Two years since release, Halo 3 still regularly tops the Xbox Live charts for the most number of players online. But just how many people are playing it competitively?
Only around 25% of those eight million people who bought the game, according to Bungie's Curtis Creamer, are playing Halo 3's competitive multiplayer.
Creamer, who is serving as producer on Halo 3: ODST, says this was a big factor in the type of content they've produced for the "expandalone" game. ODST's new cooperative multiplayer mode Firefight is really geared towards the other 75% of the Halo 3 audience.
"You know, a lot of people find that kind of competitive experience intimidating," says Creamer. "Where you're playing against strangers who could be way better than you... you could get matched up with a 12-year-old who is screaming obscenities into your ear all night. That's kind of an intimidating experience."
In Firefight you and up to three friends battle wave after wave of Covenant forces in areas taken from the campaign mode. Bungie hopes this will expand the appeal of the series' multiplayer experience.
"In a lot of ways Firefight is set up to be similar to the competitive games but in a more friendly, cooperative environment," says Creamer. "We wanted to have that same feel and a lot of the rewards you get out of playing the competitive game... so you can get medals for multi-kills and kill chains, all the same sorts of thing you can do in the competitive game. You're still playing for points and all those things get uploaded to the leaderboard so you can see how you're doing against other teams. It's got a lot of those cool things going for it, it's just a lot less intimidating."
I'm in the 75% camp. As I mentioned yesterday, I'm not interested in playing with strangers. Sometimes I think we lose sight of just how hardcore and niche competitive multiplayer gaming really is.