The Halo games have been a staple of the Xbox platform since the first generation of the console, so what in the heck went so wrong with Halo 3: ODST?

Bungie, the company behind the Halo games, has started doing some Monday morning quarterbacking over why the latest addition to the series, Halo 3: ODST, didn't live up to expectations.  Oddly the company feels it can all be chalked up to marketing.  In an interview with G4TV, senior designer Lars Bakken of Bungie said, "I'm no PR expert, but it's pretty obvious the game had a series of stumbles; from the naming, to the initial E3 2008 countdown reveal failure, and finally pricing … it would definitely be nice to have a do-over for the game introduction."

halo3What a lot of gamers would probably tell Mr. Bakken is, "You tried selling us an expansion pack to Halo 3 for the same price as a full game!"

There were numerous problems with ODST beyond its marketing, some of those namely being that there was no Master Chief in the game, the campaign was only about five hours long and the multiplayer only featured a few new maps.  Executive producer Curtis Creamer told G4TV,  "Though ODST was built from the Halo 3 engine, there were enough changes made to the engine that we could not have released it as an expansion in the way that you might equate with a PC game expansion pack … the ODST executable is not compatible with Halo 3."  Well, here's an idea: don't change the engine so much that it isn't compatible and label the game as what it really was, an expansion pack.

Part of the reason why these excuses from Bungie ring so hollow is that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which beat just about every sales record in history, went through some similar issues.  The game went from Call of Duty 6: Modern Warefare 2 to Modern Warfare 2 and then to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.  Surveys of consumers found that without the Call of Duty name attached, brand awareness dropped, so the title came back.  The game also suffers from an extremely short campaign, and while ODST gets rave reviews for its campaign's story, Modern Warfare 2's plot is an absolute mess.

So how did it beat it?  Multiplayer.  Plain and simple, the Modern Warfare 2 selling point was an all original and updated multiplayer.  Take a look at the following chart compiled from GamerDNA results to see the multiplayer statistics for Nov. 1 to Dec. 1 of this year:


That almost unnoticeable green line at the bottom is ODST.  Games without anywhere near the history of the Halo universe beat the pants off of the newest Halo game, and that is simply because there just wasn't enough new content to drive players to the latest installment.

As studios have constantly downplayed the campaign portion of games and ramped up the multiplayer aspects, it has quickly taken over as the driving force for sales.  With Modern Warfare 2 offering upgraded add-ons, improved game play, more balanced characters and all new maps, it was pretty inevitable that it was going to beat out a game that only offered one new play style in Firefight and a couple of new maps.  Boy howdy, how not worth my $60!

Hopefully Bungie has learned some lessons here and won't repeat their errors on Halo: Reach, the next installment in the series.  I would love to return to the franchise, but not if its something like ODST.

[Graph credit Joystiq]