Bungie saw Halo Wars as 'whoring out' the franchise - Report

Ensemble Studios founder Tony Goodman claims Bungie never wanted strategy game to be made; project never meant to be a Halo game at all.


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In March 2009, Ensemble Studios shipped the well-received console real-time strategy game Halo Wars, a million-selling project that would stand as the studio's last before being shut down. However, the game was never intended to be a Halo-branded title at all, and Bungie was none too pleased about it even existing, according to comments from Ensemble founder Tony Goodman at Games Industry International.

Halo Wars appears to have a drama-filled real-world backstory.
Halo Wars appears to have a drama-filled real-world backstory.

"Microsoft was pretty risk averse and they said, 'I don't know if we want to take the risk of creating strategy games on a console. We'd feel better if Halo were attached to it.' The difficult part of that was it took the game back about a year in development, and I think it never quite turned out the same," Goodman said. "They just said, 'Why don't you just paint over what you have with Halo stuff?' But things aren't quite that simple."

Goodman described Halo Wars as a "really fantastic, under-recognized product," but claimed that Ensemble was not only facing friction from Microsoft, but also Halo creator Bungie Studios. Goodman claims the studio was not happy the Halo brand was being used for a different genre.

"Another problem was that Bungie was never up for it… Bungie was kind of sore about the idea. What they called it was 'the whoring out of our franchise' or something," he said. "Yeah, that didn't create a great relationship between us and Bungie; they viewed us as someone infringing [on their franchise]."

A Bungie representative was not immediately available for comment.

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Avatar image for DarkSaber2k

lol, if Halo Wars was "whoring out" then every game after is gang-rape. Or something.

Avatar image for GothikaGeist

@DarkSaber2k Ain't that the truth! XD

Avatar image for simon1812

how is this news? any who it is an old story, developers wanting to do a good game, and publisher getting in the middle and messing up "good" part.

Avatar image for Sigil-otaku

Well at least it ended up a pretty decent game. I understand Bungie's position, they don't want to give cannon fodder to the idiots that just want to scream about things being milked nor do they want to let the brand quality slide (which is a potential risk when handing it over to someone else) but overall I don't think it's really too bad. People who want to buy Halo buy Halo, it's very convenient that early on in development the original Halo kept switching between being FPS and RTS anyway and that the game is focused around a war so why they'd think an RTS game would somehow be so bad is beyond me. If it was a dodgy action game then yeah, but we're talking about a pretty good fit, that turned out pretty well and was handed to a pretty good dev studio.

Good game in the end.

Avatar image for I_ArCh0n_I

I loved halo wars, the only RTS game I have been able to play on consoles since the good old C&C games

Avatar image for Lotus-Edge

While they have a good point, HW was still a fairly good game. Would have been better if the Flood were a playable race, though....

Avatar image for Hellhound30x

I liked the game, 'course I would have to admit I'm not some idiot, and went in buying the game thinking it was an FPS. I knew what I was getting into, and I liked Halo wars, still do... I spent 3 months playing the Multiplayer... it was fun.

I'm not surprised about Bungie, they've been that way for a while now... anyone remember them charging a Million dollars just to look at a Script for the Halo movie? Bungie's reasoning for charging that much money to look at a "pitch" was, "at least we know they are serious, and not wasting our time." I guess they were protecting the Halo franchise...

Its sad they gave it up and left...

Avatar image for inkyspot

HaloWars was a good game. Esemblem did a good job on that one.

Avatar image for DantheMan9856

at least it wasn't as bad as guitar hero...they drove themselves off a cliff with that franchise....

Avatar image for H0rizon

@DantheMan9856 Guitar Hero died out for different reasons. They might be similar, but in the same breath they are vastly different.

Avatar image for PixelAddict

@DantheMan9856 Guitar Hero.. Halo?

Are we now in left field?

Avatar image for Gravity_Slave

@PixelAddict @DantheMan9856

its called a basis for comparison PixelAddict. You're the one who seems to be in left field sport.

Avatar image for PixelAddict

@Gravity_Slave Ooooooooooh. Thanks. I get so eeeeeeasily confused. Thanks so much for imparting your wisdom and assholery.

I thought we were talking about Halo Wars. You know, a totally different genre by an entirely different publisher.

Avatar image for PixelAddict

They were absolutely right all the way around, maybe the best RTS on consoles.

Thought it turned out to be a great game, it's naive to think the brand didn't mean double the sales it would have gotten otherwise.

Bet this affected Bungie's thoughts on Microsoft big time. Wonder if Bungie would still be associated with Microsoft if M$ hadn't have done this? We'll never know.

Avatar image for 07jonesj

@PixelAddict That's very possible. Do I remember correctly that they wanted to leave, but were bound by contract to make two more Halo games? So they made ODST (which was overpriced) and Reach (which was great).

