Yesterday, Microsoft announced it would be the latest tech company to implement mass layoffs, and some of the 10,000 employees it laid off were part of the video game division.
According to reports from Bloomberg, both Bethesda and 343 Industries were hit with layoffs, but 343 was hit particularly hard, with many employees leaving among those working on future campaign content for Halo. Following these layoffs, it was announced that Joe Staten, the Halo veteran who returned to help get Infinite across the finish line at launch, would return to Xbox Publishing where he was before.
The move angered ex-Halo multiplayer designer Patrick Wren, who chastised Microsoft and 343 leadership for the layoffs, saying what went wrong there was management’s fault.
While at least one manager, former 343 head Bonnie Ross, has already left as of September 2022, citing a family medical issue, although there were theories at the time, other factors may have been at play as well.
Microsoft gutting its Halo campaign team leads to an immediate series of questions about the situation. What exactly was that team doing? Nothing was ever announced about the continuation of the Infinite campaign or single player content in general. The only major campaign update since launch was the addition of post-release online co-op ages. And when that team is gone, what then? is the future of Halo? What happens to Halo from here?
Since the launch of Infinite, things have honestly looked pretty dire for Halo’s condition. The campaign was quite well received, and while multiplayer was fun at first, it became abundantly clear that 343 didn’t really know how to effectively manage a live-service title. The battle pass progression was terrible. Seasons were stretched out and constantly postponed. Improvements have been made and Halo Infinite recently had a success with the launch of the Forge mode, a very impressive offering, but the state of Halo remains in limbo.
Originally, Halo Infinite was said to be a platform for a generation of Halo launches. Now it feels like it’s on life support as the game doesn’t linger in Xbox’s top 20 most played offerings at any point. The Steam population is positively anemic.
The most likely way forward here is follow-up seasons with new cosmetics and the occasional map and mode, and more Forge upgrades. But in terms of Halo progressing with Master Chief’s story? The idea that we might not have to wait years and years for the next chapter of his story with more content to be added to Infinite over time no longer seems to be the case, and it’s anyone’s guess when Chief himself will be back will appear. , and in what capacity.
I think the bigger question here needs to be asked, will Microsoft continue to invest in Halo in a meaningful way, and if so, will their next big push to make the series relevant again have 343 leading that project?
Given how Infinite has turned out and the layoffs the company has just suffered, it seems exceedingly unlikely that Microsoft would trust 343 with another major reset of the Halo universe in a few years, or whenever it comes. And with all of Microsoft’s new takeover ambitions, perhaps Xbox should start moving away from Master Chief as the face of the brand, as Microsoft’s hardest-hit franchises are on the verge of giving up things like Call of Duty and Diablo. become, if the Activision deal goes through, and Starfield and Elder Scrolls on Bethesda’s side.
It’s been over a decade since 343 released Halo 4 in 2012, and I can’t imagine Microsoft being pleased with how things have turned out overall, especially with this most recent Infinite chapter that marks both a bold new era for both Halo as and Xbox itself. There’s still a Certain Affinity Halo game on the way, with signs pointing to some kind of Battle Royale variant, but it would be…somewhat tragic if Halo were reduced to less than stellar live-service multiplayer seasons and a BR. And yet, trying to find who would take Master Chief and mainline Halo games to the future if so not 343? That’s a question without an answer, as of now.
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