Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Halo Effect

Aliens are good business. In 1996 the movie Independence Day was the 18th highest grossing movie ever – in fact over 70% of the top grossing movies involve aliens.

Aliens are very good business for Microsoft, grossing $170 million for Halo-3 in its first 24 hours on sale, breaking the $125 million record for Halo-2.

So besides a weapon in the video game, what exactly is a halo? It’s most commonly a ring of light. A ring is what mathematicians call a toroidal shape, that is, a torus. In topology, the study of properties existing during deformation, twisting, and stretching of objects, a torus is a surface having genus one, which means it has a single hole, like a coffee cup with a handle.

Halo-3’s success may be due in part to “The Halo Effect,” as buyers’ expectations were influenced – not unreasonably – by the success of Halo-2.

But most likely Halo-3’s success is due to the business halo worn by Microsoft, which, although alienating European regulators, has deformed, twisted, and stretched its business model in more ways than a topologist to be one of the world’s most successful companies.

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