Microsoft is doing Halo right.

A lot can be said of triple-a game marketing these days, but I don't think anyone does it better than Microsoft with Halo. Since Bungie's original Halo became a hit, and the basis for things like Xbox Live even existing, the series has always been treated with a reverence by Microsoft.

Halo is responsible for plenty of typical, trashy merchandising, but the world building supported now by 343's Bonnie Ross and Frank O'Connor (who use to work for Bungie) have spawned genuinely good peripheral content that does flesh out the Halo universe and give greater context to the games. i'm not just talking about movie sequences or comic books here, I'm talking about New York Times best sellers.

One of such pieces of content is Hunt the truth, a podcast from 343 and Miscorosoft done in a sudo-Serial style radio drama played out in 20 minute episodes. Kegan Michael Key from Key and Peele fame lends his talents to this and I've found a lot of the vocal performances in it really stellar.

Bloomberg published an article titled "Can the Woman Behind Halo 5 Save the Xbox?" in reference to Microsoft having it's lunch eaten by Sony's seemingly unstoppable wave of PS4 sales. It's a interesting look at the leader behind Halo now, and how the team looks at the franchise. The piece talks more about the story and the pieces that comprise it:

The tale, which begins about 500 years from now, is confusing as hell. Humans have spread to hundreds of other planets and civil war looms. To quell the rebellion, the United Nations Space Command builds a series of superhuman warriors, which they dub the Spartans. Then aliens attack. That’s where the first game starts, with players taking on the role of Master Chief. The story of each subsequent novel, spinoff game, and iPhone app has to pass muster with O’Connor’s team. In her meeting with O’Connor, Ross discusses a line of Halo short stories. “I like the digital shorts, because they’re like adult comic books,” says Ross, who’s a little annoyed they haven’t had a best-seller lately.

O’Connor says perhaps a studio with a multibillion-dollar product shouldn’t worry too much about the mainstream acceptance of its novelistic stylings. “There’s no money in it. The investment is in awareness,” he says.

“It’s world-building!” Ross says.
— Joshua Brustein, Bloomberg

Since I'm not usually attracted to competitive multiplayer games. I've never really given Halo it's due. But playing through The Master Chief Collection felt like more than just playing Halo games. It was a historical record of how games have changed, and while complicated, and not always well acted, it was a coherent story with a ton of moving parts. I only finished Halo 4 this past weekend, and I actually prefer 343's approach to telling Halo's story in that game from Bungie's. So I'm excited to see where they take Halo 5, and based on some of the early reviews, like this one from Arthur Gies of Polygon, it may be a bit of a mixed bag. 

Avoiding spoilers here, there are certain suspicions and potential plot developments that Halo 5 presents and teases without developing for far too long, instead going off on tangents that don’t feel vital to the Blue Team vs. Osiris conceit. The game gives you all the information you need to understand what’s happening, and in that regard, it’s a step forward. But by the time Halo 5 gets where you know it’s going, a destination the series has been somewhat telegraphing since 2004, the game is two-thirds over. At that point, I wondered how 343 could possibly present a story with any sense of resolution.
— Arthur Gies,

Now that I finally feel like I have a handle on the game's fiction for the first time in my life, and have been so impressed by the Hunt the Truth podcast, I actually renewed my tradition of pre-ordering the limited edition of Halo 5 (something I've done since Halo 2), because I'm interested in what Halo: The Fall of Reach—an animated series about Master Chief's Spartan 2 team, to bolster and accompany the in-game story—has to offer. 343's bought my goodwill, and I'm retuning the favor by investing back in them. So, my eyes are open and my fingers are crossed.