Speaking at MI6 in San Francisco Chris Lee, a global group product manager for Microsoft, has explained how making Master Chief a hero in the eyes of the American people was responsible for the series' gigantic sales. From this Gamedaily piece:
Chris Lee, a global group product manager from Microsoft, talks about why putting a human face on Master Chief was so crucial. "We didn't have an awareness problem – people knew Halo 3 was coming out. We had a perception problem."
People thought the game was hardcore, and not mainstream. To change that perception, the team wanted people to think about Master Chief as a hero. "That's how we transcended from video games to pop culture," he says.
It's well documented that comic stars such as Superman and Captain America became extremely popular in the US during times of national insecurity, so this could be the same effect, we suppose. Except that Master Chief's green. Although that could be compared to combat fatigues. Ignore us. It's early.