How do you design a game for an audience that doesn’t exist yet? That’s a question Kiki Wolfkill, studio head of Halo Transmedia at 343 Industries, the production house responsible for the genre-defining Halo video game franchise, ponders regularly.
“What it means to design for an audience now and what it means to design for an audience 10 years from now is really about having a set of rules that people can engage with and buy into for years to come,” Wolfkill said at Fortune’s Brainstorm Design conference in Singapore on Tuesday.
Halo: Combat Evolved, the inaugural title of the Halo science fiction game series, launched on Microsoft’s Xbox in 2001. In the 18 years since Halo’s release—many lifetimes in a fast-moving industry—the franchise has sold more than 77 million copies.
The trick to staying relevant, generation after generation of players? Know your strengths—and follow the audience.
“Halo is a universe,” Wolfkill said. “There are all sorts of experiences and stories that we tell around the game based on the idea of how to engage audiences differently, how to let people come into the world in a different way [through] a medium they’re most comfortable with.”
Gaming has become a multi-generational activity, Wolfkill said, and Halo is no exception. The game’s original fans have grown up in the years since Halo’s release and many of those early players have introduced their children to the game’s science-fiction universe. Welcoming this new audience is vital for Halo’s longevity and that requires developing new media channels to open access to the Halo universe, she said.
Audiences can now engage with the Halo universe through books, films and, in the near future, television. A television series based on the Halo story is due to start production with the Showtime network later this year.
But minders of the franchise must be vigilant in an era where not only new games but new technologies are competing for the audience’s limited attention. “We have to be able to change content quickly,” Wolfkill said. “We can’t afford to wait three years every time we drop a new product and have it be a black box because the games kids are playing are changing every week.”
Besides, there are new storytelling mechanisms to embrace. “Augmented reality and virtual reality are very interesting from a creative perspective,” Wolfkill says. “Being able to bring a player into your universe and having them interact with your story in a very tangible, intimate way is, creatively, really exciting.”
For more coverage of Fortune’s Brainstorm Design conference, click here.