Ever since we made the connection that games are played less like movies, with three act structures, and more like high end television shows, developers have been trying to find ways to make the idea of 'episodic' gaming work — mostly without any real success. Spartan Ops multiplayer is Halo's attempt to make this concept work and, if it's successful, it could conceivably run for years.
"We wanted gamers to have a continual water cooler conversation that revolves around shared gameplay experiences," said 343 Industries' Frank O'Connor, speaking to The Guardian. "So if you have four people working together to get through these missions and then watching and experiencing fiction at the same time ... it's not that you have to go and blow up a reactor and then you watch a cinematic sequence of a reactor blowing up; it's real characters with really significant universe-changing events going on in the narrative.
"We have the Spartan Ops story mapped out, at least loosely, for a few years. The first season is very rigid at this point and we know where this story goes. If it's successful, if people enjoy it, we have a narrative arc that can last for years, with a known beginning, a middle and an end."
The first season will be part of the on-disc content and is free. It also represents a pretty sizeable amount of content over and above the regular single player campaign.
"The first season is absolutely free if you buy either the special edition or the regular edition - that's a really significant amount of content; it's being compared to an entire campaign on top of the one that ships with the game," said O'Connor.
"Yes, it's a lot of content and yes it's an expense, but we think it's worthwhile. Halo has long tradition of doing innovative things: Halo 2 had Xbox Live multiplayer; Halo 3 had social and sharing aspects. It's a tradition that goes back to the first game and we wanted to continue that spirit of experimentation. But this works, it's fun and it's testing really well. It's going to be interesting to see if those water cooler conversations emerge organically and naturally. We have our fingers crossed that they will."