Bungie 'probably' exiting Halo franchise, new IP deal 'close'

Developer says Halo: Reach will likely be its sci-fi series swan song; senior designer Lars Bakken thinks new publishing agreement will be closed "sometime soon."

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When Halo: Reach's mysterious trailer debuted at last month's Electronic Entertainment Expo, it generated a lot of interest. The rabid fan base of the sci-fi series was intrigued by its apocalyptic imagery, which recalled Eric Nylund's novel Halo: The Fall of Reach. A prequel to Halo: Combat Evolved, the book depicted the cataclysmic battle on the fortress world of Reach, where series hero Master Chief and other heavily armored Spartan troopers fight off a Covenant invasion.

Now, a new revelation will increase interest in Halo: Reach even more. Speaking with British-based game site CVG over the weekend, Bungie senior designer Lars Bakken was asked if Halo: Reach was the studio's final Xbox 360 Halo game. "In terms of a platform for Halo games made by Bungie, yes," he responded.

However, Bakken quickly cautioned that that doesn't mean the Halo franchise is going away. "I can't answer that question for Microsoft, though," continued the designer. "Whether they have something in the works or not, I don't know if they're actually ready to talk about it yet. But in terms of Bungie-produced Halo games, ODST and then Reach is probably all you're going to get."

When asked for further clarification, Microsoft deferred to Bungie, which had not responded to requests for comment as of press time. However, if confirmed, the move would sever one of the links between the studio that created Halo and Microsoft, from which it broke away in summer 2007. Microsoft still retains a minority ownership stake in Bungie, and the shop is working on several unannounced projects.

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[UPDATE] As for Bungie's mystery projects, one of which is reportedly an all-new IP, Bakken said the Suburban Seattle shop is on the verge of signing a deal with an unnamed publisher. "I think internally, we'll know sometime soon," he told Eurogamer. "I don't handle these things, but I'd imagine we're going to know way before we make the public announcement of who's handling that! But sure, I think those talks are, I guess, close."

As for Halo, Microsoft has announced that not only will the franchise not be going away, but it is also expanding into other media. One of the big stories out of last week's Comic-Con in San Diego was the unveiling of 343 Industries, an entire Microsoft division devoted to Halo games, products, and licensing. The previously rumored label's first project will be Halo: Legends, an Animatrix-style anime compilation from such studios as Production I.G. (the original Blood: The Last Vampire) and Studio4˚C (Tekkonkinkreet). Notable anime directors Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed) and Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell) will also be working on the project.

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