* “Halo: Reach” is latest in blockbuster “Halo” game series
* “Reach” tops “Halo 3” in number of online gamers on 1st day
* Game industry in healthy state despite slow sales -exec
By Antoni Slodkowski and Sachi Izumi
TOKYO, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Microsoft (MSFT.O) said its new videogame “Halo: Reach” had racked up $200 million in global sales on its launch day, building strong momentum for the November debut of the Xbox 360 maker’s new gaming system.
“Halo: Reach”, the latest in the blockbuster “Halo” series, is a key title for Microsoft heading into the holiday shopping season when it and archrivals Nintendo 7974.OS and Sony Corp (6758.T) clash with new products and look to reverse a recent sales slump in the $60 billion game industry.
Phil Spencer, vice president of Microsoft Game Studios, said a lack of blockbuster games was to blame for the industry slowdown, and the success of “Halo: Reach” would support Xbox 360 console sales for the world’s biggest software maker.
“We feel really good about where the ‘Halo: Reach’ numbers are,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of the Tokyo Game Show, adding that the number of gamers who played “Reach” on Xbox Live, its online system, had topped that of “Halo 3”, the previous title in the series, without providing figures.
“What ‘Halo: Reach’ numbers tell me is gamers are there. They are willing to buy the great experiences when they come out. In fact, that we are exceeding ‘Halo 3’ numbers out of the gate tells me that the industry is in a healthy state.”
Spencer said the $200 million figure made “Reach” the biggest launch of any game or movie this year. “Halo 3” garnered more than $300 million globally in its first week. First-day global sales for “Halo 3” were not available.
“Reach”, a prequel to the main “Halo” narrative, pits players against murderous aliens in a variety of settings, and provides better graphics, more complex fighting scenarios and new ways of playing with others online.
The “Halo” franchise has sold more than 34 million copies in its nine-year history, boosting the popularity of Microsoft’s Xbox console.
The series has grossed nearly $2 billion in sales over its lifetime. The game is made by Bungie and Microsoft owns the rights to the franchise.
The basic version of “Reach” costs $60, with special editions priced at $80 and $250. Microsoft is also selling a special Xbox console plus the new version of the game for $400. An Xbox normally costs $200 or $300 depending on memory size.
Microsoft will begin selling its “Kinect” full-body motion-sensing game system from Nov. 4, while Sony launched its “Move” motion-controlled gaming system on Sept. 15.
Nintendo will sell a new version of its DS handheld device that can play games and show movies in 3D without glasses sometime before March 2011.
But Microsoft’s Spencer was cautious about the outlook for 3D games.
“I really think 3D has to move along as a creative medium. Right now it’s more of a soft medium and it kind of wears out,” he said. “But in the long run, we are believers in 3D.” (Additional reporting by Isabel Reynolds; Editing by Chris Gallagher)