"Halo" no longer just a game for Microsoft
The PS3's high price -- still $500 after a July cut -- is the biggest factor behind its woes, but Sony has also failed to deliver a true "system seller" -- a game so good that people will buy a particular console just to play it.
"Halo 3" is just such a title and Microsoft has kicked off an advertising blitz that includes evocative TV spots featuring live actors recalling events that happen in the game.
Transmuting "Halo" from geek spectacle to the mainstream is a challenge for a company more used to pitching operating systems and word-processing software than building consumer entertainment products.
Microsoft is wary of watering down "Halo," meaning it would rather walk away from deals for Master Chief pajamas or Covenant sippy cups.
"It's a balancing effort to be very, very careful that we don't over saturate and piss off our 15 million fans," said Brian Jarrard, franchise lead at Bungie, the game studio within Microsoft that created "Halo."
"We are obviously looking to broaden 'Halo' and make it accessible ... while at the same time, we want to keep feeding our core audience."
Microsoft had little experience in talking to toy makers and others about how to transfer an on-screen experience to real objects. But such experts exist in the licensing arms of movie studios, so Microsoft partnered with 20th Century Fox to act as the main licensing agent for the "Halo" brand.
Items that did not make the cut were a "Halo"-themed lottery ticket, lingerie modeled after a female hologram character and toy guns based the game's weapons. Instead, fans can expect high-quality action figures from McFarlane Toys, a tabletop game from WizKids Inc and replica weapons for mature buyers.
"We're very clear with them that this is not about running out and carpet-bombing everything. This is figuring out how in 5 years we're hitting new customers as opposed to in 5 years nobody cares," Schrek added.
© Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved