The pipes don’t lie. Last week, after the ballyhooed release of Halo 3 for the Xbox 360, I expressed deep skepticism that the game would do much for the 360’s fortunes. Of course it would sell well with existing 360 owners, but would it help Microsoft (MSFT) regain the lead in the next-gen console race, as they hoped it would?
My skepticism deepened even further after Om sent me a fascinating press release from broadband solutions provider Sandvine. Because the thing is, while Halo 3 has already sold several million copies, how many of those players are people who just bought the 360, to play the final installment of the series? Sandvine sampled the traffic of Xbox Live, and while that increased 100 percent to 200 percent after the game went on sale, “The number of hosts (gamers) remained unchanged from before Halo 3’s release,” the release read, “implying that existing Xbox Live gamers most likely accounted for the additional bandwidth consumption, as opposed to new gamers.” (emphasis mine.)
So did that mean there was no discernible uptick of new Xbox 360 owners after Halo 3 went on sale?
“We cannot draw the direct conclusion,” Sandvine’s Tanieu Tan wrote when I emailed him that question. “We do not track the number of consoles or whether the number of hosts are new or existing hosts. However, the data can suggest that the additional Xbox Live bandwidth usage can be attributed to existing users since we did not see an increase in the number of users. This was not the case when we looked at bandwidth and hosts after the release of Gears of War, which seemed to cause an increase in users as well as bandwidth.” Gears of War was last year’s 360 hit. “On a qualitative assessment, perhaps, this is the result of Halo 3 being part of the Halo series, thus appealing to existing Halo players,” Tan wrote.
Then again, maybe that just means new 360 owners are still on the single-player campaign, which doesn’t require logging into Xbox Live. Maybe, but most reviewers say the campaign only takes between 10 and 15 hours to complete. On the hardware tracking side, VGChartz reports a slight rise in 360 sales, but not much.
In any case, after weeks of rumors, the official news is in: Microsoft and Halo creator Bungie are more or less parting ways. Even hardcore 360 gamers seem to be recovering from their drunken bout of unquestioning Halo love. How do I know? Because right now, one of the most popular viral
videos is a foul-mouthed but hilarious anti-Halo 3 rant — perfect viewing after you’ve left the office for the weekend.
Image credit: Halo 3.com. LOL Halo embellishment by WJA.