Halo: Microsoft's iPod

The other day I was watching Cali Lewis on GeekBrief.tv and she remarked how “Halo is Microsoft’s iPod”. Truer words were never spoken.

This past Tuesday, Halo 3, the third and final installment of the epic first-person shooter saga, was released to an eagerly awaiting public. In fact, they were so eager to throw down $60 at midnight, that when added up, Halo 3 culled $170 million in the first 24 hours. Just for the record, that’s more than Spiderman 3 pulled down at the box office, and more than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows turned over at bookstore tills on opening night.

Money is nice, but from a branding point of view, it’s not enough to earn “iPod” status. But check this out:

Halo launched in November 2001, just a few weeks after the iPod. At first, no one was impressed, but soon folks realised that the head-to-head capabilities could lead to endless replay with friends. Halo’s second and third iterations have been gobbled up with almost religious fervor. Like the iPod, there is a significant proportion of users who will buy Halo products without question and without waiting to hear reviews.

There is another similarity, and interestingly enough, one that flies in the face of the philosophy that the best brands are the ones that are first in a category (e.g., Heineken was the first imported beer in America, and is still the most popular in the category of imported beers). The iPod was not the first MP3 player, nor the first portable music player in general, but it was the first device to do it right — to make it idiot-proof. Certainly, Halo was not the first first-person shooter for a console system. If you believe wikipedia, FPSs date back to the late 1970s! Halo wasn’t even the first sci-fi shooter, but it has a certain charisma that wrapped up the players into this whole world of Halo. Microsoft and Bungee found that certain alchemy that led to success — like Apple with its iPod.

So what’s next for the Halo line? A series of spin-offs and variations as happened with the iPod? Perhaps. We may in all likelihood see another sequel with a tangent plotline. Or we may see another title set in the same Halo ‘world’, perhaps on another planet. We’ll see lots more cash heading Microsoft’s way, and perhaps more criticism and scrutiny as they extend the Halo brand to places it probably shouldn’t go. (i.e., movies).

And as far as portable music players — Microsoft is still searching for its iPod.