04:21 PM

Microsoft Loses Creative Force Behind Halo 3 Launch

Jeff Bell's departure has sparked a shakeup in the company's Xbox-related business groups.

The marketing executive who helped establish Microsoft's Halo 3 as one of the top-selling video games of all time is leaving the company.

Jeff Bell, corporate VP for global marketing at Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business unit, is leaving the company "to pursue other opportunities," Microsoft said in a statement Thursday.

Bell will stay on at the company through the summer.

His pending departure has sparked a shakeup in Microsoft's Xbox-related business groups. Shane Kim, VP for Microsoft Game Studios, has been promoted into the new role of VP for strategy and business development within the Interactive Entertainment group.

Additionally, Microsoft Game Studios veteran Phil Spencer takes over leadership of all first-party game development and publishing efforts worldwide. Spencer and Kim will report to Don Mattrick, senior VP at Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business unit.

The departure of Bell, who helped conceive high-profile marketing campaigns around last year's launch of Halo 3 for the Xbox 360, is a blow to Microsoft.

The game broke industry records by posting $170 million in sales on its first day of availability last September, and more than $300 million in sales in the first week. It also broke records for online play with more than 2.7 million gamers logging in to play Halo 3 over Xbox Live in its first week on the market.

Halo 3 features Master Chief, a biologically enhanced soldier who has to blast his way through a futuristic, 3-D landscape to survive and accomplish missions. He's countered by The Covenant, an alliance of hostile aliens.

Bell's efforts also helped Halo 3 transcend gaming circles to take a place in popular culture. Madame Tussauds wax museum in Las Vegas last year installed a statue of Master Chief to stand alongside sports and entertainment stars like Elvis and Shaquille O'Neal.

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