Videogame franchise entry will launch new trilogy

While sales bragging rights have gone to Activision Blizzard’s “Call of Duty” videogame franchise over the last four years, Microsoft reminded the biz that it’s still a player with “Halo,” announcing that the fourth installment will bow Nov. 6 and launch a new trilogy.

Microsoft hopes the exclusive title follows in the footsteps of its predecessors, which broke sales records with each launch and helped establish the Xbox and Xbox 360 as consoles that could compete with hardware from Nintendo and Sony’s PlayStation.

The previous “Halo” games also bowed in November, with “Halo 3″ released in 2007. Title earned $170 million when it launched, making it the highest-grossing entertainment property within its first day of release.

“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3″ blew the record away when it earned $400 million in its first day in the U.S. and the U.K. It went on to cross the $1 billion mark worldwide 16 days after it hit store shelves Nov. 8.

Still, the “Halo” franchise is the most important entry in Microsoft’s gaming portfolio, and it’s eager to keep the franchise running after earning $2.8 billion since the first game bowed in 2001, collecting the coin from game sales, bestselling books, comicbooks, action figures, apparel and spinoffs like “Halo: Reach” and “Halo 3: ODST.” The games alone have sold over 40 million copies worldwide.

After developing a film with Fox and Universal in 2005 that Neill Blomkamp was set to helm and Peter Jackson produce before the plug was pulled over its pricey budget, Microsoft is in no hurry to get “Halo” up on the bigscreen until it can crack the right story. Alex Garland, Stuart Beattie, D.B. Weiss and Josh Olson have taken stabs at scripts. Microsoft retains the film rights to any films and is even considering a potential TV series.

“We are beginning a new saga with ‘Halo 4′ and embarking on a journey that will encompass the next decade of ‘Halo’ games and experiences,” said Phil Spencer, corporate VP of Microsoft Studios, adding that with “millions of fans worldwide” awaiting the game’s release, “we’re confident 2012 will be the most successful year in Xbox history.”

Microsoft is already revving up its marketing machine to promote “Halo 4.” To amp the pre-orders company is taking on Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, Target, Walmart and the Microsoft Store for the $60 game, “Halo 4″ helmer Frank O’Connor and exec producer Kiki Wolfkill visited Conan O’Brien’s “Conan” to chat up the game. Company tapped Massive Attack’s Neil Davidge to compose the score for the game, who said, “Music has always been at the heart of what makes ‘Halo’ so captivating and iconic. With ‘Halo 4,’ we want to build upon the franchise’s amazing legacy and create a score that captures the awe and wonder of the ‘Halo’ universe and reinforces the deeper and more emotionally impactful journey Master Chief will embark on.”

Microsoft announced plans to produce the title, revealing a teaser trailer at the E3 videogame confab last year in Los Angeles.

Game is the first to be developed by 343 Industries, replacing Bungie Studios, which had overseen the other “Halo” games before inking a 10-year pact with Activision.

Appropriately, “Halo 4″ is set four years after the events of “Halo 3,” with Master Chief returning to face an ancient evil that threatens the fate of the entire universe after drifting toward a mysterious planet while deep in cryogenic sleep.

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