The past few days have been very turbulent for Xbox, 343 Industries and Halo. At one point, a report was published stating that 343 would no longer be the developer of Halo and would take on an executive producer role while other developers would actually create new games in the franchise. Soon after, this report was debunked with 343 releasing an official statement assuring fans that they would continue as the sole developer of Halo now and in the future. It didn’t look good, but it was confirmation nonetheless. But in the short span of time between this statement and the report first being released, there was an eerie sense of relief from fans looking forward to someone else cracking Microsoft’s flagship gaming franchise, and looking back on the last decade of Halo, you can understand why.
Now I’m not going to tell you that Halo has been a disaster since 343 took over, but it hasn’t been great either. Halo 4 was mediocre at best, but at the time it could be treated as a decent first step for 343 after taking over Bungie’s beloved franchise. Halo 5: Guardians began to show even more cracks in its armor, and then Halo: Master Chief Collection did not help 343’s argument in any way. Today’s MCC mind you is a very complete and competent Halo video game, but it didn’t start out that way – in fact, it took years before it got to where it is today.
And then there’s Halo Infinite. A game that had so, so, so much riding on it. A launch title for the new generation of Xbox hardware that it lacked. Powered by an insanely expensive game engine created and built specifically for Halo, where it seemingly goes from there. Developed at one of Microsoft’s largest game studios, which has seen layoffs and countless changes in its managing staff. Oh and let’s not forget the elephant in the room; it was the next mainline installment in the Halo franchise. But after a highly criticized gameplay unveiling, followed by a long delay, followed by a really nice launch, in what has been nearly 18 months of limited, boring and flat post-launch live-service additions, it’s really hard to say that 343’s tenure at the Halo brand has been anything less than disappointing.
So when the news broke that 343 might hand Halo over to another developer, I can admit that I was part of the crowd that breathed that sigh of relief, not because I believe 343 is a bad developer, but simply because the 343-Halo relationship has been rocky at best. While it’s hard to admit and harder to put into practice, I think the two should separate and go their separate ways in life so they can blossom into bigger and better things.
Who should take a shot at Halo?
If 343 were to step aside and let someone else try Halo, who should it be? I think it would be wise to take an approach with a couple of developers working hand in hand; one focused on narrative and single-player story content and the other on the multiplayer aspect. Assuming the Activision Blizzard takeover goes through, I think it would be interesting to see Infinity Ward make a truly cinematic AAA Halo story, or alternatively, if the idea is to keep things within the Xbox Game Studios family, but there is more of a narrative theme that needs to be pursued, why would you take The Outer Worlds Obsidian Entertainment takes Halo for a spin.
As for the multiplayer side of things, although they are only an indie studio, 1047 Games could be an ideal prospect. The developer made Splitgate, and I’d say that was one of the better player-versus-player arena shooters we’ve seen since Halo 3. Otherwise, it might be an idea to look back to a developer that made Perfect Dark, one of the most iconic shooters of all time: Rare. Granted, this studio has a lot on its plate right now, and the last thing it needs is Halo to worry about, so why not also look at the “AAAA” studio that has been preparing a Perfect Dark reboot for years: The Initiative.
As you may have noticed, there’s generally an Xbox Game Studios trend here, and that’s by design. Halo should remain Microsoft and Xbox’s main gaming franchise, so its development should ideally remain within the Xbox family, but wherever it ends up, it’s becoming increasingly clear that it should be handed over to someone other than 343 Industries.
What would be next for 343 Industries?
With the past decade in mind, it’s hard to have much faith in what 343 Industries can do with Halo, but this is still a team with potential, a team that should be given the opportunity to do something new and exciting. Whether that comes in the form of a brand new project, or perhaps a brief stint as a support developer helping with other, bigger projects while it gets its house in order.
Either way, I’d like to see 343 deliver something different, something without the stigma of Halo attached to it, because I don’t think I can stand another Halo game that’s just disappointing. Master Chief has been on the back foot for too long and it’s time for Microsoft to take the lead, because in an era of familiar Call of Dutys, lack of Battlefields and overwhelmingly live-service shooters, we need Halo to be something we can all look at as a light in the darkness.