Halo has been a monumental part of gaming for almost 15 years now, and a monumental franchise needs monumental marketing. Playing host to some of the greatest and most innovative marketing campaigns and trailers of all time, Microsoft, Bungie and 343 Industries have consistently built the hype leading up to the release of each one of their major releases. So with Halo 5: Guardians just around the corner, let’s take a look back at the best of the best of Halo’s marketing.
#5: Starry Night
The first glimpse at Halo 3 was this short and simple trailer in 2006. Opening with two children in a field before jumping to the Master Chief running into battle, this trailer offered a surprising contrast compared to any other Halo trailer. It’s personal and relatable, with two children displaying their curiosity and naivety. The boy has even been confirmed as the Master Chief pre-enlistment/kidnapping and before he realised what the “people up there” really wanted.
#4: Deliver Hope
This trailer for Halo: Reach represents everything great about the Halo games: action, heroism, sacrifice and, of course, hope. I’d even go as far to say that it plays out better than Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Landfall’ short, which set the standard for live-action Halo films.
‘Deliver Hope’ looks gorgeous with its terrific effects, design and cinematography, and sounds beautiful as the slow build-up of the piano as Kat pushes through the battlefield. Not a single line of dialogue is uttered throughout the trailer, but the viewer can easily understand what is happening, what the stakes are, and the emotion of the moment. The characters were humanised and players experienced a sense of loss before the game had even released. ‘Deliver Hope’ is basically the game trailer version of Up, but with more ‘bang bang’ and ‘pew pew!’
#3: Hunt the Truth
Now we go from a trailer with no dialogue, to a series that’s only dialogue. I’ll admit, when it was announced that 343 Industries was doing what is essentially a radio drama, I was sceptical. Halo didn’t have a great track record with its recent live action series, Forward Unto Dawn and Nightfall, which both received lukewarm receptions. They had some interesting effects and characters, but for the most part weren’t particularly engaging.
But Hunt the Truth surprised me as a well written and acted series, even having stars like Colbie Smulders, Troy Baker and Keegan-Michael Key (who plays the lead character Benjamin Giraud). Not only does Hunt the Truth give audiences hints and details about what’s to come in Halo 5, it expands upon the Halo universe itself, and offers information and back-story that new or casual players may have missed.
Hunt the Truth has proven so popular that it has even made it back for a second season, which is currently airing. So far, it’s been just as good as the first, even exploring the events of some of the Halo 5 trailers.
‘Believe’ is one of the most popular game commercials of all time, even being named as one of the best commercials of the decade. It was a series of interviews with UNSC soldiers after the events of Halo 3, and their different experiences with the Master Chief. The final and most popular commercial was a fly-through of a large scale diorama of a battle between humanity and the Covenant. The soldier interviews gave a grittier, relatable, and most importantly, believable feel to Halo’s fictitious war.
Viewers could even navigate through the diorama themselves through the Believe website, which is now gone but viewable on YouTube. It’s meticulously designed and crafted, from the environment, the people, the aliens, and the explosions, it’s like a moment from the game brought into the world and frozen in time.
It seems like Halo gets the most emotional when nobody is talking, because like ‘Deliver Hope’, there’s no dialogue during the fly-through. Instead the emotion is delivered from the soldiers in the diorama channelling the stories from the interviews. I remember my sister passing by while I was watching the interviews, and she said: “Some kids are going to think this really happened.” But it was too late, I was a believer.
#1: I Love Bees
The most in depth and complicated of all the Halo marketing campaigns was the alternate-reality game, ‘I Love Bees’. Because of this, it easily takes the place of the best marketing campaign in the franchise. During Halo 2’s E3 trailer in 2004, the phrase ‘www.ilovebees.com’ was briefly seen during the closing moments, leading fans to a website that seemed to be being taken over by an AI from the future.
Over the preceding weeks, members of the Halo community deciphered clues and coordinates that led them to specific payphones at specific times, to say specific phrases to the AI (played by an actor of course), which would then release an audio clip on the website. Eventually, all the clips linked together to form an audio drama based in the Halo Universe, and participants of the ARG were invited play Halo 2 early.
‘I Love Bees’ certainly doesn’t look as fancy, or have action like the other trailers and campaigns, but it united the Halo community in a way that companies rarely think is worth the investment. It brought Halo into our reality and people went into a frenzy because of it. One participant even went as far as to answer one of the payphones during a hurricane. The actor on the phone had to break character and tell the participant, “Dude, it’s a hurricane. Put the phone down.”
But there’s a bit more than just a hurricane approaching in the next Halo game, and needless to say, the Halo community is excited, with Halo 5: Guardians being the most anticipated game of the year. So stay tuned for our review, where we’ll decide if Halo 5: Guardians lives up to its own hurricane of hype. If you can’t wait until then, don’t forget to check out Charlie’s sneak peek at the campaign!