It had been four years since Xbox gamers and fans saw their favorite super-soldier Master Chief headline a new "Halo" game, and consumers welcomed his return last Tuesday to record numbers.
On Monday evening, Microsoft announced that "Halo 4" raked in $220 million on its release date last Tuesday on Election Day in America, which officially makes it the biggest launch in the history of the franchise. "Halo: Reach," the fourth game in the series and the final game made by Bungie, Halo's original developer since 2001's "Halo: Combat Evolved," earned $200 million in global sales on its launch day in September 2010.
In its first week available, "Halo 4" sales have already reached $300 million. Even the game's soundtrack has been extremely successful, becoming the highest-charting soundtrack for a video game ever with 9,000 copies sold in its first week on sale.
"We're thrilled that 'Halo 4' has emerged as the biggest U.S. entertainment launch of the year," said Phil Spencer, corporate VP at Microsoft Studios.
With "Halo 4," Microsoft may be able to lay claim to owning the best-selling Xbox 360 title of all-time, an honor that might be stolen away from a third-party this week. Rival developers Activision Blizzard and Treyarch released "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2" at midnight last night, and if any game franchise can dethrone a "Halo" game in sales, it's "Call of Duty."
But until the official numbers for "Call of Duty" roll in sometime early next week, Microsoft will enjoy its well-deserved spot at the top after helping the crucial transition of the "Halo" intellectual property from Bungie to 343 Industries, a studio Microsoft built in-house specifically to helm the Halo and Master Chief franchise moving forward.
With this smooth transition and 343i's renewed focus on story, plot and presentation, many critics have said "Halo 4" is not just the best game this year, but the best "Halo" game ever made.
"After soaking in the new game, I am beyond thrilled to be so in love with Halo again, more than I’ve been since Halo 2," wrote IGN's Ryan McCaffrey, who gave "Halo 4" a score of 98 out of 100. "Halo 4 is a masterstroke everyone can and should celebrate, and its two guaranteed sequels instantly make the next-generation Xbox a must-own system, with Halo 5 its most anticipated title. Halo has been rebuilt. It has been redefined. And it has been reinvigorated. The Xbox’s original king has returned to his rightful place on the throne."
It was extremely important that Microsoft get "Halo 4" right: As the Xbox 360 is surely on its last legs, the next two games in this revitalized "Halo" franchise would be on the next-generation console; in other words, "Halo 4" would be Microsoft's final pitch to buy its new system based off the direction of its most popular franchise. If "Halo 4" proved that 343i couldn't handle Bungie's work, very few people would invest in the next Xbox system with the quality of its most popular franchise in doubt moving forward.
Luckily, this turned out not to be the case, as many critics and fans say 343i really knocked "Halo 4" out of the park. Sales numbers from launch day and the first week seem to be reflective of this renewed optimism towards the sci-fi shooter franchise.
"Halo 4 is Halo – a surprisingly successful, mandatory step for 343 Industries," wrote Ludwid Kielmann of Joystiq in his 5-star review of Halo 4. "But the game strives for more than competence, giving it a forceful march and a decadent show of strength. Our doubt and questioning of Halo's continued existence has, in some small way, helped deliver one of the best games in the series and one of the finest shooters in years. Of course, if we want to use this tactic for the next one we'd better start now. Halo 5 is going to suck!"