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Microsoft explains Halo's no-show at E3 game conference

Halo 3

Halo Nation has been abuzz since Bungie, the developer of the blockbuster video game franchise Halo, put out a cryptic letter on its website Tuesday apologizing for not making an appearance at E3, the game industry conference taking place this week in downtown Los Angeles.

"For the last several months, we've been building toward a reveal of something exciting that Bungie is working on," studio President Harold Ryan wrote. "We were looking forward to sharing that with our fan community during the week of E3. However, those plans were changed by our publisher."

"We realize that many of our fans are disappointed by this turn of events" Ryan said. He added a note of the spurned partner: "Members of the Bungie team share that disappointment."

This morning drew an explanation from the publisher not named in Bungie's note -- Microsoft.

Turns out that Bungie's latest Halo project was originally part of the program for Microsoft's press conference on Monday, but it was taken out of the lineup at the last minute. Don Mattrick, senior vice president of Microsoft's Xbox games business, said the company decided to pull Halo ...

... to help trim its E3 presentation to under 90 minutes, from 2 1/2 hours, to accommodate attention-challenged reporters. "We had an embarrassment of riches," Mattrick said. "We felt we could do this game more justice with a more dedicated event."

Bungie, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2000, split from the software giant last year but agreed to give Microsoft first dibs on publishing its games.

For Microsoft, the decision was a blow but not a critical hit. Although the Halo games have contributed over a billion dollars in sales for the Redmond, Wash., giant, the company is less reliant on the franchise than it once was. The first Halo game cemented Xbox as the console of choice for many serious gamers at a time when Microsoft was just entering the market and struggling to earn respect. Halo 3, released in September, singlehandedly pulled Microsoft's console division into the black for the fiscal year ending in June, giving the division its first profit since entering the market in 2001.

So Microsoft's decision to pull Halo from its presentation led to quite a bit of head scratching.

Mattrick put a positive spin on the development, saying that Microsoft had managed to build such a solid foundation that it no longer needed to depend on one or two games to succeed. He noted that the company also left out Grand Theft Auto IV. Microsoft snagged exclusive content for the game that will be made available to its Xbox 360 players this fall.

"Two big kahunas were left out of the show, and we were still able to deliver a strong performance," Mattrick said.

-- Alex Pham

Halo 3 image courtesy of Microsoft

 
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