Ever since its debut on the original Xbox in 2001, the Halo series has come to define the console first person shooter through its expansive world and groundbreaking combat mechanics. Indeed, it was Halo: Combat Evolved that revolutionised the console shooter, popularising the FPS genre that had previously been largely a PC affair, to millions of new players.
As the years went on, so did the Halo brand grow to encompass not only a rich legacy of core game titles but also novels, comics, animations and even a live action TV shows, all expertly produced with the marketing power of Microsoft behind them. With fans now eagerly awaiting the concluding chapter to the series' second trilogy in Halo 6, fans have plenty to sink their teeth into with spin-off games, apparel, toys, gifts and more. To find out more about Halo's place at the forefront of the licensing space, we sat down with John Friend, head of consumer products at 343 Industries.
Why has Halo remained consistently popular since its debut in 2001?
John Friend: Halo has always been about two things, rich, compelling storytelling and equally compelling gameplay. Halo is a science fiction adventure at its core, and with Master Chief, we have a hero at the centre of this universe that our fans actually get to become. Through 11 games, dozens of novels, comic books, animated and live action content, the Halo universe is as robust today as it was 16 years ago. Combine that with gameplay that has remained enjoyable and innovative since day one, and it has created a recipe for success as Xbox’s flagship franchise.
Through 11 games, dozens of novels, comic books, animated and live action content, the Halo universe is as robust today as it was 16 years ago.
John Friend, 343 Industries
What are the stand-out upcoming projects for Halo consumer products?
Friend: Halo consumer products is a 365 program in the marketplace where we continue to innovate and introduce new products for our young and old fans alike. We are very excited about our continued toy lines through MEGA Construx and Mattel, which are always fan and community favourites. This year marked the introduction of Halo branded Boys’ Apparel in the US, Mexico, and UK. The boy's space remains a strong place of growth for the Halo brand as we continue to expand into new categories through 2018. This fall we will be releasing the follow up to the very popular Halo: Mythos book with Halo: Warfleet – an illustrated guide to the spacecraft of Halo. In addition, we are happy to be working with Funko again on a new line of collectable POP Figures due to release in early 2018. We also have a VERY exciting top-secret project for 2018 that we aren’t quite ready to talk about, but is guaranteed to excite Halo fans around the world.
With Halo 6 still a ways off, how will the Halo brand remain present in the minds of fans?
Friend: We are very proud of the offerings that Halo 5: Guardians, Halo Wars 2, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection provide for players on the Xbox One console. We have also recently announced that we will be bringing the entire Halo Xbox 360 catalogue to the Xbox One platform via the Xbox Backwards Compatibility program. And with the Xbox One X scheduled to release this holiday season, we will also see updates coming to both Halo 5 and Halo Wars 2 to make these marquis titles enhanced with 4k visuals. We will continue to support our passionate fan base with new and exciting offerings with the games they love, and press our story forward with new novels, comics, toys, collectables and more!
Fans gather for the finals of the Halo World Championships
Tell us about the licensing activity around the recent launch of Halo Wars 2.
Friend: We worked closely with several of our licensees to create exclusive product based on Halo Wars 2, globally, including Mattel/Mega (Action Figures, Construction Toys), Bioworld International (apparel and accessories) with an exclusive program at Hot Topic, PDP (Xbox controllers), and Seagate (Xbox external hard drives). Additionally, we partnered with Forbidden Planet to create an in-store promotional event including interviews and signings with members of Creative Assembly (developer of Halo Wars 2) supported by direct-to-retail product, and licensed product.
Tell us about Halo’s place in the world of eSports.
Friend: Halo was one of the first console titles to bring the world of eSports into the mainstream. In the early days of competitive shooters, fans and pros alike credit the scenes that came out of Halo 2 and Halo 3 as laying the foundation to modern eSports. Today, through the Halo Championship Series (our professional eSports league), the future of console eSports looks bright with Halo 5: Guardians. This past March marked our second annual Halo World Championship, becoming the most watched Halo eSports event in history with 12 million unique viewers. And with a prize pool of over $1.2 million, the stakes have never been higher in Halo eSports.