Most immediately, Halo Wars will ship to retailers on Feb. 28, according to a Microsoft executive who spoke Wednesday at CES 2009 in Las Vegas.
(Update @ 12:50 p.m.: A Microsoft spokesperson has clarifed the executive's comments. Halo Wars will be released in Japan and other parts of Asia on Feb. 26, in Europe and the Middle East on Feb. 27, and in North America on March 3.)
In announcing the release date, Microsoft Entertainment and Devices division president Robbie Bach noted that Halo Wars is the first "T-rated" version of the game, meaning that it's deemed suitable for teens 13 and older by the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Halo, Halo 2, and Halo 3 were rated Mature.
The T-rating "will expand the universe of people we reach," said Bach.
Noting that Halo Wars is a real-time strategy game that gives players a third-person perspective of the battlefield, Bach added that it would also "expand the style of game play" in the Halo universe. The first three titles in the series were so-called first-person shooters that provide a protagonist's-eye view of the action.
Halo Wars is being developed for Microsoft's Xbox 360 platform by Ensemble Studios.
Bach said Microsoft would also ship Halo ODST in the fall. "You should think of this as being a more traditional Halo game in the action packed style that you're used to, with new characters, new scenarios, and new events taking place in the universe" said Bach.
Halo 3 broke industry records by posting $170 million in sales on its first day of availability in September 2007 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.
The Halo series stars 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.