The long-awaited Halo Infinite was supposed to release on November 10 as a launch title for the Xbox Series X/S consoles, but due in part to complications related to COVID-19, Microsoft elected to push the game out to 2021. It was a big loss for the Xbox Series X/S, as it would have marked the first time since 2001 that a Halo game launched with new Xbox hardware. As it turned out, Microsoft did not need Halo Infinite at launch for the new consoles to sell exceptionally well, but Xbox boss Phil Spencer has now reflected on the delay and its impact on the new systems and the brand overall.
“I wanted Halo Infinite at launch; there was no doubt about that,” Spencer told Shacknews. “And we thought there would have been a special seminal moment because the last time we shipped a Halo and a console at the same time was the original Xbox. When Bonnie [Ross, head of Halo Infinite developer 343 Studios] and I were talking about it, there was something heartfelt about those two things coming together. But the safety and health of the team has got to be first and foremost, and then the quality of the game. Those things have to win over anything else.”
The “quality of the game” line is an interesting one, the suggestion being that Spencer and the team might not have believed the game was where it needed to be to launch. The game’s campaign reveal in July left a sour taste in some fans’ mouths, and Microsoft promised that the graphics would get better over time.
Whatever the case, as others have said before him, Spencer pointed out that having Halo Infinite as a launch title did not have much of an impact on sales of the Xbox Series X/S. Getting enough supply to meet the demand is the real issue, Spencer said.
“Sales are going to be dictated by supply this holiday. I know there’ll be press that will want to write, ‘Xbox launch lineup versus PS5 launch lineup.’ But if they’re both sold out completely, I’m not sure the launch lineup had much impact on anything other than maybe some review score,” Spencer said. “It’s not going to dictate what, how many consoles we sell. The number one thing that’s going to dictate how many consoles we sell is not the competition and it’s not a Halo or a launch lineup. It’s going to be how many units we can build.”
“So I think the possibility of Halo Infinite launching beside Xbox was more of a brand and heartfelt moment for us than it was critical to the launch. In fact, you could argue that holiday 2021 from a lineup is probably more important because from a competitive standpoint, both consoles–knock on wood–will have supply so there will be a demand constraint rather than a supply constraint in the next year,” he added.
The Xbox Series X/S generation got off to a great start with more than 1 million consoles sold during its first 24 hours. The consoles are tough to find, however, and Spencer has apologized for the shortages. It could be months before stock is widely available again, Microsoft has warned.
Halo Infinite will be the first new mainline Halo game since 2015’s Halo 5: Guardians, and it’s shaking up the franchise’s formula in multiple ways. The new game is built on a new engine, Slipspace, and its multiplayer element will be free–and here’s why that could be a big deal.
Unfortunately for fans, it might be some time before they get to see more of Halo Infinite. Developer 343 Industries recently confirmed that Halo Infinite won’t have a showing at The Game Awards in December, but the studio is planning to share a “high level update” on the project soon.
Recently, game director Chris Lee left the Halo Infinite project, prompting concern among fans. He is the second director to leave the project in the last two years. However, Spencer said that the turnover is nothing to worry about in our interview. Back in October, a Halo community manager responded to a fan who accused Microsoft of “turtling up” on Halo Infinite, saying that he disagrees. However, if you’re curious to see how 343 recorded weapon sounds for the new game, check out their video.
Whenever it’s ready, Halo Infinite will release on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC. Xbox Game Pass subscribers will be able to download the game at no extra cost.
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