Halo is currently trending with a hundred thousand mentions on Twitter, and that’s…not the best of news. Most of the conversation online right now is about the dismal roadmap that 343 put out about Halo Infinite’s second season, which will last another six months, just like season 1, with relatively minimal content doled out over that period. Features fans were hoping Infinite would launch with are now “targeted” for late August, while others (split-screen co-op) don’t have dates at all.
This has raised broader questions about Halo in general, and how 343 Industries has handled Halo on behalf of Microsoft since they took it over from Bungie after Halo Reach. That was an unusual split, where Bungie left Microsoft, leaving the Halo IP behind, and published Destiny with Activision. Now, Bungie has been purchased by Sony with Destiny 2 one of the biggest live service games on the market. And while a lot of people played Halo Infinite, the ongoing state of the game and the franchise as a whole is being debated.
A lot of this is subjective, but I don’t think you will find all that many Halo fans that prefer 343’s tenure to Bungie’s, for one reason or another. Generally speaking, the conversation about 343’s Halo installments has been:
Halo 4 – Had a fairly decent campaign, but tried to COD-ify its multiplayer in a way that did not work for traditional Halo players at all.
Halo 5 – Improved multiplayer significantly, but ended up with a very, very poorly done campaign that did not focus on Master Chief enough and is generally thought of as the worst campaign in the series.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection – It was a long time ago now, but this was a truly disastrous release at launch where the game just straight-up did not work for months. Over the years, it’s slowly been improved and supported, and recently, passed the total number of Halo Infinite players on PC after a recent update.
Halo Infinite – It was the most-played Halo game at launch, thanks to its inclusion in Xbox Game Pass. There was a lot of love initially for how fun the open world sandbox was with Master Chief’s collection of tools, though the story was a bit…more debatable. It felt like we missed out on some major events as 343 tried to “fix” the story of Halo 5, and it ended right when things were getting interesting with a new potential race, and now we have zero idea when the narrative is meant to continue.
Multiplayer has been…rough. Gameplay is solid, but Infinite boasted one of the worst progression systems in the genre which has had to be overhauled and changed multiple times over the course of this season, the same being true for its microtransactions as well. Now, with a second six month season bringing only two maps and three modes, fans believe 343 just can’t support the game at the scale it needs. And all of this come after Halo Infinite was already delayed a year from its initial launch window which was supposed to be alongside the Xbox Series X/S debut.
The Halo Show – This is a minor aside, but 343 has been heavily involved in the Paramount Plus show, which has a sprawling budget and went through a million scripts before it made it to release. The show has had a few solid battles, but generally speaking, does not seem to be beloved by most fans or casual viewers at this point with strange story and character decisions.
343 has had control of Halo for ten years now, since the 2012 release of Halo 4. While Halo games continue to sell well because…they’re Halo games, it always seems like there’s some major issue accompanying each release, holding the game and the series back from where it needs to be as what’s supposed to be Microsoft’s flagship IP.
Microsoft is already starting to bring in “help.” Certain Affinity is now building a separate multiplayer mode, presumably a battle royale, for release alongside Halo Infinite. I guess the question is whether or not Microsoft wants to continue to place its faith in 343 for the long arc of the franchise given what we’ve seen over the past ten years, and how in many ways, the current state of Infinite and its development is one of the most unsettling turns to date (though I don’t think anything will top the all-time terrible Halo MCC launch).
The question might be…do they even have another option? Sony just bought Bungie so some master plan of bringing them back to take over is not going to happen, not that Bungie would give up work on Destiny and their own new IPs anyway. And Microsoft is still trying to figure out how to make its own new first party studios work, and production problems plague The Initiative and its Perfect Dark game.
Perhaps the answer is time, and Halo Infinite will find its groove eventually. But again, I think this is about looking at the larger arc of the last ten years, which I would argue lays out a much broader problem than Infinite’s most recent struggles. So far, Microsoft does not seem to agree.
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