Wingnut unscrewing new 360 Halo franchise

<i>Lord of the Rings</i> director Peter Jackson announces his film studio is launching a new Interactive division--and a game set in the Halo universe will be his first project.

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Today at the X06 conference, Microsoft announced that it is developing Halo Wars for the Xbox 360. The announcement confirms months of rumors that the best-selling first-person shooter franchise would enter into the real-time strategy realm--a return of sorts, since the game was originally conceived as an RTS based on the Myth engine.

Peter Jackson talks Halo in Barcelona.
Peter Jackson talks Halo in Barcelona.

However, Halo Wars and Halo 3 aren't the only games in development to feature the far-future conflict between humanity and the multiracial religious-fanatic horde known as the Covenant. During today's X06 briefing, Microsoft announced that an entire new Halo series is in development--under the supervision of a once-obscure horror-movie director who has become a household name.

To rapturous applause in Barcelona, Peter Moore--corporate vice president of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division--announced that Microsoft is partnering with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson on an all-new "Halo series" for the Xbox 360. Details were slim, but Moore did say that the games would make for "amazing interactive entertainment experiences on Xbox 360 and Xbox Live," meaning, presumably, that the games would have an online component.

As Moore spoke, Jackson himself took the stage to illuminate the crowd about the franchise, which will apparently not consist of the average Halo game. "It's a form of entertainment that's not a game and it's not a film. It's a filmic game experience," Jackson told an enthusiastic crowd. "I think we're on a threshold of a new way to tell stories. With that in mind, we discussed a way to do it, and with that in mind, we decided that the first title should be something that will allow us to not have to devise a whole new world but to allow us to tell the story."

The new Halo games will be codeveloped by Bungie Studios and Wingnut Interactive, an all-new subdivision of Jackson's film production company, Wingnut Films. Not so coincidentally, Wingnut is currently making a big-budget big-screen adaptation of Halo, which will be directed by South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp. Jackson is executive-producing the project, which is having its special-effects work done at the director's Weta Digital postproduction house. Weta Digital is also doing effects work for Avatar, the forthcoming sci-fi epic from James Cameron (Titanic, Terminator), which is also being made into a massively multiplayer online role-playing game.

"Given the fact we are making a little movie called Halo at the moment, and we're in partnership with the nice guys at Bungie, we decided the Halo universe is the best place for us to start," said Jackson. "It's not Halo 3 or four. It's not the film. But it is based on that amazing world."

No release date was given for the unnamed Halo game, though it will presumably be released after Halo 3 hits next year. It will also be the first game in a "long-term partnership" between Microsoft Game Studios and Wingnut Interactive to create "all-new and original interactive entertainment series." The deal will also cover all-new Xbox 360 games created by Jackson and his life partner Fran Walsh and writing collaborator Philippa Boyens.

"I wouldn't even call these games in my mind, because I'm not a game designer," Jackson said. "What I'm really interested in is taking ideas that could become films, but maybe they won't be films ... They'll be steered into this technology that the Microsoft Game Studios people have developed."

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