Today's announcement that 343 is working with Raw Thrills on a Halo arcade machine game is a really good distillation of the state of Halo right now. The upcoming Dave and Busters Halo arcade game will be a great reminder of the Halo brand, but sadly there's still no new mainline game. And after years of teasing and rumors of a new Halo, the fact that we're getting Halo in the form of a licensed arcade cabinet speaks more to how Halo is now a legacy brand than a relevant game series.
It's almost like seeing a big star announce a Las Vegas residency. The residency establishes them as the headliner of a massive show that people want to pay to see. But at the same time it signals that one phase of their careers is over. The largely cool phase that involves worldwide tours and kickass festival circuits.
This summer, get your hands on Halo: Fireteam Raven – a new co-op arcade shooting game from Raw Thrills, Play Mechanix, & 343 Industries. Drop into action as an elite ODST squad during the events of Halo: Combat Evolved – play it first at @DaveandBusters! https://t.co/CtpgoMQaB5 pic.twitter.com/v7wx1haKNE— Halo (@Halo) May 17, 2018
Unlike some of my other colleagues at USgamer, I like Dave and Busters. But I also know Dave and Busters is for drinking and washing your hands after every game. They're hardly a true arcade experience, which to be fair, is harder and harder to find each passing year.
So knowing that in five months time I'll be going to a Dave and Busters for a birthday party and will be able see and play a Halo arcade cabinet, I imagine there will be some whiplash. Kind of like seeing one of those Metal Gear Solid pachinko machines from Konami.
Ever since the traditional arcades effectively died, the biggest and loudest arcade cabinets now sit at the intersection of amusement park rides and advertising. The actual gaming experience or desire to create original IPs are largely an afterthought, at least in the western markets. Why would arcades bother either when the modern arcade experience has been perfected thanks to games like Time Crisis and that block stacking game?
The most expensive arcade cabinets nowadays are blockbuster roller coaster rides reserved for brands like Jurassic Park and Star Wars. Those machines often lure patrons in by recreating the inside of a X-Wing, or letting players shoot with a plastic replica of Chris Pratt's dino killing machine gun, which serve as the main draw of those machines.
Other marquis arcade titles include: Alien, Fruit Ninja, and now Halo. These are all established brands that are easily marketable, and perfect for arcades competing for patrons' tokens. But I have to wonder if Halo's arcade cabinet is a victory lap, or the end of the line for Halo? Because without any news of Halo 6 anywhere to be seen, it's really hard to take this news as the ideal next step for a series Microsoft touts as the face of its console business.
Seeing Halo walk down this path of licensed paraphernalia is in a way a cementation that Halo is a recognized legacy brand. It's an ascension that Halo has been on for some time, first as the mascot for the Xbox brand as a whole, to its current venture as a Dave and Busters attraction.
It's the question of continued relevance that differentiates Halo coming to arcades than say Mario Kart coming to arcades. We know there'll be more Mario Kart games in the future, and that the arcade machines are more of a way to get arcade goers to come to Nintendo for more Mario Kart goodness. But is Halo: Fireteam Raven the only place I can go for a new Halo experience this year? The way it looks now, it just might be.