Halo: Reach Locks In September Launch

Halo: Reach

If you're following the trajectory of Halo: Reach, Bungie's swan song prequel to the saga of Master Chief, bet on this September. Microsoft says the game will officially launch in the U.S. on September 14, followed a day later in Japan on September 15.

So how did this tale of steely super soldiers, trash-talking aliens, and parasitic bug-things begin? You can wait for the answers this September, or poke around the Halo Wikia's collection of facts and conjecture gleaned from the games, books, official web guides, press releases, and the usual "heaps of educated speculation." Since Halo: Reach takes place in 2552, the same year as the original Halo: Combat Evolved, you also may want to start here.

Microsoft Game Studios vice president Phil Spencer couldn't say an unkind word about the franchise if you paid him to, and calls Halo: Reach part of "a franchise that has become a global entertainment and pop-culture touchstone."

"Just as 'Halo: Combat Evolved' catalyzed the success of the original Xbox to define a decade of entertainment, 'Halo: Reach' will push the boundaries for what's possible in video games and help make 2010 the biggest year in Xbox history."

Whether it so pushes or just politely nudges said boundaries, it probably will be Microsoft's bestselling 2010 Xbox 360 exclusive. Halo 3, the last major series milestone, has sold around 11 million copies to date, and Halo 3: ODST, last year's point release, is up past 5 million.

Bungie reports the Halo: Reach multiplayer beta, which kicked off May 3 and wrapped last Thursday, May 20, drew a record 2.7 million participants. Microsoft claims that makes it "the largest console video game beta test on record" and "more than triple the size of the 'Halo 3' beta." Bungie was unofficially hoping for "upwards of 3 million" participants back in April, which means the beta just missed its participant goal.

In the exotic statistic column, Bungie reports that Halo: Reach beta testers logged over 16 million hours zapping each other online, or 1,826 years of total play time, during the beta's two-week tenure.

And in the exotic donations column, don't forget about the "limited" and "legendary" editions of the game, on sale now, for $80 and $150 respectively. You know, just in case you can't live without a "10-inch-tall hand-painted individually molded Noble Team status crafted by the expert artisans at McFarlane Toys."

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