Microsoft Premieres TV-Quality 'Halo' Series on YouTube

Mashable

Microsoft takes a daring leap into new content Friday when it releases a live-action version of Halo onto YouTube to promote the upcoming release of Halo 4.

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Halo: Forward Unto Dawn is a 90-minute live-action version of the popular sci-fi gaming franchise. It will be broken into five 15-minute chunks and released each Friday up unti the launch of Halo 4 on Nov. 6. Microsoft has partnered with Machinima, a popular gaming and tech web video brand, to reach a broad online audience.

After Bungie's split, Microsoft is putting the multi-billion dollar gaming franchise in the hands of a new development team, its own 343 Industries. 343's director of franchise business development, Matt J. McCloskey, said the new series of Halo games, known as the Reclaimer Saga, will focus more heavily on story than the previous titles, and the live-action series will bring fans in to the more story-driven content.

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"Because the Halo mythology and universe is so deep, I think Halo fans will go back multiple times to watch and get something new out of it each time," McCloskey says.

The story focuses on a new character, Thomas Lasky, in training at a UN Space Command military academy. McCloskey says Lasky is very important in the upcoming games. Master Chief, the nearly silent Halo protagonist, will also play a role, something McCloskey knows fans will love.

But he also hopes Halo: Foward Unto Dawn will be accessible to anyone who hasn't picked up a controller.

"Because its live action and a good, emotional story, we think we'll pull in a lot of people who maybe haven't played the game, who will just enjoy this great piece," McCloskey says.

Forward Unto Dawn represents a significant investment on Microsoft's part. Bloomberg reported the series cost $10 million to produce, a large number for a series going directly to YouTube. McCloskey says the series is going to look as good as a cable drama -- the example he gave was Game of Thrones.

"It's going to look 10 times better than any other web series you've ever seen," he adds.

Several years worth of rumors floated around a Halo movie, but plans were publicly scrapped. Publishing it online was a way for Microsoft to sidestep much of the Hollywood politics. McCloskey says work started on the 90-minute feature in January, and the executive producers spent a lot of time pushing it through. Publishing on Machinima, which receives 2 billion video views a month, allows anyone around the world to see Forward Unto Dawn.

"You talk about low barriers to entry and reaching potential sci-fi and game consumers, and its hard to look much further than the numbers on Machinima's YouTube channel," McCloskey says. "It's a fantastic vehicle to accomplish what we want to accomplish. We wouldn't have reached as many people or gotten them excited about the game if we had put up a bunch of barriers to entry, like making them pay, going to a theater, stuff like that."

Machinima's executive vice president of marketing, Kevin Doogan, says the trailers for the game have already seen 7 million views, and what Microsoft is bringing to its audience is "really special."

"We've had great content before, but I [know] this Halo series is really kind of unprecedented. I continue to make the case that YouTube is not just funny videos made by whoever. YouTube is and will be the home for the highest level content, and consumers are expecting that today," Doogan says.

Scripted web shows are taking off online, but many of the popular ones focused on gamers. Felicia Day's web series The Guild receives millions of views on YouTube, and is on its sixth season of production. Machinima also runs other popular shows, like Mortal Combat: Legacy.

"This is a great example of original content on YouTube tapping into communities of passion, in this case gaming, and offering fans an unique take on the content they already love," says Malik Ducard, director of content partnerships for YouTube. "Machinima is a long-time partner of ours, and we're thrilled that they're debuting this high-quality, scripted series on their new YouTube channel and bringing the story to life in a way that complements our focus on original programming."

Halo: Forward Unto Dawn will also be available on DVD and Blu-ray in its entirety in December.

What do you think of high-quality shows debuting on YouTube? Are you excited about watching a live-action version of Halo? Let us know in the comments.

This story originally published on Mashable here.

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