Although Microsoft had never publicly revealed its shipping plans for "Halo 3"--an expected blockbuster title that will run only on the Xbox 360--this week's announcements about the title confirm rumors that the "Halo 3" release has been significantly delayed. On Wednesday, Microsoft said that the game would ship in late 2007 but that the company would release other "Halo"-related content for Xbox 360 users earlier in the year. The announcement, auspiciously, came on "Halo Day," the five-year anniversary of the original "Halo" game's release.

Regarding "Halo 3," Microsoft will tease the so-called Halo Nation with an exclusive, worldwide "Halo 3" TV commercial that will debut during Monday Night Football on ESPN on December 4, 2006. Sadly, the commercial won't feature actual "Halo 3" game-play imagery but will instead utilize photo-realistic CG animations to present a movie-like experience.

In spring 2007, Microsoft will ship a set of new multiplayer maps for the Xbox version of "Halo 2," although they will be available only to Xbox 360 users--a move that should cause considerable consternation in the die-hard "Halo" community. The maps won't be free but will be downloadable via Xbox Marketplace, the online shopping area of the Xbox Live service.

Also in the spring, Microsoft will release a public beta of the "Halo 3" multiplayer experience for the Xbox 360. This beta will let Xbox 360 users play multiplayer "Halo 3" games over Xbox Live before the final game arrives--the first time Microsoft has allowed such a thing with its "Halo" franchise. Clearly, this strategy is an attempt to curb disappointment over the late arrival of the final version of "Halo 3." Microsoft says it will use feedback from the beta to help hone the game.

"Halo 3" isn't the only "Halo" delay, of course. Microsoft's plans to turn "Halo" into a blockbuster movie fell apart last month when Universal and 20th Century Fox pulled financing at the last minute. Microsoft said it's still seeking financing for the film, which is on hold in the meantime.

Also, "Halo" fans will be able to purchase a PC version of "Halo 2" beginning in early 2007. This version of "Halo 2" requires Windows Vista and will provide much higher resolution graphics than the original Xbox version, as well as a custom map editor.