New Xbox 360 bundle packs ODST and Forza 3 inside

Xbox 360 Elite bundle.If you’ve been thinking about getting a 360 or need to replace your recently dead unit there’s a new bundle coming that just might be perfect. Amazon just added a listing for a 2010 Spring bundle that includes Forza 3, Halo 3: ODST and a 120GB Elite 360 for just $299.99. The deal should be available this coming Tuesday, March 9th from Amazon.

Really, this is about the best deal I’ve seen. The kit includes two great games and even nets you beta participation for Halo: Reach through ODST. Really, it’s like three games for the price of a console. This bundle also launches the same day as the Final Fantasy XIII bundle that runs $399. That one includes two controllers, the game, and a 250GB hard drive.

Either way, you get a really solid bundle at an incredible price. Can’t really ask for much more than that.


Halo content planned for the next six years

Halo 2 Master Chief.I forgot to mention this very large and intrusive piece of information from the USA Today article comparing Halo to Star Wars. According to Frank O’Connor, the former Bungie guy who now heads up 343 Industries, the Halo division at Microsoft, the adventures of Master Chief have been planned six years into the future.

“Eventually, it will become very apparent that there is a plan for the way the canon all ties together and the way the comic books and the novels all tie together,” O’Connor said. I’m kinda curious what that means. Is there some nefarious plan lurking behind a story line that could have been really epic if it weren’t so poorly handled? Have I overlooked some love connection between Master Chief and the Gravemind? Tell me your secrets, Frankie!

At the very least we can all rest assured that Microsoft can still spot the gigantic glowing cash cow sitting right in front of it. The very minute you get tired of the latest Halo there’s sure to be another, even if it is a glorified expansion, flying off shelves at $60 a pop.


Is Halo really the new Star Wars?

Master Chief Jedi.There’s an odd little article on USA Today this week that suggests Halo is trying to mimic Star Wars in its spin-offs and merchandising. If you want to see some numbers for the franchise it’s a good read, but the article is missing a crucial link: how comic books + action figures + books + sequels + movies = Star Wars.

To be fair, I understand the correlation. Few story worlds have captured public imagination quite like Halo has, but there have been enough of those things lately to realize that Star Wars was no unique phenomenon. Bear with me people. If you take a look at what I’ll call popular story worlds today, they have all been marketed in similar fashion across various media. Harry Potter has spinoff books, figures, video games, children’s toys, and on and on. Lord of the Rings has a similar brand identity. Twilight has completely changed the town in which the story takes place, taking it from a small town to a major tourist location.

What we might be able to say more accurately is that Star Wars is the first of these popular-story-worlds-turned-moneymaking-machines that has survived into the modern age. Comic book heroes took their sweet time getting here, and Lord of the Rings was so long in the making, the movies that is, that many thought it would never happen. But George Lucas did a great job turning Star Wars into more than just a great movie trilogy.

As long as people can find a way to monetize a story, we’ll be hearing this argument. Is it the next Harry Potter? The next Twilight? The next Lord of the Rings? It’s not any of those things, just the next enchanting narrative that got exploited for mass consumption.


Microsoft Adds Another 250GB Bundle

Forza 3 logo.Microsoft has announced another 250GB bundle for the Xbox 360. This one includes Forza 3 though without a customized console like we found in the Modern Warfare 2 bundle. Unfortunately for you US types, the bundle will only be available in the UK and South Africa.

This is the third in a pretty sweet lineup of 360 bundles over the past few days, obviously designed to compete with the 250GB PS3 bundles Sony has been showing. The bundles have some strange differences, though, and not just with regard to region.

The Halo bundle, for instance, forgoes the 250GB hard drive, something that would be great for all those Bungie Pro users looking to save additional game content locally, for a copy of Halo 3. The Modern Warfare 2 bundle seems to be the only one with a customized console, but it doesn’t include customized controllers. And of course there is the region issue. Why some and not others? Why not standardize these things across the board? And for god’s sake, why won’t they sell the 250GB unit as a separate periph?

As the holidays loom closer I’ll be interested to see what else comes out of Redmond. More bundles, or just more tweaks to the existing SKUs?


Halo Natal Will Only Happen ‘When It Makes Sense’

Halo: Reach.Thank god for this. I’m not one of those crazy, tea-bagging, MyBrPwNzU type Halo players, but there is a soft spot in my heart for the franchise. My friends and I played a lot in college, and I’m always interested to see what they do next in the series. It was music to my ears when Microsoft said we wouldn’t see a Halo: Natal until “it makes sense.”

Alex Cutting, a Halo 3:ODST Producer, told VideoGamer in pretty clear language the plans for Natal and the Halo franchise.

A lot of people are interested in what Natal’s presence in Halo’s going to be. We are committing to only doing it when it makes sense. We are not going to produce a gimmicky feature that just takes advantage of motion controls when it doesn’t feel right.

Glad to hear someone has that kind of focus. Natal seems cool, but even the driving games looked horribly gimmicky. Cutting does think the tech has its place in almost any genre, just that it needs to be appropriately implemented.

I think Natal can be integrated into most genres in some way. I think FPS, there’s a lot to be said for dual stick control. But, you know, before dual sticks came around and before Halo: Combat Evolved established it on a console, people were pretty doubtful about that, that it could ever move from keyboard and mouse.

Pretty sure I agree with that, though I’m not sure Halo was the game to actually pioneer the dual analog stick control. The idea, at the very least, existed in games like Goldeneye, with those yellow buttons on the N64 controller. Using a stick isn’t exactly the kind of leap that controller to Natal will be. Despite the gratuitous horn-tooting, I like that Cutting makes Microsoft’s position pretty clear, and that’s there might be some thought behind the whole thing.


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