Good news for the Redmond gang: The demo for Halo Wars, the upcoming RTS based on the famous Xbox franchise, was downloaded more than two million times just five days after it was released, while Xbox Live itself continues to experience record-setting growth.
NPD numbers show that Xbox Live experienced an unprecedented level of growth in January 2009. Driven in large part by exclusive DLC like Fable 2: Knothole Island and Operation: Anchorage for Fallout 3, more people joined the service than in any other month since it went online in November 2002. Major Nelson claims that over one million Xbox Live subscribers have also used the Netflix streaming video service, with an average of 16 movies per household viewed over the service so far.
Meanwhile, the Halo Wars demo is setting records of its own, becoming the most popular "day one" download in Xbox Live history and racking up more than two million downloads in only five days since its release on February 5. The demo includes two tutorials as well as the first two campaign missions from the full game and one of 14 Skirmish maps, and is available to both Gold and Silver Xbox Live subscribers. The third entry in a seven-part series video documentary of the game has also been released and can be downloaded via Xbox Live or viewed at Xbox.com/Halo.
The massive popularity of the demo isn't at all surprising given both the success of the Halo franchise in general and the pedigree of the developer behind the game, Ensemble Studios, which made its debut in 1997 with the popular Age of Empires RTS and earned a reputation as an "RTS specialist," developing the series through numerous sequels and expansions. What is surprising is Microsoft's decision to close the studio once Halo Wars went gold, although a "select group" of Ensemble employees will be kept on to support the studio's games.
Halo Wars is being released on February 26 in Asia, February 27 in Europe and March 3 in North America.