The Halo series has been a popular franchise for Microsoft over the past few years, and that success is sure to continue later this year when Halo 5: Guardians debuts for Xbox One. However, in the meantime, the company has chosen to expand the franchise, this time as a free-to-play title for an entirely new market – Russia.
GamesBeat is reporting that 343 Industries, the developers of Halo 4, The Master Chief Collection and the forthcoming Guardians, will produce the Halo Online spin-off, which will launch exclusively in Russia this spring. The title is currently in early beta testing, and developer Saber Interactive, alongside information technology company InnovaSystems, will operate the game as an ongoing service once it launches.
The Russian gaming market is actually quite huge, and an ideal fit for Halo Online. It currently generates around $1.5 billion in online games, with WarGaming’s World of Tanks leading the charge, and a title like Halo would easily fit in their gaming demographic.
“Halo Online is powered by a highly modified version of the Halo 3 engine and optimized for smooth performance on lower-end PCs,” said 343 in a blog post. “[It] is a learning opportunity for us as we explore ways to welcome new fans to the Halo universe. We’re excited to release a Halo multiplayer-only PC experience tailored for Russian gamers.”
This isn’t the first time that a major publisher has tailored a popular franchise to an exclusive overseas market, as Activision previously released a variation of its Call of Duty series exclusively for China, complete with online play.
With Halo Online‘s release in Russia, the game is likely to cater to other gaming markets, including the Ukraine, Poland and Romania. A report from SuperData Research indicates that spending on games in Russia and its other nations make up about 80 percent of overall spending in Eastern Europe, which actually grew an estimated seven percent in 2014, up from the previous year’s numbers.
We probably won’t be seeing Halo Online outside of the Russian market, mainly for two reasons. Number one, that particular gaming experience is catered specifically to that market, even though its gameplay would certainly be accepted by the hardcore fans of the series. Secondly, and this is probably most obvious, Microsoft doesn’t want to take any focus off of the Halo console releases, especially with Guardians prepping for release this fall. (Activision probably has similar thinking with Call of Duty Online, thus why it remains exclusive to China.)
So, enjoy, Russian fans. This Halo‘s for you.