Inside of a week now to the year's most anticipated entertainment event. Not Shrek. Spider-man. Even Pirates.
Nope, I'm talking Master Chief, Cortana. The Covenant.
I'm talking "Halo 3."
This is the billion-dollar franchise from Microsoft and its game developer unit Bungie Studios . The last "Halo," released in 2004, did $125 million in its first 24 hours and Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment and Device division tells me in an exclusive interview that he fully expects "Halo 3" to surpass it.
His top lieutenant Shane Kim tells me in another exclusive interview that 2 million Xbox players have yet to trade up to Xbox 360, and that "Halo 3" is likely the single title they've been waiting for to do so. That could mean a serious sales bump in Microsoft's hardware sales this holiday shopping season.
Those are just two of the key gems you'll see coming up in a series of exclusive reports online and on the air surrounding the "Halo 3" release. The hype surrounding this gaming title, exclusively on Xbox 360 and released at 12:01a, Tuesday Sep. 25, is extraordinary. The product tie-ins are incredible. Consider:
- Microsoft surpassed 1 million pre-orders for the game last week, more than any other game release ever.
- There are more than 15 million active "Halo" players globally now, logging more than a billion hours playing the game together on Xbox Live, Microsoft's online gaming community. Of the 6 million who signed up for Xbox Live, two-thirds did so solely because of "Halo," meaning the game will juice sales of Xbox 360, and should help Microsoft assert itself ahead of Sony and Nintendo in the console wars.Women represent one of the fastest-growing segments of "Halo" players, despite its violent, military themes.The consumer tie-ins for this release are extraordinary, with Burger King, Pontiac, 7-Eleven, Mountain Dew and others signing on as partners, in the same way they'd sign up for a major studio movie-release.This game title should generate more revenue than the top threetheatrical releases this summer -- combined, making "Halo" the year's real top blockbuster.The computing power and special effects in creating these entire worlds has never been used before and should launch a new era in game-development.We'll get the latest on plans for a "Halo 3" movie with "Lord of the Rings" Director Peter Jackson making it.This is the gaming world's first real "social networking and gaming experience" with live community player interaction, chat rooms and the ability for players to tie their experiences into an online identity, thanks to Xbox Live.
We will feature exclusive, behind-the-scenes footage of the game being developed, as well as interviews with the key creators who came up with the story. We'll also show you exclusive clips from upcoming documentaries Microsoft produced in connection with "Halo"'s release, as well as our own, rare access inside Bungie Studios as the company furiously puts the finishing touches on the game itself. We're loading at least 25 minutes of exclusive video you won't find anywhere else.
Check back here and on CNBC's Halo Headquarters for extended interviews with Bungie's Frank O'Connor and Harold Ryan, Microsoft's Robbie Bach and Shane Kim, as well as a bunch of material that you'll only see on cnbc.com.
This is big business, and big entertainment and the pressure is on Microsoft to deliver something special. I've spent a lot of time with Halo: playing it, and learning from the folks who created it. If you're a "Halo" fan, or a Microsoft investor, this is coverage you won't want to miss.
Enjoy it as we try to become your "Halo 3" Headquarters.
Questions? Comments? TechCheck@cnbc.com