If It Couldn't Be Bungie, Then Who Would Make "Halo 4"?

With rumors swirling that Bungie and Microsoft could be on the verge of some sort of split or set of departures -- and with no one saying anything official just yet -- it got me wondering:

If there was a split ... if Microsoft kept the rights to "Halo"... then who would make "Halo 4"?

Could they, should they, would they?

Let's look at 11 contenders:



The Pitch: From the people who made "Halo 1-3." Even if Microsoft-owned Bungie somehow wriggles free of Bill Gates' company, they would likely get first dibs on Master Chief's next major adventure. Which isn't to say Microsoft wouldn't be looking to other developers to make "Halo 3.5" and "Halo 4.5," because the company would certainly love to have the series coming out at least every other year. Bungie just doesn't work at that pace. Still, why would they not want these guys working on it?

The Wholly Speculative Odds: 1:1

Ensemble Studios

The Pitch: The Microsoft-owned studio is the first outside of Bungie to work on the "Halo" license. With the "Halo Wars" real-time strategy spin-off coming from Ensemble in 2008, why couldn't the Texas development team also be put on "Halo 4"? Because the team specialized in RTS games, for one thing.

The Wholly Speculative Odds: 5:1


The Pitch: In 2002 Microsoft spent more than $300 million to buy Rare. But the company has has yet to get a hit out of the house that once produced mega-sellers "GoldenEye" and "Banjo Kazooie." What better way to capitalize on the investment then by putting Rare on "Halo," with the added hope of tapping Rare's former first-person-shooter glory? The problem is that Rare's most recent FPS, the 2005 "Perfect Dark Zero" was a disappointment and the company's best effort since then -- "Viva Pinata" -- would only fit the "Halo" universe if Master Chief was also a Master Gardener.

The Wholly Speculative Odds: 3:1



The Pitch: Plays like "Unreal Tournament"... Looks like "Gears of War." Epic already produced one macho sales monster for the Xbox 360, why not get involved in making another? Epic has the pedigree and certainly seems to have the chops. But the studio is just large enough to work on two franchises. A third series might not only be too much, but might turn Epic into more of an extension of the Xbox team than the proudly independent studio wants.

The Wholly Speculative Odds: 10:1

Team Ninja

The Pitch: Tecmo's Team Ninja is the only studio other than Bungie to ship a game that includes Master Chief -- sort of. Tomonobu Itagaki's team apparently requested the use of Master Chief for 2006's "Dead or Alive 4." Team Ninja wound up incorporating a female version of the "Halo" hero. That has to give them some credibility for this list -- maybe a little? Better than that, though, is the studio's acknowledged command of the action-game genre. Could that translate to making a sterling FPS?

The Wholly Speculative Odds: 15:1


Free Radical

The Pitch: Unshackled because of their independence, happy to work on franchises they don't own (see their expected "Star Wars: Battlefront" title), and experienced in the FPS genre from their "Timesplitters" series, the nearly-finished "Haze" and some of the team's "GoldenEye" work, these guys might fit. But without a AAA title to the studio's credit, would they really get the call from Microsoft?

The Wholly Speculative Odds: 10:1


The Pitch: A new "Halo," from the makers of "Doom"? That certainly would generate marketing buzz. And id certainly has the FPS experience and tech to do it. They could partner with "Enemy Territory: Quake Wars"-maker Splash Damage to design some masterful multi-player modes. But what would happen to "Halo"'s story?

The Wholly Speculative Odds: 5:1


The Pitch: A new "Halo," from the makers of "Half-Life"? That sounds pretty good too. But Valve has spent the last few years proving it doesn't need to take orders from anyone and certainly seems happy to work at an independent pace. Microsoft might make the call. Valve would be unlikely to return it with anything other than a polite "No thank you."

The Wholly Speculative Odds: 20:1

Gearbox Software

The Pitch: A new "Halo," from the people who ported the first one to Windows? That's... not as sexy. Nevertheless, Gearbox is a highly respected developer with a highly respected FPS series -- "Brothers In Arms" -- under its belt. The narrative-driven "BIA" series suggests that Gearbox could even keep storyline as an integral part of the "Halo" campaign.

The Wholly Speculative Odds: 10:1



The Pitch: The studio behind the pyrotechnic "Ratchet and Clank" series and the respected PS3 launch FPS "Resistance Fall of Man" certainly has the technical chops and talent to put together a "Halo"-caliber game. And, despite their Sony-only release history, they are not owned by the makers of the PS3. As an independent they could likely take the "Halo 4" gig. But maybe Sony could convince them otherwise?

The Wholly Speculative Odds: 20:1

Infinity Ward

The Pitch: The only FPS expected to give "Halo 3" a run for its money this fall in terms of review scores, multiplayer popularity and, to a slightly lesser extent, sales, is Infinity Ward's "Call of Duty 4." There's no reason to think IW couldn't knock one out the park if they were given access to the "Halo" franchise. But they are owned by Activision, and, really, what's in it for Activision? And there's the "problem" of IW being a one-game studio. They're not big enough to do "Halo" and "CoD."

The Wholly Speculative Odds: 30:1

So... did I leave anyone out? If not Bungie, who would you want to see Microsoft tap for "Halo 4"? Give them a good idea, so that they don't make a bad one.