Microsoft today announced that the next major installment of its blockbuster video game series, Halo, will debut on November 6, exclusively on the Xbox 360. Dubbed Halo 4, this new title is the first created solely by Microsoft’s 343 Industries game studio.

“We are beginning a new saga with ‘Halo 4’ and embarking on a journey that will encompass the next decade of ‘Halo’ games and experiences,” says Microsoft corporate vice president Phil Spencer. “Millions of fans worldwide have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to step back into the boots of Master Chief, and, with ‘Halo 4’ leading the charge, we’re confident 2012 will be the most successful year in Xbox history.”

It’s been a strange road for the Halo franchise. Originally announced as a title for the Mac, the first Halo game even made an appearance onstage at MacWorld 1999, just months before Microsoft purchased Bungie, the game’s creator, and recast it as a launch title called Halo: Combat Evolved for the original Xbox in late 2001. (A PC version debuted in 2003.) Halo 2 appeared in 2004, also on the original Xbox, though a Windows version finally shipped in 2007.

Halo 3 was the first in the series to debut on the Xbox 360, and since this title the Halo games have been exclusive to that console. Halo 3 was ostensibly the end of Bungie’s trilogy of Halo titles, but it spawned two sequels, Halo 3: ODST in 2009, and Halo: Reach, a prequel, in 2010. A real-time strategy game set in the Halo universe, Halo Wars, also shipped in 2009. None of the post-Halo 3 games features Master Chief, the protagonist of the original trilogy.

Virtually all of the Halo titles have been blockbuster successes for Microsoft and the game designers at Bungie, with over 40 million units sold totally. But in the wake of Halo 3’s release, Bungie revealed that it would leave Microsoft to become independent again, leaving Halo in Microsoft’s hands. Bungie did work on both ODST and Halo: Reach as part of the separation agreement. In-house, Microsoft created a new game studio 343 Industries, which is creating Halo 4.

Halo 4 promises to be yet another blockbuster success, thanks to the return of Master Chief and early excitement about the direction 343 Industries is taking the series.