Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is in the fight of its life.

Well, not all of Microsoft, perhaps, but certainly the Xbox division. Come Nov. 17, Sony's (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation 3 will hit retail shelves. Two days later, Nintendo's (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK) Wii system debuts. Microsoft wants gamers to invest in its rival Xbox 360, so every little bit of marketing strength helps. And its latest bit of marketing is a whopper.

Peter Jackson -- the director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong -- will aid in the development of a new entry in the Halo video game series. He'll be involved in adapting the mythology to the silver screen as executive producer, so why not help in the creative design of the software? Makes sense to me. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh -- in association with Microsoft -- have founded Wingnut Interactive Studio, a concern that will produce software for the 360.

It's important to note that this isn't the third Halo game we're talking about -- Jackson's title will be out of that sequel loop. It will, of course, be a collaboration between Jackson and the creator of Halo, Microsoft subsidiary Bungie Studios. Jackson loves immense vistas of fantastical lore, so Halo's epic sci-fi landscape will undoubtedly benefit from his expertise. In addition, the marketing aspect of having Jackson in the 360 camp will most assuredly help to differentiate the system for at least some percentage of the videogaming market. There's no question that Halo is a killer-app game, much like Capcom's Resident Evil and Take-Two Interactive's (NASDAQ:TTWO) Grand Theft Auto have been. Believe me, many consumers buy systems just for these titles. Anything that can make a killer-app more killer is welcome. Jackson's involvement in both a Halo film and game should create a lot of goodwill generated for the 360.

This strikes me -- and a lot of people out there, certainly -- as a similar coup to the one scored by Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:ERTS). Steven Spielberg struck a deal with EA that calls for the director to develop some intellectual properties for the House That Madden Built. Spielberg, like Jackson, is gifted with plethora of talent, so taking a risk on his creative impulses should pay off with some great games. But as I mentioned previously, there's no guarantee that the games Spielberg is involved with will become hits -- and the same thing holds true for Jackson. (In both cases, we don't know the full scope of the deal structure, either.)

Nevertheless, this is exciting news for gamers. The fruit of Jackson's and Bungie's labor won't emerge until 2008, but that's OK -- it offers plenty of time for the talent at work to make a mighty adventure. And it gives would-be 360 owners the chance to save up for the costly system. Microsoft wants to increase its installed user base as quickly as possible, so publishers like EA, Activision (NASDAQ:ATVI), and THQ (NASDAQ:THQI) will have a good excuse to allocate a maximum amount of development expenditures for the 360 platform, both offline and on. Bringing Peter Jackson and the world of Halo together is a smart move -- since next-generation video games and box-office hits are becoming increasingly difficult to tell apart, it's an asset for Microsoft to have a best-of-breed director under its umbrella.

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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of Activision. The Fool has a disclosure policy.