Entertainment franchises live and die by their ability to continue courting new fans as the years roll on by. From Marvel and Star Wars to LEGO and Transformers, the rule applies across the board. Video game icons like Halo‘s Master Chief, as popular as they are, cannot rely upon courting the same aging fandom forever. Innovations are necessary. “Retooling” can be a scary word for longtime fans, drumming up memories of less than successful “new directions” for gaming franchises, such as 2017’s maligned Mass Effect Andromeda. But there are ways to pull in wider audiences without alienating existing fans.
Here are just a few ideas as to how Halo can — pardon the pun — evolve for a younger demographic without sacrificing what made us all fall in love with Cortana and her legendary Spartan to begin with.
An Animated Series
I know what you’re thinking. Either, “What does Captain Janeway have to do with Halo?” Or alternatively, “Ew, Star Trek.” If it’s the latter, hey! I love Star Trek, but you do you. Either way, here’s my pitch — have Halo follow suit. The interesting thing about this upcoming Star Trek series, Prodigy, is that it will be the first time that franchise has ever specifically targeted the childhood demographic. There are a bunch of Trek shows on the air right now, but former Paramount+ Executive Vice President Julie McNamara knew the 55-year-old franchise will soon need to begin reaching new eyes if it is to remain profitable, let alone grow its audience.
To be sure, Halo isn’t 55 yet. Sorry, Master Chief; no senior citizen benefits yet for you. But the franchise does turn 20 this year. Folks who were already in their thirties when they first picked up that Xbox controller and came up with a ridiculous gamer tag are now significantly older. Those of us who were very young but still playing remember Halo: Combat Evolved when it was new? I’m already 33.
Cartoons sometimes get a bad rap for being overly kiddish. To be sure, that happens often. But the folks at 343 Studios and whichever external partners they’d choose to make this happen will presumably have the chops to make a Halo cartoon more of an “all-ages” affair, similar to Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the recent spinoff, The Bad Batch. A well-made animated show could expand the ripe Halo universe even further, showing us what civilian life is like or giving us fresh perspectives on old enemies. There’s a lot that can be done.
A Free Spinoff Exclusive to Game Pass
We talk a lot about Xbox Game Pass around here. And for good reason, too — most Xbox fans, and even plenty of folks who are keener on other consoles, tend to agree that it’s the best service in the gaming industry today. Part of the reason it’s so exciting to contemplate potential studio acquisitions is that new games from developers working under the House of Phil Spencer tend to show up on Game Pass immediately upon launch.
One of the more obvious examples of an exciting Game Pass addition is Halo Infinite… whenever it launches, that is. But what if the time was taken to eventually release a Game Pass exclusive Halo game more skewed toward a younger crowd? It wouldn’t mess with the proven tone of the mainline games, being its own standalone thing; on the other hand, if it’s popular with the masses, future mainline games can cross-reference it and bring in some of the new characters.
What kind of spinoffs would fit like a glove, though? While there’s always the Battle Royale approach, the gaming space for that genre is only so vast and we can already hear the sighs and facepalms from Xbox fans tired of that shtick. Other ideas could include a vehicle-centric competitive mashup game in the vein of Twisted Metal with Ghosts and M12 Warthogs clashing in a full-scale experience far eclipsing the main games’ modes. More radically, Microsoft could embrace the pixel darling approach responsible in part for the success of such breadwinners as Stardew Valley. What in the heck does Stardew Valley have to do with Halo? Not a lot, but by painting in similar artistic strokes, vibrant and colorful as can be, kids of all ages might be intrigued enough to click and download.
Farming for crops might not be the way forward here, but training a crew for a new UNSC Frigate? I could see it.
The Big N
Look, the rumors have swirled for years that Halo is somehow, in some fashion, coming to Nintendo Switch. At this point, the evidence is slim pickings. It’s entirely possible it never comes to pass.
But if it did, that would sure open a few doorways.
The Switch’s demographic base is as diverse as they come, with kids and seniors alike digging its portability and plethora of games. One of Nintendo’s core conceits as a first-party developer, however, is to bring plenty of major kid-friendly titles to the forefront. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Luigi’s Mansion 3 don’t exactly feature “360 no scopes.” (Then again, maybe Breath of the Wild does. The things you can do in that game…)
So in a weird, weird world in which Microsoft really did port some old Halo games over to Nintendo, I can only imagine Master Chief’s audience growing over time. Younger folks, whose primary passions are Mario and Pokémon, might just have their interests piqued enough to ask for an Xbox Series X for Christmas. (I’m not saying adults don’t enjoy themselves some Mario and Pokémon as well, by the way. You get the idea.)
There’s no doubt that Microsoft has considered all of this and more. People get paid full-time over there to spark new marketing ideas, after all — a company is a company! But from a fan perspective, a cartoon, a spinoff, and a pie-in-the-sky cross-platform port possibility all sound like dead ringers to draw more attention to the Halo franchise.
As past becomes present, Halo turns 20. One day, it will be as old as dirt… and Star Trek. If 343 Studios wants to see those gorgeous titular halos on gamer television screens for decades to come, something will need to be done.
You can pre-order Halo Infinite on the Xbox Series X|S here.