×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Halo’ Web series to bow before next game

Live-action skein could lead to another bigscreen attempt

While it will take years before a “Halo” movie ever makes it to the bigscreen, Microsoft could revive the idea again with a live-action Web series it will launch ahead of “Halo 4” this fall.

The company’s Xbox gaming division is putting considerable coin behind “Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn,” which will play exclusively on male-skewing entertainment website Machinima and online community Halo Waypoint in the weeks leading up to “Halo 4’s” release Nov. 6.

Project represents “the largest investment” Microsoft has made in live action to date, the company said.

Xbox is keeping a tight lid on additional details, including the Web series’ director and cast, preferring to hype the involvement of its creative team at Comic-Con in San Diego this July.

After several pricey live-action shorts and commercials for previous “Halo” installments — helmed by Neill Blomkamp (“District 9”) and Rupert Sanders (“Snow White and the Huntsman”) — caught on, Microsoft wants to use the “Halo 4” Web series as a way “to make ‘Halo’ accessible for people who haven’t played the games,” according to Matt McCloskey, director of franchise business management at 343 Industries, which is taking over the “Halo” franchise from Bungie Studios.

“We wanted to do something unique from a narrative standpoint that’s big in scale,” McCloskey added.

“Forward Unto Dawn” will play out over five weekly installments, around 15 minutes each, telling an original story about the game’s Master Chief and how he inspired a young UNSC cadet who will eventually become a leader aboard the UNSC Infinity spacecraft. Introduction of the new character will tie in with the plot of “Halo 4,” while providing a flashback to the beginning of the “Halo” franchise’s war between the humans and the evil Covenant.

“Every time we do a live-action commercial the audience says, ‘We want to see more so that we can explore the ‘Halo’ universe a little bit more,” said Frank O’Connor, franchise development director at 343 Industries. “Demand grew more and more out of the two little vignettes we’d previously produced.”

But Microsoft had to make sure that the Web series didn’t just appeal to hardcore “Halo” fans.

Playing the games and reading the books or other “Halo” spinoffs is “a big commitment,” O’Connor said. “We needed a way to ensure there was a way for people to get onboard this universe without feeling intimidated.” As a result, the Web series is “an origins story that teaches you about a lot of different facets of the (‘Halo’) universe.”

Microsoft faces fierce competition this fall with “Halo 4’s” launch, exclusive to the Xbox 360, with Activision Blizzard also releasing its latest game in the “Call of Duty” series, whose previous titles have consistently broken sales records over the last several years.

“Halo 3” became the biggest entertainment launch in history when it was released in 2007, earning $170 million in its first day in the U.S. and surpassing $300 million worldwide in its first week. Last year’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” blew away that record with a $400 million first-day haul in the U.S. and U.K. and $775 million globally in its first five days.

Still, the “Halo” franchise has generated revenue of more than $2 billion, selling 40 million copies worldwide and spinning off a series of bestselling novels, comicbooks, anime series and toys.

Microsoft considers the Web series “the next step” for the franchise as an entertainment property that could eventually lead to a theatrical feature — after the plug on one was pulled by Universal and Fox that Blomkamp was to direct and Peter Jackson to produce in 2005.

“I don’t think anybody needs any reminding of (the potential),” McCloskey said. “Everyone keeps reminding us of that.”

Once the Web series ends its run, Microsoft plans to package the entire production in some form to “live on” on other platforms, McCloskey said.

Microsoft isn’t alone in turning to live action to promote its games.

Last year, Warner Bros. scored with the Web series “Mortal Kombat: Legacy” (which also unspooled on Machinima) to hype the reboot of Midway Games’ “Mortal Kombat,” while Bethesda Softworks produced a live-action short for fantasy game “The Elder Skrolls V: Skyrim.” More recently, Ubisoft enlisted “Logorama” helmers Francois Alaux and Herve de Crecy and Ridley Scott’s RSA to produce “Ghost Recon: Future Soldier” as a 30-minute live action short to serve as a prequel for the upcoming game. Videogame publisher also produce live-action shorts for its “Assassin’s Creed” franchise.

McCloskey stresses that the “Halo 4” Web series is “not just a marketing piece” to promote the game. “We wanted to go way beyond that and transform this live-action exploration from advertising into a full standalone product that people will enjoy.”

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Doug Scott - Twitch

    Twitch Recruits Zynga's Doug Scott as Chief Marketing Officer

    Doug Scott is leaving as game company Zynga’s marketing boss to become Twitch’s CMO. Scott assumes the CMO role at Twitch after previous chief marketing officer Kate Jhaveri exited this summer to become the NBA’s top marketing exec. News of Scott’s hire comes less than a month after Twitch launched a redesigned logo and site, [...]

  • Carter Hansen - VidCon

    VidCon Hires Ex-AwesomenessTV Exec Carter Hansen to Head Conference Programming

    VidCon hired Carter Hansen, a founding executive at AwesomenessTV, as VP of programming to oversee conference programming and content for the internet-video events producer. In the newly created role, Hansen reports to VidCon GM Jim Louderback and will be based in Viacom’s Hollywood office. As part of overseeing programming worldwide for VidCon’s community, creator and [...]

  • The Boys Amazon Prime

    Nielsen Adds Amazon Prime Video to SVOD Measurement, With Limitations

    After two years of measuring Netflix viewing, Nielsen has now added Amazon Prime Video to the mix of subscription-streaming services it tracks — and with the same set of limitations. Nielsen’s SVOD Content Ratings originally launched in October 2017 with Netflix. According to the research firm, the addition of Amazon Prime Video measurement will let [...]

  • Gavel Court Placeholder

    Netflix Movie Scammer Admits to Defrauding Investors Out of $14 Million

    A California man has admitted to defrauding investment groups — nabbing $14 million — by falsely claiming the money would be used to produce a feature film for Netflix. On Oct. 18, Adam Joiner, 41, of Manhattan Beach, Calif., pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in U.S. District Court, according to federal authorities. [...]

  • netflix debt

    Netflix to Raise Another $2 Billion Through Debt to Fund Massive Content Spending

    Netflix, burning boatloads of cash with a projected $15 billion content budget for 2019, is adding to its debt load once again. On Monday (Oct. 21), Netflix announced plans to offer approximately $2.0 billion aggregate principal amount of junk bonds, in both U.S dollar and euro denominations. As of Sept. 30, Netflix reported $12.43 billion [...]

  • Bristol, CT - July 26, 2018

    Mina Kimes Helps ESPN Kick Off 'Daily' Podcast

    Mina Kimes is preparing to take ESPN into a new frontier. The sports-media giant has launched a “SportsCenter” for Snapchat and tested baseball telecasts for kids. Now it’s hoping to set up shop in another media venue. Starting tomorrow, the Disney-backed company launches “ESPN Daily,” a weekday morning podcast that aims to tap its vast [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content