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All Hail Master Chief: Microsoft To Ship Halo 3 In September

Microsoft plans to release Halo 3 for Xbox 360 on Sept. 25 and launch a public beta test for the science-fiction shooter on Wednesday.
With timing that ensures male college students will fall behind faster than usual when they return to school this year, Microsoft said it plans to release Halo 3 for Xbox 360 on Sept. 25.

Public beta testing for the science-fiction shooter begins Wednesday, the company said.

To promote the upcoming launch, Microsoft said it plans to ship next month a special Halo 3 version of its Zune MP3 music player.

The current version of the game, Halo 2, is the most played game on Microsoft's Xbox Live online gaming platform, with nearly 1 billion hours logged to date, according to Microsoft.

The game features a protagonist named Master Chief, a biologically enhanced soldier who has to blast his way through a futuristic, 3-D landscape to survive and accomplish missions. Version 3 of the game, developed by Bungie Studios and published by Microsoft, features a host of new levels, weapons, vehicles, and game types.

Microsoft is mum about details for its Halo 3 launch event, but Peter Moore, corporate VP of the company's interactive entertainment business, said in a statement, "On September 25th we intend to deliver a finale that will go down in entertainment history."

Microsoft's gaming business is counting on a much needed boost from Halo 3. In the most recent third quarter, the company's entertainment and devices unit saw sales decline 21% year-over-year to $929 million.

Microsoft faces stiff competition in the gaming platform market from Nintendo, with its widely hyped Wii console, and Sony, whose Playstation boxes continue to attract a strong following. According to analysts at Wedbush Morgan, Nintendo sold 300,000 Wii units in April, Microsoft shipped 175,000 Xbox 360 consoles, and Sony delivered 100,000 PS3 boxes.