It’s been a wild week for Xbox fans as Halo Infinite has lost its creative director, Tim Longo, who has left 343 entirely just a year before the game is set to launch. Longo was also the creative director for Halo 5, and the move has unsettled fans about the state of the project.
This was followed up by news that Halo Infinite would have a “AAA Player Investment Experience” that includes microtransactions, according to a recent job listing.
I am somewhat mixed on all this. First, I think in 2019 it is not news that a AAA game is going to be released with post-launch microtransactions. It’s actually news if a game that big is not coming out with microtransactions, given how common the practice is now, and this is not even the first time we’ve seen them in Halo, as the last game had loot boxes. If the microtransactions end up being something truly terrible (hello Apex Legends), that may be a story, but just the fact that they exist is really not anything groundbreaking.
The creative director leaving is…harder to spin. Microsoft maintains that the big boss, studio head of Halo Infinite, Chris Lee, is still the one guiding everything, so the notion is that Longo leaving doesn’t necessarily destabilize the project (but really, who knows). Microsoft has made it clear that Halo Infinite will not miss its holiday 2020 launch date and it can’t, given that Microsoft has specifically sold it as an Xbox Scarlett launch title, and losing it for that window would be an utter disaster.
And yet I think questions are warranted about the state of Halo Infinite and what exactly this game is.
We are just over a year out from the release of Halo Infinite and we still know barely anything about the game other than the fact that it will refocus on Master Chief himself after sidelining him for portions of the Halo 5 storyline.
But we have seen…pretty much nothing from the game so far, and heard almost nothing about it as well, other than random tidbits like that split-screen is returning. Last year, we got a teaser trailer that showed a bunch of environments and Master Chief’s helmet. This year, we got a longer cinematic mainly focused on a new character with Master Chief making a brief appearance at the end.
There are no larger windows into the story, and we haven’t seen any gameplay yet. And while we are assuming that Halo Infinite will follow the multiplayer/campaign structure of the past games, the “Infinite” and talk about the game being an evolution of the franchise has brought speculation about what could be changing, whether the new Halo was going open world or games as service or something along those lines. Or conversely, if this is simply Halo 6 with few changes. But we simply don’t know.
Even if Microsoft is doing their best to invest heavily in new studios and IPs to try and round out their first party offerings, Halo remains their most important property. In my opinion, the series has never reached the heights of Halo 3, all these games later, and while 343’s offerings have been competent, I can’t shake the feeling that they have not felt terribly relevant to the current gaming landscape, even if many of the most popular titles in the shooter genre, ie. Destiny, can directly trace their origins to Halo (quite obviously in that case, given Bungie). But it is still a massive seller for Microsoft, and this release is hugely important.
If Halo isn’t changing much for Infinite, similar to say, Borderlands 3, fans would like to know that. If Halo is going in some big new direction, I think people want to know that as well, and these cinematic teases are telling us absolutely nothing about the game other than the mere fact that Master Chief is starring in it. Hype-generating, they are not.
The impact of Longo leaving is unclear. It will likely take a Jason Schreier deep dive to figure out what happened there, but until that happens, Microsoft would be wise to start doling out more information about Halo Infinite and not waiting for yet another E3 to debut substantive information about it.
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