While Bungie considers Halo 3: ODST to be a game standing firmly on its own two feet, it didn’t start out as such, nor did its marketing. The result was what they consider to be a AAA title seen in the eyes of many as an expansion pack carrying the price of a full game. The somewhat botched marketing is something they’re fully aware of, and own up to.
“We got criticized, fairly, for doing a poor job communicating what ODST was, an expansion pack or a full-fledged, AAA release,” Writer and Creative Director Joseph Staten said in a post-release interview. “It definitely turned out to be the latter. But, unfortunately, we didn’t know how much great work we were going to pull-off when we first announced the game. It’s impossible to know, but my gut says that if we’d never said the words “expansion pack” we would have seen an appreciable increase in the review scores.”
Community Director Brian Jarrard agrees, “If you look at the lower scores, they almost all cite an issue in perceived value based on an initial expectation that was set for an “expansion” and then a feeling that they were overcharged for the final product. For the most part, the gameplay and experience itself received a lot of praise with many saying it was the best of the series. Criticisms around the lack of matchmaking for Firefight and mechanics to add more longevity and community activity to the core game were fair and is something we would’ve done differently it if were possible within the scope of project.”
“I’m no PR expert, but it’s pretty obvious the game had a series of stumbles; from the naming, to the initial E3 2008 countdown reveal failure, and finally pricing,” Design Lead Lars Bakken added. “It would definitely be nice to have a do-over for the game introduction.”
Regardless of how ODST was perceived however, the game has sold like many AAA titles wish they could — 3 million and counting.