The truth about Halo 3


Not one to sit back and reflect quietly upon its moments of glory, Microsoft has been making quite a fuss over the record breaking Halo 3 launch. It is, Microsoft insists, the "biggest entertainment launch in history." Sales in the first 24 hours, in the US alone, topped $170 million. More, Microsoft is happy to tell anyone who asks, than the opening box office record of Spiderman 3, more than the Harry Potter book launches. Whichever way you look at it, Microsoft is spinning the record breaker angle: 1.7 million copies pre-ordered in the US = fastest selling computer game in history.

Is it really such a big deal though? Comparing sales with Harry Potter is a dangerous tactic as although the 'entertainment launch' umbrella might cover it, the truth is that computer games and books and movies are very different things. Doh!

Money and sales are different things as well. Is there any value in comparing the box office take of a 2007 blockbuster with that of an equally important movie from 30 years ago when tickets cost a whole lot less? Of course not. Is there any value in comparing the amount of money in the bank when selling a pretty expensive next generation console game against a Nintendo classic from 10 years ago? Nope.

To then compare the amount of money made by an expensive, and non-discounted, computer game against the amount taken in the first day be a ridiculously heavily discounted book is just bonkers.

Perhaps Microsoft should come back to the revenues in a year from now and see how Halo 3, or the entire Halo franchise for that matter, is standing up then. I suspect it would not even be in the same country, let alone ballpark. The Harry Potter books have sold hundreds of millions of copies and generated revenues estimated to be in excess of $5 billion. The movie franchise has made much the same in bottom line terms.

Is Halo 3 really a Harry Potter beater?

No. It is a great game though by all accounts and perhaps Microsoft should have been content with just announcing it as the fastest selling, biggest grossing launch title in the history of computer gaming. That still sounds pretty impressive, without having to get into a fight with the boy wizard.

Now that's a movie I would pay good money to see: Harry Potter and the Jovian Moons Campaign…

About the Author

A freelance technology journalist for 30 years, I have been a Contributing Editor at PC Pro (one of the best selling computer magazines in the UK) for most of them. As well as currently contributing to, The Times and Sunday Times via Raconteur Special Reports, SC Magazine UK, Digital Health, IT Pro and Infosecurity Magazine, I am also something of a prolific author. My last book, Being Virtual: Who You Really are Online, which was published in 2008 as part of the Science Museum TechKnow Series by John Wiley & Sons. I am also the only three times winner (2006, 2008, 2010) of the BT Information Security Journalist of the Year title, and was humbled to be presented with the ‘Enigma Award’ for a ‘lifetime contribution to information security journalism’ in 2011 despite my life being far from over...

jwenting 1,713 duckman Team Colleague

it's a marketing campaign, what else would you expect but boisterous comments about its success?

Chaky 191 Posting Virtuoso

They probably presented the number of copies sold to the resellers as the number of copies bought by customers.

scru 909 Posting Virtuoso Featured Poster

Easy there...

for someone who doesn't seem to like people making things out for more than they are, you sure can make a molehill into a mountain...

cutepinkbunnies 4 Junior Poster

Indeed...most companies tend to strategically word publications and press releases in their favor (Symantec, F-Secure, Sophos, various linux distros, to name a few). Don't let your hatred for Microsoft impair your judgment.

Sometimes a comparison is a good selling point and helps prospective buyers and shareholders paint a mental picture of success regardless what the REAL baseline is.

If I only had a dollar for every linux-related headline I saw indicating Microsoft was doomed or couldn't compete with linux TCO...heck, I'd buy Microsoft.

happygeek 2,411 Most Valuable Poster Team Colleague Featured Poster

I don't hate Microsoft at all. If that was the case I wouldn't write a column for nor would I be a Windows user.

A comparison can only help give an impression of success if it compares apples with apples. Otherwise it remains pure hype and nothing more...

cutepinkbunnies 4 Junior Poster

I would think a reasonably intelligent person would be able to distinguish the difference between a video game and a book. Why are you having difficulty?

