In case you haven’t been keeping up with the console wars, the Xbox One is running in second place against its arch-nemesis, Sony’s PlayStation 4. So far, Microsoft hasn’t found the secret to grabbing a sales lead and holding onto it, and by all accounts doesn’t hope to do so anytime soon. But if Xbox One does have a prayer of catching up in the near future, it’ll be Halo 5 that puts Microsoft over the top.
Resurrecting a struggling gaming platform is some serious pressure to be putting on a mere video game, but that’s precisely Halo 5’s position. Starting on October 27, 2015, Halo 5 will be expected to provide a real halo effect (no pun intended), pulling in new Xbox One buyers and upgrading Xbox 360 fence-sitters. And if it’s some serious pressure on Halo 5, the game, imagine the pressure it places on Halo 5’s developers, Microsoft development studio 343 Industries.
Bloomberg Business spent some time profiling Bonnie Ross, the woman responsible for the fate of the Halo franchise, and delving into the importance of the latest iteration, Halo 5. According to Bloomberg, Ross manages some 600 staff members and over $100 million in development costs on the way to producing a game that her employers are counting on to make a dent in the PS4’s significant lead.
Bloomberg is rather exhaustive in painting a picture about the trials of producing such an important title, and in describing the woman whose job it is to essentially herd cats in pushing a title through the development process and out the door on time and with the fewest possible number of bugs. Clearly, such a person must be deeply invested in the culture herself, she must understand and care about the franchise, and she must be able to convince artists and developers and producers of both the vision and the trivia.
Excited by the Xbox One’s processing power, animators decided to build a fully interactive cactus that could move in different ways depending on where a gamer shot it. They blanketed one level with cactuses all the way to the virtual horizon. Even the new turbocharged Xbox couldn’t render the needles fast enough. At one point during the development process, the cactuses were the single biggest contributor to technical problems. Finally, the developers convinced the artists they had to go. Says Chris Lee, 343’s director of production: “There were hard feelings on different sides for about a month from the cactus fallout.”
Fortunately, Ross is just such a person, being both technically inclined, a fan of the franchise from the beginning, and something of a science fiction nerd in her own right, starting with standing in line for the original Star Wars. At 48 years old, she’s old enough to have lived through the advent of video games and consoles and Star Wars, and young enough to still appreciate them.
From the looks of the launch gameplay trailer, she and her team have done some good things, creating suspense, controversy, and some seriously exciting material:
Will it be enough to launch Xbox One on a trajectory to catch up with and perhaps surpass the PS4? We’ll see, starting on October 27.