Halo: Reach beta to attract 3 million-plus - Bungie

Studio aiming for May MP beta to be biggest ever; "grandiose marketing effort" will proceed sci-fi shooter's fall release; reconfirms no Natal support, next project an original IP.

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With the Halo: Reach beta less than two weeks away, Bungie is dispatching some of its 180 staffers to help promote the ambitious online multiplayer test. Community director Brian Jarrard and multiplayer design lead Chris Carney sat down with the Seattle Times to discuss the beta's May 3 launch and the lead-up to the game's debut this fall.

Bungie is expecting over 3 million people to play the Halo Reach multiplayer beta.
Bungie is expecting over 3 million people to play the Halo Reach multiplayer beta.

"My expectation is it could be upwards of 3 million people," Jarrard told the newspaper. "I think that's a fairly conservative estimate. Certainly, there will never be a console beta of this magnitude."

While the beta will be available in every country where the Xbox 360 is sold, Jarrard thinks the majority of participants will be in North America. However, he said that a new matchmaking system will let people in other territories connect more easily than they could in Halo 3.

Halo: Reach's beta isn't the only thing that's going to be big. Jarrard and Carney said the game would have "a lot more grandiose marketing efforts" at "a much higher scale" than last year's Halo 3: ODST, a copy of which is required to access the multiplayer beta. Halo 3: ODST was the ninth best-selling game of 2009 in the US, having sold over 2.3 million units domestically as of March 31, according to the NPD Group.

The pair of Bungie staffers also reconfirmed that Halo: Reach will not support the Xbox 360's Project Natal motion-sensing system in any form. "Natal didn't exist until Reach was already two years into development," said Jarrard. "That alone creates issues. Secondly, it's not the type of control experience that we think lends itself to this type of game. We're comfortable with it; Microsoft is, too."

Finally, Jarrard also settled any lingering doubts about what Bungie's next project won't be. "Our next game is definitely not Halo; it's something totally new," he told the Times.

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