Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Halo 3 Beta: 3 maps, 3 weeks

After announcing last week that there would be a major Halo 3 announcement this week, Bungie came through today with the only Halo 3 announcement anyone wanted to hear: the Beta begins May 16th.

Following their own Rule of Three, Bungie revealed that there will be three maps available for a period of three weeks: Valhalla, High Ground, and Snowbound which range in size from medium to large and are suitable for "all manner of game types, familiar and new" which you'll get to try for yourselves.

"There are a number of new features you’ll get to test out – including a new grenade type, a completely different class of weapon and some of the enhanced online functionality we plan to bring to the game – but it should be noted, a lot of secret features are hidden in this Beta. We’re keeping a lot of our powder dry for Fall. In May, when your firing the Spiker, sniping vehicles with the Spartan Laser and sticking fools with the Brute Spike grenade, remember that it’s just a peek-a-boo fraction of what’s to come." -bungie.net's Frankie

Sounds good to me. I was surprised to see the Beta would last only 3 weeks but it makes sense, I'm sure they don't want people getting sick of those 3 maps and 3 weeks is plenty of time to get people hooked and left jonesin' for the rumored September release.

I think this announcement also shuts down any possibility of Mass Effect coming out during this period but it also conveniently leads right into mid-June. Releasing Mass Effect immediately following the end of the Beta, perhaps even the next day, would be a smart move.

If they were REALLY smart they'd have a big advertising push for Shadowrun during the Halo 3 Beta and release that to cap it off. Shadowrun is, after all, a multiplayer sci-fi FPS and one that most people know nothing about to boot. After being left high and dry on June 6th, Halo fans might just be tempted to turn to Shadowrun for a quick fix.

Since Shadowrun is a multiplayer only game, unless it turns out to be more than just decent it's shelf life pretty much ends when Halo 3 is released anyway. Microsoft would be wise to capitalize on that and squeeze what sales they can out of the game. It'd be a perfect way to bring the Beta cycle full circle as the Crackdown promotion got a lot of people to buy that game who wouldn't have otherwise.

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