Halo Retrospective: Look back on Microsoft’s biggest franchise

Last Updated: November 15, 2021

From budding strategy game to fully-fledged franchise, Halo is both the pinnacle of gaming and a complete demonstration of its failings. No one franchise has swung as hard and won, nor completely whiffed their shot as Halo has.

Initially developed for the Mac in the 90s, Halo was intended to be a strategy game in line with Bungie’s other title, Myth. The studio even gave a full tech demo on stage at MacWorld in 1999.

Then Microsoft bought the studio. In a preverbal instant, Bungie who had done nothing but develop games for the Mac were destined to be associated with Microsoft for the rest of time. Other than Oni for the PS2. Or Destiny.


Either way, in 2001, Microsoft released their first games console, the Xbox. It had Bill Gates and The Rock on stage, it featured a massive controller and outside of Microsoft essentially dominating the PC gaming market since ’93 (even with their fumbling of DOS support on Windows 95), it was completely unproven.

Hark, the herald

That same year it seemed as if Sony’s PlayStation 2 would be effectively unstoppable, as Sony’s 2001 not only saw one of the best lineups of games ever, but it also featured the timely death of Sega’s console output. Sonic the Hedgehog’s house pulled out of the market as the Dreamcast faded away, brutally murdered by Sega’s inept design that saw the console cracked wide open by burning a CD-R at 1x speed.

Microsoft needed a big hit and it wasn’t going to be Shrek. No, it was another big green monster, as Master Chief’s adventures not only revolutionized how first-person-shooters were played on console but also jolted the industry in a singular direction until fairly recently.

That fairly recently would be the current thriving nostalgia economy which is more of a spiritual change rather than design – but that’s for another time.


Halo: Combat Evolved was not only hugely open – for the time – but altered how first-person-shooters were actively designed. It’s a sprawling map as you land on Halo for the first time, hopping into a Warthog just to find yourself entering yet another segment of the same level.

The power fantasy of Master Chief stomping the brutish Covenant into the dirt and riding off into the sunset not only resonated with fans of the story but those who became obsessed with how it played.


Halo: CE’s biggest weapon was its multiplayer, featuring maps like Blood Gulch, which would go on to be more recognised for being the setting in Rooster Teeth’s Red vs Blue, which in turn, has created this bizarre lineage of entire companies making it big off the back of Halo.

Four-player split-screen? Done. Co-op with your buddy? Right there. Got more than three friends and access to another Xbox? Link them up with an Ethernet cable and you’ve got yourself a LAN party going on the console.

Halo was such a hit that it went on to influence the other big games coming out in its circle a few years on. In 2004, the big green machine once again changed the game.

Let them eat cake

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