While the Master Sergeant of "Halo 3" may not be outgunning the virtual Angus Young, a new study by BrandIntel finds that the war game "over-achieved" in the casual gaming community. The study indicates that the game, as complicated as it is and as strong a hardcore following as it has, is also growing share among so-called casual gamers--those who don't do consider themselves serious gamers or talk about games on expert-player Web sites.
The success of "Halo 3" also means long-term success for Xbox 360.
Although "Guitar Hero 3" has the advantage of generating traction on casual gaming sites, "Halo 3" still managed to generate a greater amount of discussion among casual communities. In August and September, casual discussion volume for "Halo 3" more than doubled around "Guitar Hero 3."
The study, "Halo 3: Consumer Insight Monitor," extracts things like appeal and intent to purchase from what casual gamers are saying about both "Halo 3" and "Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock" in blogs, discussion groups, chat rooms and the like.
The study found that in the months leading up to the release of "Halo 3," there was a positive correlation between "Halo 3" and Xbox 360's discussion levels-as discussion of "Halo 3" increased, so did the Xbox 360's engagement with the casual community. The report said sentiment in the casual community for both "Halo 3" and "Guitar Hero 3" was very positive.
Sentiment for the Xbox 360 also improved, indicating that gamers who were previously unsure about purchasing the console are more convinced that it's a worthy purchase.
Generally, according to the Toronto-based market research firm, "Halo 3" garnered strong awareness and engagement in the casual gaming community prior to and after its release on Sept. 25.
Alan Dean, vice president/business innovation at BrandIntel, says the firm has been following the trajectory of next-generation console systems, and of Wii in particular. The Nintendo platform's market potential is in its appeal to casual gamers, says Dean, because it lets them create the virtual reality of the game through full-body physical movement. In the case of "Guitar Hero," a guitar-like device that one straps on and "plays" serves as the interface, and players can dance and strut like their favorite guitar gods as they play riffs.
"The theme of interest for us in Wii was that it has done an extraordinary job of attracting people who don't normally buy gaming consoles at all," he says. "When we think casual we think of those who don't identify as gamers. They don't think of themselves following the gaming console world.
BrandIntel's gaming analyst, Gerrard Suyao, says that one might expect the reverse to hold true for "Halo 3." "On the surface it can be intimidating; it's a complicated interface. It is more of a hardcore game."
So it is all the more surprising, says Suyao, that the game has also prompted so much chatter among casual gamers. "For me, the standout comments are, 'I'm going to buy Xbox 360 because of Halo 3.' 'Guitar Hero 3' is doing very well, but it has paled in comparison to what 'Halo 3' has done."
Dean says that part of the of the success of "Halo 3," at least as a generator of online commentary, is that it has become sort of iconic among console games--a sort of cultural phenomenon. That observation isn't lost on Kirkland, Wash.-based Bungie, the company that makes it --and which, until last month, was a division of Microsoft.
The company has promoted the new game with an ad campaign that apotheosizes the game characters by making them seem like real, historical figures. "Almost two years before "Halo 3" launched, they started talking about it. By the time Aug. 4 rolled around, you had something to be excited about. It has now starting to be: if you are at all interested in gaming, this is now something you have to look into," says Dean.