"A lot of the pressure to make Halo 3 succeed comes from within our own building,"
One thing that hasn't changed this time around, though, is the buzz. Halo-branded soft drinks have been flying off store shelves. Halo 3 is set to release on September 25 at midnight. Almost every store that sells games has announced a midnight sale, even 7-Eleven. Whether the game is what everyone hoped or not, it's already a hit.
"We've already announced that we have over a million pre-orders," says Jarrard, "so I think we're off to a pretty good start."
But for Bungie, it's all something out of some sort of dream. A really good dream, where they make videogames people love, but still, a dream. "I think the success of the franchise has taken a lot of us by surprise," he says. "We honestly didn't think it would take off in the way it has.
"Most of us here try to stay grounded and do what we do best - the artists want to make great art, the programmers want to create great AI and good physics. The designers want to create great gameplay experiences. As long as we feel we've put our best foot forward and made the best game we can possibly make, that's going to be enough to keep us pushing forward. Luckily so far what works for us also seems to work for the mainstream public, so we've been able to hit on both fronts."
"The Guys That Make Halo"
Everyone who achieves greatness must, at some time or another, face the possibility that they've peaked, and they are now entering a time when everything that follows will be "less great" than their masterwork. Click through the lineup of VH-1 reality shows for a few classic examples of this phenomenon.
Naturally then, Bungie, at the pinnacle of their success, must begin thinking about the future, about life after Halo, and whether or not they've still got it.
"We can't continue to be a studio that cranks out one Halo game every three years," says Jarrard. "That's not something we're going to be able to sustain, and it's not going to keep our people challenged and invested in doing great work. It's safe to assume we're going to have some downloadable content to keep our community satisfied and keep the game fresh over time. [But] beyond that we've always got a group of people thinking about what the next big game is going to be, and that could be something that's not Halo at all."
The prospect of willingly walking away from the goose and its golden eggs must be equal parts thrilling and terrifying, and if you're Bungie, the company who once made a name for themselves making daring, original games for the tiniest sliver of the computer gaming market, it's a no-brainer. But then again, they do have that rich uncle to worry about.
"I don't think Halo 3 marks the end of Halo for Bungie," says Jarrard. "However, we do have some people on the team who have been working on the Halo franchise for over 10 years now, and as much as they love it and as far as it's come, they're really hungry to figure out what's next. We don't want to only be known as the guys that make Halo."
Russ Pitts is an Associate Editor for The Escapist. His blog can be found at www.falsegravity.com.