Earlier this week, 343 Industries and Microsoft announced that Halo Infinite would be coming out in 2021, missing the Xbox Series X launch set to take place in November. However, according to Head of Xbox Phil Spencer, there were talks within both companies about releasing the game in pieces, which might have circumvented a full delay, for at least part of the game.
Hypothetically, this would have meant releasing the campaign and the free-to-play online multiplayer as two different products. One of these could have launched alongside the Xbox Series X so the next Halo could continue to be marketed as a launch title in some capacity, but Head of Xbox Phil Spencer said that these talks didn’t make it off the ground.
During an interview on Twitch talk show Animal Talking, which takes place entirely in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Spencer explained that these discussions between himself, 343 Industries Founder Bonnie Ross, and Xbox Game Studios Head Matt Booty came and went, with the company leads agreeing that it wasn’t the way they wanted to go about releasing the next mainline Halo game. As such, the decision to make the delay was finalized.
“It just didn’t feel, to all of us, like the Halo release that we would want,” Spencer said.
“It is a bummer,” Spencer said. “I know it’s disappointing to people, it’s disappointing to us. We were looking forward to the alignment of Halo and Series X really as a seminal moment for Xbox, looking back to the launch of the original Xbox and Halo CE.”
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In a vacuum, it’s easy to see why Microsoft went the route it did, wanting to release Halo Infinite as a “complete” product. But looking at the industry at large, it’s not an uncommon practice for games to launch and modes to be added later, or be released as separate products altogether. Even in Infinite’s case, the multiplayer will be a separate, free-to-play game that people will be able to play without throwing down the cash for the single player campaign.
Sony, Microsoft’s direct competitor, is even doing this with its biggest game of the year The Last of Us Part II, which doesn’t have multiplayer on the disc. However, developer Naughty Dog has gone on record saying it’s working on a multiplayer mode akin to the original game’s. But it won’t be part of the Last of Us Part II package. So had Microsoft gone this route for its biggest game, it wouldn’t be unprecedented.
Halo Infinite’s delay is a blow to the Xbox Series X launch, but the knowledge that it’s coming is still enough to drive sales. Even this last generation, some of the bigger games of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One’s first year weren’t out for a few months after the actual launch date.