Speculation over a major announcement which Microsoft has pledged to make on November 15th, the second anniversary of the Xbox launch date, points to the launch of a new version of Halo with Xbox Live support.
A number of different rumours have circulated regarding the announcement, including the rather unlikely possibility that the launch of Halo 2 – currently scheduled for 2004 – might actually be pulled forward to Christmas.
However, a member of the Bungie development team moved to quash such rumours, stating that “I can confirm with absolute certainty that Halo 2 is NOT coming out in 2003,” going on to question what “possible benefit” there would be in a launch shrouded in such secrecy.
What does seem entirely possible, however, is another rumour circulating about the announcement – namely that on November 15th Microsoft will roll out a new version of Halo, branded as Halo Deluxe Edition, which will feature online multiplayer capabilities over Xbox Live for the first time.
This speculation gains credibility from the appearance of a Prima Official Strategy Guide for Halo Deluxe Edition on the publishing company’s website, with a launch date of December 2003 – an embarrassing mistake by Prima if they turn out to have blown Microsoft’s surprise, but surely a pointer that MS has something Halo-related in the works.
An online version of Halo would make sense. The game already enjoys significant popularity online through the unofficial Xbox Connect tunnelling software, which fools Halo into believing that other systems on the Internet are actually on a LAN with it, but this connection can be unreliable and laggy at times. The launch of Deluxe Edition – which would presumably arrive at a budget price point – would also be a perfect opportunity for Microsoft to bundle a demo of Halo 2, building anticipation of its biggest 2004 title even further.
We’ll know for sure in three days when Xbox celebrates its second birthday in the USA.