Microsoft's flagship franchise continues to face issues, with major features delayed again and lackluster communication all around.
Remember Halo Infinite? The newest title in Xbox’s flagship gaming franchise? The “start of the next 10 years of Halo” as 343 Industries studio head Chris Lee noted in 2020 (before leaving just a few months later)?
Don’t worry if you’ve forgotten about it. With a 24-hour concurrent player peak of 5,558 players on Steam and the 14th most played Xbox game as of August 29th, it’s not exactly the most happening game right now. Despite being a highly anticipated Xbox console exclusive, and garnering over 20 million players as of January 26th, becoming the biggest launch in Halo history, it’s also been strangely absent at Xbox’s last major showcase in June. It didn’t even get a passing mention at Gamescom.
Fortunately, 343 Industries has provided a much-needed roadmap update, detailing what to expect over the next few months. Unfortunately, it was almost nothing but bad news. Campaign network co-op and Mission Replay, both targeting a late August launch, have been delayed. The beta for Forge has also been delayed. The start of Season 3: Echoes Within – which was already delayed by three months – has been pushed from November 8th to March 7th, 2023. Keep in mind that Season 2: Lone Wolves went live a whopping five months after the full game launched.
Oh, and the split-screen campaign co-op, which 343 Industries confirmed back in 2019 but delayed past the game’s launch in December 2021, has been outright cancelled.
Campaign network co-op, Mission Replay, and the Forge beta are now all part of the “Winter Update.” However, as per the roadmap, the update isn’t something that just drops with all of the planned content on November 8th. No, almost like a mini-season, it runs from November 8th to March 7th, 2023.
Since none of the three features has any solid release date or window, they could theoretically drop at any time in these four months. Of course, everything on the current roadmap is subject to change, as if that hasn’t been a running theme with the game’s development since day one. Any of these features could be delayed again or just outright dropped.
To say that Halo fans are irate would be an understatement because this just adds to the number of complaints. Missing modes that have been a staple of Halo for years, like Firefight and Infection, a lack of map voting, network and desync issues, and much more continue to plague the game. But hey, at least Match XP is coming in beta form with the Winter Update, which finally allows players to gain XP from simply playing matches as opposed to completing Challenges. A feature which has been requested since before multiplayer even launched and a basic feature of almost every multiplayer FPS out there.
Not that there’s anything to unlock in-game after completing the Battle Pass since a good chunk of cosmetics are confined to the in-game store for real money. Live-service model, everybody!
What exactly is going on? It’s no secret that Halo Infinite’s development cycle has faced numerous issues over the years. As Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier and Dina Bass reported in December 2021, the first-person shooter was meant to have a much larger open world in its campaign with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild serving as its main inspiration.
That didn’t work out and by Summer 2019, two-thirds of the game had to be cut. Old code, 343’s reliance on contract workers – which reportedly made up almost half of the total staff – and several teams jockeying for resources – that’s what the creative direction of Halo Infinite had been by mid-2019.
Joseph Staten’s arrival as creative director in August 2020, one month after the disastrous campaign demo, was the start of things getting back on track. Staten reportedly pushed for more development time, improving the visuals, implementing features like roaming Marines in the campaign (which received significant praise), and providing some much-needed direction. However, the studio’s reliance on contractors has seemingly come back to bite it.
Microsoft only allows contractors to work for 18 months at a time, leading to a lot of attrition at 343. Not only does this make it harder to commit to longer-term goals, but it makes development even trickier since new contractors have to familiarize themselves with the development pipeline and their predecessors’ work.
While not outright confirming the same, community director Brian Jarrard did mention “production planning, costing, planning, hiring, etc.” as being one of the major hurdles when providing updates on Season 2. Keep in mind that this was one month before the season’s launch in response to the utter lack of details about the same. The more things change, the more they stay the same with regards to communication, but it seems the other issues continue to be a pain.
It’s hard not to point the finger at 343 Industries’ management for all of the missteps thus far. Major creative heads come and go, but leadership at the studio has remained mostly static throughout the years. Of course, one could also blame Microsoft for not stepping in to make sweeping changes, and simply standing by passively.
There’s a lot of blame to go around but it’s difficult to lay much of it on the development team. It’s likely because of leads like Staten that things are still being held together, especially when the number of available resources is so unreliable.
At the end of the day, while there is plenty of shock at split-screen co-op being cancelled and major updates being pushed back, this won’t outright kill Halo Infinite. The player base, such as it is, continues to mull about, angry but mostly disappointed. It’s not like the delayed updates are providing that much new content either – two maps are dropping in the Winter Update along with a “free” 30 Tier Battle Pass and two new events.
Season 3 adds some more new maps, the DMR – the first new weapon to be added since launch – and one new equipment along with revolutionary features like in-game reporting and a Custom Game Browser. At this point, players are hoping that Forge will inject some needed life into the game, such is the lack of faith in 343.
Microsoft has bigger fish to fry due to ongoing investigations into its Activision-Blizzard acquisition but still promised to bring other FPS franchises like Overwatch and Call of Duty to Game Pass. Both of those franchises have pretty bright futures ahead of themselves, which is good news for their fan bases.
But to see Halo treated this way, relegated to the side despite being an important part of Xbox as a whole, is sad. Halo 5: Guardians faced its fair share of backlash at launch but ended up as one of the more popular multiplayer titles on Xbox One thanks to constant updates. Halo: The Master Chief Collection was an utter disaster for more than a year, and only really started improving when it was released for PC in December 2019. In both cases, the franchise has bounced back, and yet, it continues to face crises to this very day.
It’s a shame because Halo Infinite, which offers some genuinely good gameplay, deserves better. Whether it will get that or not is becoming less and less likely as the years go by.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.