By late 2007, the Xbox 360 was riding high - and then it was supercharged by 'Halo 3'.
2007 is perhaps the most consequential year for video games in the lifetime of our website, as the era of HD graphics was coupled with startling innovation.
2007 alone saw 'Call Of Duty 4', 'Bioshock', 'Crysis', the original 'Assassin's Creed', 'Mass Effect', 'Uncharted', 'Portal' and 'Super Mario Galaxy' released (and for fans of these series of articles, four of those games mentioned will go under the microscope later this year) but 'Halo 3' represents something of a coming-out party for multiplayer games.
In our original piece exploring the launch of the Xbox in 2001, we posited that Microsoft had created a new demographic of gamer out of thin air.
Now derisively referred to as the "bro gamer" by certain quarters of the gaming media, 'Halo 3' firmly established Xbox's wholesale demographic as a major force in gaming.
'Halo 3' had a marketing campaign that was incredibly novel for a video game, and was more akin to marketing for a Hollywood blockbuster than a video game.
The 'Halo 3' ad campaign gave gaming a sense of legitimacy with the masses, and told the public that yes, gaming is just as worthy of an artform as film, television or music.
These advertisements lent the games a certain amount of weight and gravitas that was able to sell the game by itself.
In both instances, neither trailer showed any actual gameplay footage, but hammered home the core emotional themes of the game.
It didn't particularly matter that the moment-to-moment gameplay of 'Halo 3' was more 'Jackass meets Starship Troopers' than 'Band Of Brothers'.
The advertising and the huge built-in fanbase meant that 'Halo 3' was going to be a hit regardless.
These ads were Microsoft gunning for the mainstream legitimacy that had eluded gaming as a whole until that point.
And they bloody well got it.
The 'Halo' games are available on Xbox Game Pass, and well over a decade later the games still play remarkably well.
Halo, is it me you're looking for
'Halo' has been decried by first-person shooter purists that it introduced trends such as limited weapon slots and regenerating health to the genre, but the gameplay itself is diamond-cut solid.
The gameplay in 'Halo 3' is the right mix of making you feel like an army but also possessing a sense of vulnerability.
You could walk through levels like Robocop mowing down wave after wave of enemies and still get utterly destroyed by the boss fight with Spark.
Of course, while the single-player campaign is what the marketing campaign was predicated on and what most reviews at the time focused on, the single-player only tells half of the 'Halo 3' story.
It was the multiplayer mode that ushered in the revolution that was to follow.
In late 2007, the Xbox 360 was about to enter its 2nd year on the market while Sony was treading water with their PlayStation 3,
Xbox had established an early lead in the console wars, and while the Nintendo Wii ended up being the most popular console, Xbox was the console of choice for gamers who liked to keep abreast of the cutting edge.
PlayStation overthought the PlayStation 3 (a console that still gives them hell to this day) and the Xbox 360 played to its strengths.
This meant doubling down on the demographic they had somehow managed to conjure out of thin air.
Xbox's early adaptation of Xbox Live as a brand paid off in style when it came time for 'Halo 3', and the multiplayer experience was the main selling point with the game.
In 2007, broadband had started to become more commonplace in homes across the world, and 'Halo 3' was perfectly positioned to ride this wave.
Previous 'Halo' games launched with a suite of multiplayer features, and 'Call Of Duty' was well on the way to becoming a generation-defining smash hit, but 'Halo 3' was the first game where the multiplayer experience was just as important as the single-player component.
Previous 'Halo' games sold in the region of 10 million copies, but 'Halo 3' ended up shifting closer to 15 million.
'Halo 3' was so popular at launch that it affected the box office performance of a Ben Stiller comedy.
Ben Stiller's forgettable remake of Elaine May classic 'The Heartbreak Kid' launched the same weekend as 'Halo 3' and ended up doing poorly at the box office on opening weekend.
In 2007, Ben Stiller was perhaps the eminent comedy star of his generation, and the man to end his string of box office hits was Master Chief.
A report from the time noted that 'Halo 3' had opening day sales of $170 million dollars, and the article has quotes from various industry executives expressing dismay and joy at the results.
"The audience on this game is the 18-to-34 demographic, similar to what you'd see in cinemas," said Mike Hickey, an analyst at Janco Partners, adding that "this could last for several weeks."
"We marketed it like a film," said Josh Goldberg, a product manager at Microsoft, adding, "and now, we're just as big or bigger than film."
'Grand Theft Auto 5' and 'Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2' later demolished the records set by the launch of 'Halo 3', and while the financial and sales figures of 'Halo 3' may seem quaint now, it is always worth remembering the context the game launched in.
The impact of 'Halo 3' on the gaming landscape is roughly comparable to the release of 'Jaws' in 1975.
Yes, other games and films had been hits before that, but there was no comparison in terms of how successful they were.
The success of 'Halo 3' paved the way for the likes of 'Grand Theft Auto 5' to become the biggest entertainment launch of all time, and perhaps most crucially, it granted gaming a form of mainstream legitimacy it never had before.
Hail To The (Master) Chief
As stated at the top of the piece, 2007 was something of a miracle year for gaming, and 'Halo 3' is the most influential game to come out of the class of 2007.
It had a story that engaged, a multiplayer mode that was a cultural sensation like nothing seen before, and most importantly for gaming culture, it helped spawn a wave of User-Generated Content.
Around this time, YouTube was still in its infancy.
The signs were there that YouTube was going to be a game-changer, and users of that site were early proponents of uploading gameplay footage onto the site.
Players would upload their exploits from multiplayer matches or post something funny they did in the games Forge mode, and this helped serve as an arm of the game's marketing.
Streamer culture is now a major part of gaming in the modern day, and the first signs of what it was to become started in the 'Halo 3' era.
The now-defunct Machinima was able to gain an early foothold on YouTube thanks to its pumping out of 'Halo'-themed content.
Rooster Teeth, now one of the biggest names in all of gaming media, were also early YouTube stars as a result of their 'Halo' content.
'Halo 3' was a rising tide that lifted many boats, and its influence on gaming history and culture is very hard to understate.
Last year, 'Halo Infinite' debuted to strong reviews and booming servers, but to reviewers, the game will always be compared to 'Halo 3'.
When your game that came out in 2007 is still being used as the benchmark for the franchise, that is a sure sign of a classic.
For that reason alone, it was a worthy addition to our roster of the biggest games of our lifetime.