The forthcoming Halo TV series from Microsoft's Los Angeles production studio isn't just a cynical knock-off, Studios boss Phil Spencer has promised - it'll be a meaningful contribution to a franchise that still has tonnes of potential, over a decade on from Halo: Combat Evolved.
"I think there's a story in the Halo games that's noteworthy," he told OXM in our new issue, on sale now. "And that we can introduce more people to the IP by putting the franchise, stories, and characters in more accessible mediums than a first person shooter. That's a good thing for Halo, a good thing for the platform, and a good thing for the IP owners."
Not much is known about the show, other than that it's being created in collaboration with Steven Spielberg, and may feature interactive elements. "At 343, we've put a lot of thought into how we want to evolve storytelling on Xbox One," 343's Bonnie Ross explained last February. "I'm excited by the potential of merging the storytelling magic of television with the interactive innovation of Xbox One."
Spielberg, meanwhile, feels that "the Halo universe is an amazing opportunity to be at that intersection where technology and myth-making meet to produce something really groundbreaking".
Microsoft has already road-tested the idea: 2012's web miniseries Forward Unto Dawn helped build anticipation for Halo 4, and was solid enough fun in its own right. According to Spencer, the show has notched up "something like 70 million views".
"I think it helped us with the launch of Halo 4," he continued. "But it also was just a thing people liked to watch. I think it helped growing what IP is capable of and getting people to understand the stories and characters.
"I also think going into the launch of any game, it's a nice tie-in; we learned that with Forward Unto Dawn where you can get people upbeat and excited about the IP and bring it as part of your overall launch momentum."
Spencer assured us that Halo is too important to spin out into other media without good reason, echoing comments from way back in August 2011. "I definitely don't think of it as filler," he said of the upcoming show. "Halo, you could argue, is the most important entertainment IP that Microsoft owns.
"I can't use the word filler anywhere near Halo, it just won't work. If we're going to do a television series with Halo, we're going to do it the right way, and we're going to do it because we think it really matters."
Intriguingly, he drew a parallel with Telltale's popular and acclaimed Walking Dead series on Xbox Live. "I'm a big Walking Dead fan. I've read the comics and graphic novels; the IP has grown and became more accessible as it hit TV, then went to videogames where it did incredibly well, and I think that strategy of growing and deepening what the franchise and IP is about is a good strategy for an IP holder."
Microsoft is also, of course, working on a new Halo game for Xbox One - it reconfirmed the latter for 2014 release last night, following an outcry over the title's omission from an Xbox NewsWire post about 2014's most promising games. Here's how Halo Xbox One could tie into Microsoft's broader entertainment strategy.