From reports so far, Monday night's introduction of the new Halo 3 video game has been a success—which Microsoft could use, in more than one sense. Reviews are good, and Microsoft says it sold 1.5 million copies in preorders before the game launched at midnight.
Halo 3 is the third piece of a trilogy that has spurred sales of Microsoft's Xbox 360 game console. With the Xbox 360 struggling behind the success of Nintendo's Wii, new success for Halo might help Microsoft regain traction in games—and maybe meet its goal of turning a profit in something other than its Windows and Office products.
I've been intrigued by reviews of Halo 3, particularly in thinking about Microsoft's other products. The first-person shooter game doesn't have the best graphics, and the story itself doesn't exceed the reach of others. Reviewers instead lavish praise on a "sweet spot" in, say, in how weapons can be used in the heat of battle. It's what reviewer Clive Thomson at Wired magazine calls an "effortless, acrobatic sense of balance."
Halo 3 was developed by Bungie Studios, which Microsoft bought in 2000. If only Microsoft could transfer some of Bungie's talent to its other software, which so often misses the balance between power and ease. Halo excels at easy, fast weapons switching when fighting 12 shrieking enemies, writes Thomson. "The essence of good design is knowing when not to add complexity, and Bungie nails that with this game."
I don't think anyone feels that way when using Windows and Office. And we're usually just fighting off one shrieking boss.