Somewhere within the past ten years, the Halo franchise transcended mere video games. You can encounter Master Chief within the pages of comic books or best-seller novels, soft toys and scale figurines, t-shirts and animations. According to 343 Industries franchise development director Frank O’Connor, this transition has all been organic, and it’s still growing.
Speaking to Gamasutra, Frank chuckles modestly:
“I’ve been at transmedia conferences — because we’re considered transmedia experts — and people say, ‘How do you take an item and turn in a big glorious far-reaching franchise with tendrils on the New York Times bestseller list and blah blah blah blah blah?’ And they’re like ‘You guys have nailed it! How do you do it?’ And the answer is, ‘Have an awesome thing,’ right? And I hate saying that, but that’s the truth.”
Without a doubt, the Halo franchise is responsible for the popularity of the Xbox gaming platform, an effect which trickled down to the Xbox 360. As new guardians of the series, 343 Industries must be a little daunted, but Frank explains that Bungie is “still involved” in the project.
“They’re our friends, literally and allegorically. One of my best friends is Lars Bakken at Bungie, and I still hang out with all the Bungie guys. They’re really committed to their fans, and their community, in the same way we are. And so when the baton is passed, and we take over stats, or we take over some business aspect, or whatever, that should just be invisible to the fans.”
It’s just another organic, gradual, gentle transition for Halo, which is currently in a state of “planning”, Frank says. The team wants to make sure that Reach is properly taken care of before launching into whatever might come next.
The lengthy interview goes into details about why Halo was so popular initially, and the series of “cool accidents” that lead to its position as undoubted king of the console shooters.
Now, 343 Industries has been keeping fairly quiet on what it’s working on behind the scenes, but it looks like Frank has revealed the big secret: Grunt Plushies. No, seriously. It seems that a cuddly adaptation of these destruction warriors is the “single most-demanded item” in the franchise’s 10 year history. Now you know. Act surprised!