Halo 3 beats Gears of War as Xbox 360 killer app

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

When Microsoft Corp. launched its sophomore entry into the console video game market in 2005, the Xbox 360 lacked a must-have game that would drive sales the way the original Halo did for the original Xbox in 2001.

Many have argued that Gears of War filled that role for the Xbox 360 when the highly anticipated game hit stores in November 2006. It seems they're wrong.

There's no doubt that Microsoft sold a lot of Xbox 360s due to Gears of War, which has been a runaway hit for Microsoft and developer Epic Games.

From November through December 2006, Microsoft sold about 1.6 million Xbox 360s, bringing the total number of units sold to about 10.4 million worldwide.

In the first eight weeks following the North American Gears of War launch on Nov. 12, 2006, the world's largest software maker said it had sold 2.7 million copies of the science-fiction action shooter. Within 10 weeks, it had topped 3 million sales. Not bad.

By way of comparison, in the six weeks between the original Xbox's November 2001 launch and Christmas that year, Microsoft sold 1.5 million consoles and half of them went with copies of Halo.

But despite Gears of Wars clear conversion rate – apparently driving sales that topped the performance pair of the original Halo and Xbox – it's not the next-gen console's killer app. What is? Halo 3.

A year before it launches, Halo 3 figures more prominently in Xbox 360 buying decisions than Gears of War, according to Compete's Max Freiert.

Comparing Xbox 360 shoppers' game buy considerations at the 20 largest online retailers in the U.S., Freiert found that while a mere four per cent of them looked at Gears of War between November 2006 and January, 12 per cent – or three times as many – looked into Halo 3.

Check out the graph for a clearer picture.

The evidence is mounting: Halo 3 is the most anticipated game of the year – and possibly ever for the Xbox 360.