Excerpts from the blog Apparently Microsoft wasn't ready to put its Xbox cash cow out to pasture — a new version of the blockbuster...

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Excerpts from the blog

Apparently Microsoft wasn’t ready to put its Xbox cash cow out to pasture — a new version of the blockbuster “Halo” series is in the works, according to comments that Xbox boss Don Mattrick made to MTV.

Mattrick apparently was referring to a new “Halo” game being developed by Bungie, the studio that created the series and spun itself out of Microsoft last year.

Even before the Halo news surfaced Wednesday, there was plenty of chatter about Bungie’s next project (or projects?), fueled by a last-minute cancellation of an announcement that was supposed to happen at E3.

Bungie’s explanations suggested that the announcement was quashed by Microsoft, whose studio boss said they didn’t want to announce games that won’t be ready this fall.

If this stuff is correct, Bungie’s working on a new “Halo” title but it won’t be done by the holiday season.

The news is still a little fuzzy, though.

Almost as interesting is the obvious tension between Bungie and Microsoft revealed by the jumbled messages out of E3.

On Tuesday, Bungie President Harold Ryan posted a statement about the canceled announcement, saying, “we realize that many of our fans are disappointed by this turn of events; members of the Bungie team share that disappointment.”

Meanwhile, Mattrick was apparently spilling Bungie’s beans, if MTV got it right.

Did Mattrick really make that slip? The flap over Bungie’s E3 announcement seemed like the result of Microsoft trying to carefully manage the studio’s news flow.

Is it trying to time the “Halo 4” buzz for strategic reasons against Sony? Maybe Robbie Bach wants “Halo” news to anchor his keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

I can’t wait for the next installment of this game.

Gaming skews older

Are video games no longer a young person’s sport?

The average age of game players has risen to 35, according to a new report Wednesday from the Entertainment Software Association.

“No longer is there a stereotypical gamer. With deeper market penetration and the broadening of our audience base, video games have incorporated themselves into America’s cultural and social fabric,” Michael Gallagher, association chief executive, said in the release.

It said U.S. computer and video-game sales reached $9.5 billion last year with 267.9 million units sold, up from $7.4 billion and 241.6 million units sold in 2006.

Other findings highlighted by the group include:

• 65 percent of U.S. households play computer and video games.

• 38 percent of U.S. homes have a video-game console.

• One of four gamers is more than 50 years old.

• Women 18 or older represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (33 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (18 percent).

• 41 percent of Americans expect to purchase one or more games this year.

Mesh grows wider

It’s still just a tech preview, but the public can start experiencing Microsoft’s free Mesh computing-services platform Wednesday.

The platform is geared to developers to create all sorts of online services using Mesh components, such as the ability to easily synchronize folders across devices and PC desktops, and receive notifications when people use the files you’re sharing.

But for casual users, it could be a cheap and easy way to store and access a set of files from the home, office and remote Web terminals.

There are a lot of online file storage and sharing services that do this sort of thing already, for a range of prices. You can also store and move files and chat about them with free Web mail services, but they’re pretty limited for handling big files.

Mesh has more capabilities and you can’t beat the price. But you’re giving Microsoft a lot of access to your files. You also have to use a Microsoft Live ID to participate in the tech preview, and anyone you want to share files with will also have to have one of the IDs. I wish there was a way to decouple IDs used for services with IDs that Microsoft and other Internet giants will use for ad targeting.

I’ve been thinking about the Windows Home Server lately and wonder what the relationship will be with Mesh. In some ways Mesh has competing features at a lower price.

The server does more things, like restore computers that crash, but it’s basically a hardware-based solution for people who want to synchronize folders on different machines, back up files to a secure location and share files online with friends and family.

Mesh is aimed at a far bigger market — it’s a global services platform, like Hailstorm, and Microsoft’s big step toward cloud computing for the masses — but it also sounds a like killer application for the server.

This material has been edited

for print publication.

Brier Dudley’s blog appears Thursdays. Reach him

at 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com.