Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Most Important Games of the Decade - 3

Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox)
November 2001

In the late 1990s, the “battle for the living room” was heating up. This internet thing was catching on in a big way, and everyone wanted a piece of the action. With the tech bubble rising, stalwart corporations found themselves out-market-capped by start-up internet-based businesses that did...well, it wasn’t always entirely sure, but everyone knew it was important and it was The Future.

As it happened, Microsoft did know something about the internet, and saw Sony’s PlayStation as a threat to the future of digital content and connecting consumers to the internet. So in a heavyweight fight of huge corporations mobilizing their resources, decided to enter Sony's domain and make a videogame system, a move that would cost them billions in the short-term in order to prevent getting locked out of the future.

Along the way, Microsoft picked up Mac developers Bungie Studios and their upcoming first person shooter game, Halo. The move gave Microsoft a launch title that was its only chance of competing against the PS2 blizzard of awesome games and Nintendo Gamecube’s launch with all of their mascot characters in Super Smash Bros. Melee. As it happens, Halo rocked everyone’s face off, and was the absolute #1 main reason the Xbox found a foothold. No Halo, no Xbox.

Halo’s dual analog controls solved the First-Person-Shooters-can-only-be-effectively-played-on-PC problem (Goldeneye was pretty funky control wise, you may have forgotten from nostalgia), it introduced the now genre-common regenerating health (shields), and established the holy trinity of guns/grenades/melee for balanced deathmatch gameplay.

Microsoft had entered the arena, and remained standing against the might of the PlayStation and Nintendo brands, eventually beating the GameCube in the US by focusing on the older gaming market. And by snapping up Halo and Bungie, almost as a casual side-effect dealt a blow that further doomed Apple to gaming obscurity for another decade. But stay tuned...

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