chief and Cortana instantly became Microsoft's mascot equivalents of Nintendo's Mario and Princess Peach.

The first two Halo games became the first and second best-selling titles for the original Xbox, with respective sales of 8.5 million and 6.4 million units. The two games helped the Xbox sell 25 million units by the time it was discontinued in 2008 -- a far cry from the 158 million PS2s that Sony sold, but a respectable finish for a new console, which paved the way for the Xbox 360.

Halo was an even bigger hit on the 360 than it was on the original Xbox. Halo 3 sold 11.9 million units, Halo: Reach sold 9.6 million units, and Halo 4 -- the first title developed internally by Microsoft's 343 Industries -- sold 9.1 million units. By comparison, out of the top 10 best-selling titles for Sony's PS3, only a single game -- Gran Turismo 5, which sold 10.9 million units -- was an exclusive title.

Considering that the best-selling Xbox One game to date, Titanfall, has only sold 1.9 million units, the Halo: The Master Chief Collection will play a critical role in helping the Xbox One gain ground against Sony's PS4 and Nintendo's Wii U.

This ain't your daddy's Halo
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is similar to Nintendo's Super Mario All-Stars (1993), which bundled together remastered versions of the original Super Mario trilogy, and Capcom's Street Fighter Anniversary Collection (2004), which bundled together several versions of Street Fighter II and the final version of Street Fighter III.

Both bundles refreshed aging franchises before new chapters arrived. Super Mario All-Stars preceded Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (1995), and Street Fighter Anniversary Collection preceded Street Fighter IV (2008). These compilation titles are important for two key reasons -- they cash in on the nostalgia of older gamers while relaunching the franchise in a shiny new package for younger gamers.

These side-by-side comparisons of the original Halo 2 and the overhauled version in The Master Chief Collection are worth a thousand words:

The original Halo 2 (L) vs. the remastered version (R). Source: Microsoft.

The Master Chief Collection will lead into the launch of Halo 5: Guardians in fall 2015. More importantly, players who purchase The Master Chief Collection will gain access to the multiplayer beta of Halo 5, which will arrive this December. Items unlocked in the beta version will transfer over to the final copy of Halo 5, which could boost sales of both titles.

Halo could make Microsoft's Xbox One media efforts worthwhile
Microsoft will also release Halo: Nightfall, a weekly digital series produced by Ridley Scott for the Xbox One in November. The show will introduce gamers to Agent Locke, one of the central characters of Halo 5. Gamers who tune into Nightfall -- part of Microsoft's "Xbox Originals" initiative -- can unlock additional content for the Halo 5 multiplayer beta, which could generate higher sales for bothThe Master Chief Collection and Halo 5.

Agent Locke. Source: Microsoft.

This is an excellent demonstration of how Microsoft can tie its fledgling media and maturing gaming businesses together. "Gamifying" original shows with accomplishments and digital content for games could help Microsoft use video game-based series as promotions for games and vice versa.

A second Steven Spielberg-produced Halo series, aimed at both the Xbox One and cable TV, is expected to premiere in fall 2015 to complement the release of Halo 5.

The Foolish takeaway
In conclusion, The Master Chief Collection could be the catalyst that the Xbox One needs to finally catch up to Sony and Nintendo.

Exclusive titles like Titanfall, Fable Legends, and Sunset Overdrive might help the Xbox One stay afloat, but Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Halo 5: Guardians will be the blockbuster titles that finally remind gamers why they fell in love with the Xbox in the first place.

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Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (11)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 25, 2014, at 3:27 AM, Ransak wrote:

    MS just dug it's grave in the gaming industry. Whether they get in it depends if they can leverage the Azure network? They are consistently showing that 343, wholly owned by MS, is incapable of releasing a working game. Only people that seem to be able to make a game work on MS servers are established game developers working with new studios that cannot fail without going out of business. If Sony every decides to put it's own cloud server network up, thus giving online multiplayer gamers dedicated servers to play, then MS is effing history in the games arena. Not a single dev that has worked for The Empire likes them (think Bungie, they couldn't wait to get away)....Sony has relationships, built over years of trust and understanding, and it shows when they get an 'exclusive' title. MS was good for giving Sony a kick in the butt when needed, but they need a capable captain to steer their gaming before it's too late...Right now they just cower to their short-sighted investors....Too bad, MS is in a great position to do something amazing, but shoddy execution will ensure that never happens....Plus, ever since MS took over the Halo IP, it's sold (proportionally) less and less Xboxs....The fact that they are selling Xboxs at less than the cost of production, with a couple hundred in free games, should scare the #$%# out of their investors.

  • Report this Comment On December 25, 2014, at 4:05 AM, esxokm wrote:

    Excellent article. Brings up a lot of good points.

    One small quibble about a mentioned metaphor: I don't think "Halo" is necessarily Microsoft's "Super Mario." Maybe it is Microsoft's "Call of Duty," or Microsoft's "Resident Evil," in the sense that it is a big franchise game based on adult themes, immersive fantasy storylines, and shooting/weapons.

    I'm not sure what Microsoft's Mario is. It may have one and I may not be aware of it, but if the company doesn't have one (in the sense that Sega has Sonic), then it should try to develop one.

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