The Halo franchise has carried the Xbox platforms on its back since both debuted in 2001 to a questioning gaming community. The expectations aren’t much different for Halo 5 and the Xbox One 14 years later, as a Bloomberg piece published Thursday asks if the shooter can save the console. Sales aside, the interesting parts of the article is how 343 Industries boss Bonnie Ross approached taking on the franchise and how it relates to Star Wars and its creator, George Lucas.
Ross took over the Halo franchise in 2009 as the General Manager following Bungie’s split from Microsoft to develop Destiny on its own, and left Halo in search of a new development studio. This eventually turned into 343 Industries, which had to be built from scratch after nearly every developer from Bungie left. A few key people stayed, however, including Halo Franchise Director Frank O’Connor, who was impressed with Ross’ knowledge of the shooter.
“Bonnie came in and really surprised everyone,” he says, “because she’d read all the novels, she was deeply immersed in the fiction, and she’d played all the games.”
Some of Ross’ colleagues questioned the move to take over Halo as they felt the franchise had run its course. She had a different perspective of how to turn it around and keep it alive, however.
“People felt like, Let’s get another Halo or two out, and it’s the end of the franchise,” Ross says. “The thing I asked for was: If I take it over, I want to be George Lucas. I want to own everything, and I want to do things differently.”
That’s possibly not the most apt comparison, since the Star Wars prequel films were largely derided by the fan base. Still, she is correct in how Lucas ran his blockbuster science fiction franchise. He had his hands in the development of every toy and ancillary consumer product created based on the fight between the Rebels and the Empire. He also did it while retaining ownership and control over everything.
The same method can already be seen with the Halo brand name. 343 Industries has taken the initial universe building done under Bungie and expanded it even further over the last six years with novels, comic books, and live-action series. Some of it has been for the better, such as the Forward Unto Dawn live-action series leading into Halo 4, while some of it was of questionable quality, like the Nightfall series that introduced Jameson Locke for Halo 5.
The challenge for Ross and the rest of 343 Industries is keeping all of the lore in line to the point that the Halo game can stand on its own feet. The Forerunner Trilogy of novels by Greg Bear went into deep detail behind the species and the Didact, in particular. However, fans that did not read the novels were largely confused with the introduction of the Didact as the villain of Halo 4.
Still, Ross is well aware that they have a brand in Halo, with the potential to carry further if treated correctly. The potential is there for the same reason Star Wars still carries weight 30 years after its last release — because parents share the experience with their kids.
“For those of us that are a little bit older, we saw Star Wars and stood in line the first time around,” she says. “We are seeing the same thing with Halo, where a lot of dads and parents that started playing when they were 20 or 30 now have kids that are coming in through our, you know, Mega Bloks line.”
What do you think of Ross’ comments on her vision of managing the Halo franchise? Sound off in the comments below.
[Photo by Christian Petersen / Getty Images]