Halo 3 Now Downloadable To Xbox 360, But With An AsteriskS

Back in 2008, the people who made Halo 3 had a warning for fans: Play the game from the disc; not from a harddrive. Today, Microsoft has a seeming contradictory sales pitch. [UPDATED: Microsoft comments]

Today, Microsoft, the company that owns Halo revealed that Halo 3 is available for purchase and download onto the Xbox 360 via the Xbox Live Games on Demand service. $30. No disc needed. You buy the game digitally and save it to the harddrive.

Playing Halo 3 from a harddrive... Isn't that what Bungie warned us not to do? The Halo inventors were concerned that levels in the game would not load swiftly enough if the game was running from a harddrive.

A spokesperson for Microsoft's Xbox 360 group wasn't able to provide Kotaku comment about whether the game had been tweaked to avoid the slowed-loading harddrive issue. We'll update the post if we hear from them.

UPDATE: A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed via e-mail after this story was originally published that a downloaded Halo 3 game may load more slowly but downplayed any impact on the game's enjoyability: "Halo 3" has undergone extensive testing to ensure that players will have a positive experience, whether the game is played from a DVD, hard disk drive or USB drive. When installed to the Xbox 360 hard disk drive, players may experience longer than average mission and map load times, but regardless of where the game is installed, gameplay performance is not affected. Games on Demand delivers convenient, 24x7 access to a wide variety of featured Xbox 360 titles, letting people download games right from the comfort of their living room. Our goal is to ensure that Xbox Live community has access to the best selection of games, and the freedom to choose how and when to access them."

Kotaku did hear from Bungie, which was not involved in releasing the game on Games on Demand but, of course, knows Halo 3's code very well. "To our knowledge there was no additional work done on the code to optimize the game for HDD [harddrive] installation," Bungie community director Brian Jarrard told us.

Even if no tweaks were made, Jarrard told Kotaku, Games on Demand customers shouldn't be that leery: "The game is obviously still playable and enjoyable and it's likely most people may not even notice a difference. However, we did encourage people who owned the disc to not install to HDD since it would result in longer load times. Keep in mind that we're pretty hardcore about this kind of thing so when we found out that it loading Halo 3 to the HDD would increase load times, we wanted to make sure our fans knew about it."

Jarrad said that, ultimately, "in reality it's not that big of a deal, just something we get protective over. Ideally we want all of our fans to have the best possible experience with our games."

If anyone downloads the game, let us know if you notice any slower loading times. Buyer beware, but based on Bungie's answer, don't be that wary.