If someone was to compare the current altitude of the space shuttle to that of Mt. Everest like "The space shuttle is currently ten times the height of Mt. Everest from the earth's surface" will you write an article about that too? I bet as long as there was a way to take shots at Microsoft you'd be all about it. ;)

jwenting 1,713 duckman Team Colleague

Davey, if you "don't hate Microsoft" you may want to change the tone and topics of your blog entries a bit. They're almost universally twisted in such a way as to be negative about the company. Never is there anything positive about them, hardly ever anything that's even neutral or doesn't try to place them in a bad light in some way.

Infarction 503 Posting Virtuoso

The problem with comparing this apple to the rest in the bin is that there's hardly any competition; but we all love to compare things and see how well or poorly they're doing. So comparing it to the Harry Potter books, which are known to be an entertainment phenomenon, MSFT can make a fairly strong point. And while the argument of book = $30 and Halo = $60, there's also a much smaller population buying Halo 3 than there is buying the HP books.

And jwenting sounds about dead on...

Toulinwoek 0 Posting Whiz in Training

It would seem that, by calling it an "entertainment launch", it would qualify to be compared against movies and books (particularly fictional books), which are also classified as entertainment. In that context, I'd consider the comparison valid, especially if the point is to draw attention to the popularity of the advertised product. About the only thing I'd see as a bit disqualifying would be the differences in pricing. In other words, a $60 game versus a $30 book versus a $10 (in my area) movie ticket hardly makes a $170 million figure as relevant as it might seem on the surface.
Two ways to look at that. One, assuming everyone paid $60, it should take a little under 3 million folks buying Halo 3 to get to $170 million. At the same time, there would have to be a about five and a half million Harry Potter books sold, or about 17 million folks going to see Spiderman 3, all in one day, to get to that same figure. Two, I would generally expect more people to pay ten bucks for a movie than sixty bucks for a video game. I don't know if I'd say it all pretty much evens out or not (don't feel like thinking that hard right now), but I don't find it too terribly out of line that Microsoft would make that comparison.

FragFighter 3 Junior Poster

I totally agree. And Halo 3 isn't such a big deal anyways. (How could someone compare a video game, a book, and a movie anyways?! :scream: )

Fused 0 Newbie Poster

What do you care what Microsoft does about the money they make on games? If your company made that much on a game you’d probably do the same thing to show people how much you really sold. And that’s a pretty bold topic for your little opinion on it no? “The Truth About Halo 3" What Microsoft posted about the game is true, your whole post is really nothing more than your opinion on it. And here’s my facts on the whole franchise. Ever hear of MLG? Major League Gaming, you know how that started? Because of the halo franchise, that whole company has probably made more money than harry potter’s entire line will ever make. The players alone who participate in the Halo divisions make a killing off these events. The #2 Halo 2 -3 team signed a legitimate contract for 1.75million dollars. Think about that for a second 1.75mill to 4 kids who play a video game. How much do you make a year? Tell me that’s not a big deal. The number one team is signed by Gilbert Arenas, an NBA player. MLG had its own tv show, and I think it still does, its main line was halo 2. MLG goes around the U.S.A holding these tournaments, they have become so big that they expanded there horizon on games. Tell me those movies have that much attention. What’s the big deal right, people only camped out all day and night to get their copy of halo 3, and halo 2. Halo 2 by the way was the most played online game for I believe 2 years. The only thing to break it for a few days was gears of war, a game that had better graphics, was a lot newer, and was a game for the 360! After a reputation like Halo 2, Halo 3 was EXPECTED to be an amazing hit. Oh and by the way Ensemble Studios is coming out with a Halo game called Halo Wars, and for that matter a movie is in the works for halo. How many games do you know are made into movies? That’s a pretty big deal if you ask me. Why don’t you compare how much time was put into playing halo 2 or halo 3 and compare that to the amount of time put into watching Harry potter and spider man I will guarantee you it would not even be in the same country, let alone ballpark.

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