The latest version of Microsoft's $4.6 billion video game franchise — "Halo 5: Guardians" — launches around the world Tuesday. And this game is particularly important, and not only because it's part of Microsoft's most valuable game franchise — and cost a reported $100 million to produce.
"Halo 5" is exclusive to Microsoft's Xbox console platform, making it a key weapon in Xbox's battle with Sony's PlayStation. In fact, with the Xbox One lagging rival PlayStation 4, the appeal of "Halo" is considered a key way to help Microsoft recoup its investment in the gaming platform.
"It's critical to Xbox's success that 'Halo' is successful," said Phil Spencer, head of Xbox. "I'm really encouraged by the early signs that this is going to do well for us." Spencer said there's no question that consumers carefully evaluate a console's exclusive games.
"It's clearly our biggest exclusive franchise we've launched since the launch of Xbox One. and we know we have a lot of 'Halo' fans who are still on the Xbox 360," said Spencer. "The fact that the Xbox One will now play your Xbox 360 games coming in November, and you've got 'Gears of War,' one of our big franchises coming, and our biggest franchise 'Halo' shipping all this fall. i think it's an incredible time for Xbox 360 customers to move to Xbox One."
Gamers certainly came out in droves at the midnight events at stores around the world — tuning in for the six-hour YouTube live-stream Monday night Microsoft hosted to lead up to the games going on sale. Reviews have been positive, particularly a new 24-player mode. Competition is always steep — and a week from Friday Activision launches its latest installment of a megafranchise: "Call of Duty: Black Ops 3."
But Spencer said he's not concerned about the game competition, or the fact that PlayStation 4 sales are outpacing Xbox One.
"It's really a great time in the game industry," he said. "You see Sony having great success with their console. We're selling more Xbox Ones than we've sold of any previous Xbox at this point in the generation. We've got more players on the Xbox Live. And it's just a healthy time in the game industry and I think the success of many of the companies shows that."