Microsoft bumps Halo 3 to 2007?

Microsoft exec demotes Master Chief from most important game of the year. Plus - more games coming from the Halo universe?

Halo 3 will not be coming to Xbox 360 before the end of 2006, if comments coming from Microsoft Game Studios' General Manager Shane Kim are to be taken literally.

Speaking at the unveiling of Rare's Viva Piņata today in New York, Kim named the colourful creature title as Microsoft's "most important game of 2006" - potentially dumping Master Chief's next outing into a 2007 berth.

Since Halo 3 is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated games of all time, we doubt that Microsoft would rate it as less important than Viva Piņata - even though Rare's game is crucial to capturing the younger audience Microsoft is desperate to hook into Xbox 360.

When we challenged Kim on his statement he was elusive. "We're not here to talk about the mythical Halo 3, as I call it," he said.

But he went on to suggest that we may not have to wait very long to hear more about MC's first next-gen adventure, and even got us thinking that there might be additional games coming that are based on the Halo franchise. "We'll be talking about anything we're doing in the Halo universe - whether that's Halo 3 as I call it or anything else - at the right time. That time will be soon."

Kim's comments suggest that Microsoft is planning to speak about Halo 3 in the near future. And what's just over the horizon? Why, it's E3 in May, the world's biggest videogames show and - coincidentally - Sony's stage for the big unveiling of the PS3. Is Microsoft planning the long-rumoured PS3 spoiler mission for Master Chief after all?

And as for other games coming from the 'Halo universe', that's got us very excited. The game certainly has built up a huge body of subject matter outside the Xbox adventures, including top-selling sci-fi novels. Could we soon be seeing Halo squad-based shooter games, or even a Halo RTS where you command legions of Marine or Covenant armies?

Let us know if you've got any thoughts about Halo 3 or any potential spin-off games in the comments below. Plus, keep eyes peeled for a full interview with Shane Kim - coming soon.