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What if Halo had been a Mac exclusive?

Welcome to the iVerse

Clayton Ashley , senior video editor, has been producing and editing videos for Polygon since 2016. He is the lead producer of the tabletop gaming series Overboard.

It’s a little odd to think about now, but there was a time when “Mac gamer” was a legitimate label a person might apply to themselves. Among these dedicated Apple fans, there was perhaps no developer more revered than Bungie. The studio got its start as a Mac-exclusive game developer, with titles like Marathon and Myth, though eventually it would publish its games on both Mac and Windows PC.

Despite its multiplatform predilections, Bungie was still known as the premier Mac game developer well into the late 1990s, which is why Steve Jobs, of all people, got to reveal the first footage of Bungie’s Halo to the public at Macworld 1999.

It’s a surreal clip: The “iCEO,” complete with iconic black turtleneck, proudly introduces Jason Jones, Bungie’s co-founder, but not before hyping Halo as “one of the coolest [video games] I’ve ever seen!” Of course, Halo would not end up as a third-person shooter, like in this clip, nor would it launch on Mac (at least not immediately). Instead, the game revolutionized first-person shooters on consoles and became the crown jewel of Microsoft’s Xbox. The rest, as they say, is history.

But what if it wasn’t?

What if, instead of Microsoft’s then-CEO, Steve Ballmer, buying Bungie ... a different Steve bought the studio? Could Halo: Combat Evolved, a legendary first-person shooter on consoles, have given Mac gaming the boost it desperately needed in 2001? Could the Xbox have found a different killer app? And what might an Apple-dominated game industry look like today?

In the video above, we’ve attempted to answer this “what if” in the latest episode of our alternate history series, Versus. In this strange new world, Waluigi is censored, teabagging is illegal, and everyone loves the fishman who lives in their phones. It’s not hard to imagine this “iVerse.” All you have to do is ... think different.