HALO, MY NAME IS…

Okay, never mind that Halo 3 grossed over $300 million in its opening weekend (and $170 million inteh first 24 hours), sinking that Leo stinker Titanic as the best-selling piece of popular entertainment in the history of mankind.

I’m jaded enough not to doubt the power of a single video game to crush the dull-witted Hollywood product machine. (I’ve been in meetings where C-level execs have publicly marveled at the money generated by the Halo franchise, and Hollywood suits bemoan their box office deficits due solely to the countless hours of teens playing the game in the weeks following its launch.)

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And I’m an ECD for an experiential agency, so you know I dig the marketing muscle behind the Halo 3 launch, too. It’s on record. And now there’s even more to dig on, baby.

A little feature in Halo 3 is, in my humble opinion, another one of those (r)evolutionary pieces of “gameplay” that can fundamentally alter how we view entertainment and content. It’s called the Theater feature. According to this article in MediaPost by Shankar Gupta:

The Theater allows you to record your exploits in the “Halo 3” campaign or in multiplayer, play them back, screenshoot them, and then collect them from Bungie.com through your “Halo 3” Service Record. So, when you drive your ATV up onto a crane arm and jump on the back of a gigantic walking robot, you can record that moment and play it back again and again. This is an especially cool move by “Halo 3” developer Bungie because of the “Halo” franchise’s history with the machinima community.

If you haven’t heard of machinima, click through that Wikipedia link — it’ll give you some good background. One of the first breakout hits of the machinima genre was “Red vs. Blue,” a comedy short series filmed using the Halo engine. The series went five seasons, and was enormously popular, attracting a million viewers per episode.

But the process of creating machinima isn’t very easy, especially for the less technically inclined. By offering the Theater feature, Bungie has brought the possibility of these creations to a broader audience–something that few video game developers have ever bothered with. Although it’s unlikely that any high culture will come from “Halo 3″‘s Theater (the vast majority of videos probably feature people killing their friends in remarkably humiliating ways) bringing an element of content creation to an otherwise straightforward genre is definitely an innovative move.

This is the latest progression into truly democratic content production, in that the tools will be accessible on a much wider scale than they are today. I mean, you still need an expensive camera to create a sitcom. All the talk about CGM doesn’t negate the necessary equipment to make it watchable or more.

But a video game that lets you create content from the video game itself…well, that’s just freakin’ brilliant. Couch junkies and game-heads unite! You are now a collective Stanley Kubrik. And I mean this as a good thing.

I’m surprised how little attention this little feature has received from marketers and creatives. We’ve all seen the Coke/Grand Theft Auto work. When is Master Chief going to shill for Zune? Or at least star in the next Saturday Night Live skit?

A bit more here.

3 comments

  1. I don’t wish to come off as this incredulous person, but the ability to record a highlight or section/gameplay has been part of videogaming since 2000.
    It’s actually been taken out of games in the last couple of years. Only making a comeback this year. Games such as Halo 3 and NCAA 08 are starting to introduce it again.

  2. Starcraft from blizzard enjoyed the same features, and, huge success. Why didn’t this get bigger sooner?

  3. Halo 3 for Xbox is something incredible! It is a whole new world for me!!!

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