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Microsoft testing way for Halo film?

Halo4ForwardUntilDawn.jpgGet ready for Halo 4, it's coming to an XBox near you, if you have one of course, but more than that Microsoft are doing something rather different with this version of Halo, they're releasing episodic content for the multiplayer side of the game, five missions and cinematics over ten weeks.

What's that got to do with film? Well apart from the game side there's something else coming out in an episodic format, a live action web series of Halo. Combine all this and you might be mistaken for thinking that Microsoft is trying out something new.

In the lead up to the release of Halo 4 Microsoft have spent a whopping US $9 million plus, according to Wikipedia, on a live action web series based in the Halo universe, yes I did say that, live action. Apparently this is the most they've spent on a live action promotion ever.

The series started on the 5th of October and each week for the following four weeks the five part series will be broadcast on YouTube or on XBox Live for all to see in fifteen minute segments. Contained in a special edition of the Halo 4 videogame will be a ninety minute extended version of the series and Microsoft Studios are set to release it on DVD, Blu-ray, on demand services and wherever else they can market it.

Isn't that sending a clear signal? Is it a test?

You'll remember that a Halo film failed to get made because the studios wouldn't allow Microsoft the creative control they wanted on the project or the production the budget that Microsoft wanted it to have. If you can step back from the Microsoft label for a moment you can see that they were defending the whole Halo property, wanting to make a film as true to the Halo series as possible. You can understand that, after all they are the ones in charge of the Halo franchise in all its glory and its cross platform splendour, and that's before we even consider film.

The film needs to be true to the videogame and anything less will be a disappointment to fans and taint the franchise.

So since the studio seems to chicken out somewhat what is Microsoft doing? Couldn't they just have created a different set of marketing? It could have been all CG or any number of ideas, why live action?

Personally I think it's one of two things, putting to the side the fact that they are spending a lot on a new and innovative way of marketing the film for the moment.

They could be sending a message to the studios, look at what we can achieve with the web series and imagine what could happen with a full length version. Perhaps also helping to build groundswell and raise public opinion to push them towards the idea of a full length film.

The other aspect is that they could be testing the waters to see if they could tackle this project themselves, creating, distributing and marketing their own film. I wonder if they are testing the waters to see if they could develop the project without a studio?

The latter seems a little ambitious to me but then they are Microsoft, the former does seem much more plausible, delivering a live action web series of Halo to the fans is definitely going to raise the desire for something more and if it is successful there will be a very clear message sent to the studios, see what we can do? A Halo film is possible.

Of course they aren't the only ones taking this route rather than going to the film studios, There are other game companies following this model including Ubisoft who have been doing it with Assassin's Creed and are now developed it as a film without a Hollywood studio.

Perhaps Microsoft have seen what Ubisoft have been doing and think they can do the same with Halo, succeeding where the Hollywood system seems to fail - throwing money at films like Battleship and seeing them fail spectacularly, films without any existing audience ready to leap at them.

Of course there's another option I haven't considered yet, the possibility that Microsoft aren't thinking any further than the web series, and that's not meaning that they are limiting themselves rather they are looking to a new medium.

You might remember a series called Day Break back in 2006 which starred Taye Diggs and Moon Bloodgood it, unfairly I'd say, didn't reach the end of the first series on television and so the creators decided to finish making it online, releasing it as a web series. It became a little bit of a hit with those that knew about it, and that was back in 2006.

Since then there have been projects that have gone to the internet as a distribution channel more and more often with increasing talent and budget, the most recent is H+ which was produced by Bryan Singer no less and the director of that series Stewart Hendler spoke through The Guardian saying:

"I did my first web series two years ago and it was slightly unclear where the art form was heading...Now they're putting in real resources - these things are being made at the level of TV pilots and feature films."

While bigger name talent is looking to and talking about internet distribution and web series as a possible future it's something that's been happening for a very long time, even if series like Day Break were released this way because the studio dropped them, but today more are turning to the medium.

Perhaps this is something that Microsoft has taken notice of and have decided to continue down this route rather than developing a film? To really find out we'll have to wait and see how well received Halo 4: Forward Until Dawn is by the audience, and not just through the Internet but also when it's released on disc too.

One thing is clear, Hollywood studios are missing out on a huge property.

You can see the first episode of Halo 4: Forward Until Dawn below through YouTube:




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Movable Type 3.34

I'm not actually knocking the Academy Awards, I'm just saying that there's no actual cultural value to them - they're no judge of quality.
- James Mason