Avatar image for kvan33

Yes, it was whoring out. The sad thing is that it probably did sell better because it was attached to Halo. Gamers can't complain about the lack of new IP's if all we do is gobble up sequels and spinoffs.

Avatar image for anividguru

Ah yes, this gives me a good excuse to say "ALL UNITS!"

Avatar image for Void_Master

That's too bad that Bungie felt that way... I think Halo Wars is a pretty fun game (though it does muddy the story waters a bit, it doesn't do it too badly). Too bad there will probably never be a sequel.

Avatar image for The-Neon-Seal

@Void_Master Whats to say they won't now that bungies abandoned ship?

Avatar image for Sigil-otaku

@The-Neon-Seal @Void_Master Unfortunately Ensemble (the guys who made Halo Wars) were shut down by MS so that's why it's not as likely to happen any more.

Avatar image for Smokescreened84

They shouldn't have called it Halo in a bid to attract the Halo fans, shooter fans are not likely to go to a strategy game since a strategy game requires patience, thought and taking your time to do things right, while a shooter is little more than running around shooting anything that moves.

The game should have been named and done differently while still being a strategy game. The obsession and fad with catering to shooter fans is tiresome and frankly needs to stop.

Avatar image for The-Neon-Seal

@Smokescreened84 I play both and some shooters can be quite tactical.

Avatar image for Smokescreened84

@The-Neon-Seal Not most though, most are little more than COD like twitch shooters.

Avatar image for PixelAddict

@Smokescreened84 Don't know what you're talking about. I like all game types. Love me some Halo, and Starcract 2 is just plain brilliant.

Can't gamers enjoy more than one game type, depending on their mood? Or do you just eat spaghetti and meatballs every single day?

Avatar image for Smokescreened84

@PixelAddict It's fine to like various kinds of games, but most people these days just stick to shooters and nothing else, resulting in developers taking less risks and just going with what will sell to the shooter fans over what could attract the gamers who are looking for something else other than the usual shooters that keep being churned out.

Halo Wars is like the black sheep of the family, a strategy game in what is generally a shooter series. It was hated by a lot of Halo fans due to not being another shooter and regarded as a fun, if simple strategy game by those who enjoyed it.

I would love to see more strategy games appear for the consoles instead of more shooters, I'm looking forward to the upcoming XCOM strategy game that's due in over two weeks time while I'm not going to be bothering with COD, Halo and other games that simply don't interest me since they offer nothing that interests me.

If Starcraft 1 and 2 ever appeared on consoles, not likely though sadly, I would happily complete the first one again and play through the second one. Not fond of PC gaming these days.

Sadly though with shooters being so popular on the consoles due to the success of the military FPS rehashes every year then other genres tend to be few and far between in comparison, sometimes never even appearing at all.

Still longing for a Harvest Moon game on the 360.

Avatar image for H4num4n

This! It's hard to not like the Halo Lore when you red it all and actually understand what is going on, cause it is so fleshed out and very well thought out. The MP is a matter of preference. I always liked Halos more but Modern Warfares MP was great too but went downhill fast after the first one.

Avatar image for Sigil-otaku

@Smokescreened84 @PixelAddict Learn to play and judge games on there actual merits. Every time I see people put COD and Halo in the same sentence I really do find it hard to not think less of that person. It's like saying deus ex (the original) is just like unreal tournament or something. Halo isn't a twitch shooter so it isn't all run and gun, it had balanced weapons but only a limit of 2 can be carried so you should be thinking what weapons you need for each situation, the shields promote defensive play because the more you can keep the shields up the more hammer you can take without losing health etc. and then they started to add other elements like loadouts, equipment / armour abilities which can add to your play style / strategy too. That's before we even start comparing how many people enjoy and play through the Halo campaigns (which have connecting stories and a lore unlike COD) so compare that to COD and act like they are both just run and gun? Well, you're not going to get much respect of your opinion while just trash talking,

Not all shooters are run and gun, try Half-life, Halo, Deus Ex, Bioshock, System Shock etc. and don't judge all the games the same just because you have no idea of the genre. And what you're telling them they shouldn't have done worked, they got good sales and pleased the Halo fans that are also interested in RTS. Most real gamers play more than one genre, I play RTS and FPS so bought it and enjoyed it. I agree with what you're trying to say, the FPS genre has too many gun-ho kids that love nothing but FPS but in the end that's just generalising and in this case I don't think it works well.

Avatar image for 07jonesj

@PixelAddict @Smokescreened84 I actually buy Halo for it's single player. I love Halo's story. Please don't generalize what amounts to about 7 million people.

Avatar image for Tekcor

That's kind of funny, because Halo was an RTS game early in its development. Bungie thought it would be cool to experience the battles from "inside the helmet" and it evolved into the FPS we saw debuted at MacWorld. Then Microsoft got their hands on it and again further altered the concept.

