Bloomberg Businessweek provides an intimate look at the development of one of the world’s most popular video games, gaining unprecedented access to the woman behind Microsoft’s most valuable gaming franchise during a critical time.
Three years in the making, Halo 5 is widely anticipated to be one of the biggest game releases of 2015—and the career of Bonnie Ross is riding on it.
A rare female executive in an industry dominated by men, Ross runs 343 Industries (the studio within Microsoft that creates Halo), manages 600 people, and is in charge of a $100 million effort to recoup Microsoft’s investment in Xbox One, which has lagged behind Sony’s PlayStation 4.
Highlights from the story, which is being released tomorrow, October 23:
- Even for one of the world’s largest companies, there’s a lot depending on this one game. Halo’s influence is broad. Over the last 14 years, consumers have spent $4.6 billion on Halo products, about 25 percent of that on nongame merchandise.
- When asked about her ambitions for Halo, Ross always comes back to Star Wars, which she adored as a kid. “For those of us that are a little bit older, we saw Star Wars and stood in line the first time around,” she says. “We are seeing the same thing with Halo, where a lot of dads and parents that started playing when they were 20 or 30 now have kids that are coming in through our, you know, Mega Bloks line.”
- Ross’s colleagues saw her decision to take on Halo as a bad move. “People felt like, Let’s get another Halo or two out, and it’s the end of the franchise,” Ross says. “The thing I asked for was: If I take it over, I want to be George Lucas. I want to own everything, and I want to do things differently.”
- A Microsoft press officer asked Brustein to omit any personal information about Ross to protect her from “doxxing”—a favorite tool of online harassers—in which personal information, including addresses and names of children, is widely distributed. (He later relented.)
- Ross has been tutoring her 10-year-old son in the world of Halo: “I firmly believe that your kids are going to play games, and you should play with them,” she says. “I want to share that first experience with him.” Mother and son have worked through two levels of Halo 5 together and occasionally play in multiplayer modes. She’s better than he is—for now.