Microsoft to Tease Halo 3 Beta

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"Halo is a pop culture phenomenon!"

So says Jeff Bell, VP of global marketing for Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business. Although we might argue Master Chief has yet to achieve the status of, say, The Beatles (or—dare we say it?—Elmo) we’ll readily concede that Microsoft has pulled in a whole lot of money—and fueled many an Xbox sale—with it’s alien-splattering first-person shooter sci-fi franchise. We still have trouble calling the game’s protagonist Master Chief—"Master Chef" comes to the lips much more easily—but, well, tomato, tomahto. To date, the Halo franchise has sold almost 15 million units worldwide, accounted for more than 800 million multiplayer hours on Xbox Live, and rung up nearly $700 million in sales.

So even though the next installment of Microsoft’s gaming franchise Halo 3 isn’t due to hit consoles until at least mid-2007, the Redmond giant figures it’s never too soon to start drumming up hype and encourage folks to get prepared by buying shiny new Xbox 360s. To that end, a 60-second "trailer" (er, TV commercial) promoting Halo 3 will make its broadcast debut on ESPN’s Monday Night Football on Monday, December 4, between 5:50 and 6:20 P.M. Pacific Standard Time. If you can’t get to a television, the trailer will also go live on Xbox.com on December 4 at 8 P.M. PST. Microsoft says the spot will air on television one time only, although it’ll still be accessible online.

The 60-second segment was produced by McCann Media Group San Francisco, and uses a mix of live action and CG animation to tease an "exclusive" look at the Halo universe and offer hints of what Bungie Studios might have in store for the forthcoming Halo 3 installment. According to Jeff "pop culture phenomenon!" Bell, the teaser "invites a new audience with a rich back story, and continues to galvanize gamers around the world for the launch of Halo 3 in 2007."

What with Halo being a pop culture phenomena and all, some of us might be legitimately concerned about what crazed Halo fans might do while waiting until mid-year to see Master Chief serve it up to the Covenant. What if they give up pulling out their hair, beating their breasts, and gnashing their teeth and, say, turn to running wild in the streets, setting fires, and flipping over parked cars?

Microsoft wants us to know we can rest easy: beginning December 4, Halo fans will be able to log into Halo3.com to sign up for the Halo 3 Multiplayer Beta. North American gamers will be able to register for the chance to participate in a Halo 3 public beta program scheduled to kick off in the first quarter of 2007. The multiplayer beta will offer a pre-release version of the multiplayer capabilities of Halo 3 via Xbox Live; players will have the opportunity to provide feedback which will improve and refine the final, shipping version of Halo 3.

The idea is that the availability of a mere chance to participate in a public beta of Halo 3 will keep Halo fans’ lethal attentions focused on the games and each other, rather than helpless civilians. Because Mr. Bell doesn’t like to think about what might happen if his "pop culture phenomenon" gets out of control.

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