Avatar image for Landsharkk

I don't get why Goodman is saying this now. Halo Wars is a good game and received good reviews from Halo fans.

Isn't he kind of biting the hand that feeds him, in a way? Why would he be upset about releasing a successful game? Sounds like a great way to burn bridges.

Avatar image for 07jonesj

That's because it kind of was. Then again, so was ODST, priced at $60. So Bungie can hardly stand on their pedestal.

Avatar image for GothikaGeist

@07jonesj Halo Wars was a great game in it's own right. best console RTS by far. ODST was created to fulfill a contractual obligation with Microsoft. So they bundled a new campaign, a new Co-op Mode: Firefight, and the entirety of the Halo 3 Multiplayer Suite plus all the Halo 3 Map Packs: Heroic, Legendary, and Mythic. So, you payed for the entire Halo 3 Multiplayer, a great (short) campaign, a newly designed dedicated Co-op mode (4-Player Cooperative Campaign notwithstanding) and three map packs. How could you be mad at that?

Avatar image for H0rizon

That's rather ridiculous. It wasn't that bad of a game and to say it was whoring out their franchise is a bit of a stretch.

Avatar image for Terminal_Omega

I really enjoyed that game, more so than any other RTS on a console in fact. Shame they didn't want it made in the first place.

Avatar image for aerialstrike

thats what you get for selling your soul to big corporations. guess money can buy everything these days even principles.

Avatar image for The-Neon-Seal

In addition... Any franchise based around a conflict is screaming for a RTS release.

Avatar image for The-Neon-Seal

Well I thought it was good and it tied in perfectly so :p

Avatar image for The-Neon-Seal

Oops, forgot the flood... Tied in well. Still... :p

Avatar image for sonicare

It was one of the better RTS on consoles, but RTS just arent very good on consoles.

Avatar image for EvilShabazz

'Why don't you just paint over what you have with Halo stuff?' - You gotta love MBA corporate muppets sticking their nose into development issues.

Avatar image for Landsharkk

@EvilShabazz Having worked at Microsoft and at Xbox, I highly doubt those were the exact words used. They are smarter than that.

Avatar image for Megavideogamer

Halo Wars was a good game. A rare RTS that plays well on consoles. I can see why Bungie would have been pissed. Halo Wars worked out luckily

Avatar image for Zonno

Having read this, it's unthinkable this ever has been released.

Avatar image for Wolfandstein

Cool story.

Avatar image for ADO300

i dunno i liked the game... sure it's not my fav RTS game but it's still good

Avatar image for barrybarryk

Umm wasn't it Bungie that wanted to make the first Halo a strategy game to begin with.

Avatar image for Drazyw

Awww poor babies. Maybe they shouldn't have "whored out" the whole damn company to Microsoft in the first place, then bailing on the whole thing releasing rights to the Halo brand. It's their own fault, they let money and greed influence their decisions and they have to live with the consequence. Oh damn well, cry me a river.

Avatar image for RealFabioSooner

@Drazyw Yeah, I hate that attitude too. They want the big money, but don't want to respond to no one, not even the ones doling out the money. Typical teenager attitude.

Microsoft is stupid for a number of reasons, but that doesn't mean they should dole out money to everyone with no strings attached.

Avatar image for PotHeel

@RealFabioSooner @Drazyw They worked with Microsoft from a very early stage, before the Xbox was created. They had a good working relationship for the majority of their company's life then came a massive console focus from Microsoft and suddenly there was no more room for the AoE and Flight Simulator franchise. I feel that you too might be a little annoyed if your swansong project was subject to heavy alteration without your express permissal.

Such negativity is to be expected however from those who do not wish to understand.

Avatar image for Drazyw

@PotHeel @RealFabioSooner wtf are you talking about? Don't just run in here looking for a quick burn to dole out without reading the article or doing a little research.

Ensemble created AoE and had nothing to do with Halo. Nor did they have anything to do with Flight Simulator. None of that matters though as it doesn't pertain to the article at hand. Bungie created Halo. Microsoft bought Bungie. Bungie wasn't forced into the purchase. They saw a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a new console platform. Microsoft and Bungie never got along and they agreed to part ways. Bungie inked a deal to split from Microsoft, with Microsoft retaining a minority share in Bungie and the Halo IP to be solely owned by Microsoft. Microsoft can do what ever they want with the Halo brand. Here in lies the problem. Bungie took the cash, gave up their rights, and now is pissed about it. So I say, oh well, deal with it.

Looks to me here by reading the article, Ensemble isn't pissed about anything. Their "swansong project", Halo Wars, which wasn't originally slated to be Halo wars, turned out quite nice, according to Ensemble's Founder. They liked it. Ensemble says Bungie felt like they were infringing on their franchise when it isn't their franchise anymore. They gave up the rights to the Halo intellectual Property.