How Microsoft’s Halo Infinite Went From Disaster to Triumph

Microsoft showed a nine-minute trailer for the newest game in its blockbuster gaming franchise, which has sold more than 81 million copies and brought in almost $6 billion. Microsoft was counting on the enthusiasm of its fans to propel sales of its newest Xbox, which it planned to release in the fall, since they had been waiting for a taste of the game since the company first told them about it two years earlier. The trailer showed an expanded playing field and new weapons, but the graphics were so blocky that cynical fans began to joke that Xbox must have mixed up its Halo and Minecraft franchises.

The release of a half-baked demo was a big mistake within Microsoft. Phil Spencer, the head of the Xbox, said in a recent interview that they should have known. We were not out of deception, but more of hope. Hope is not a great strategy for development.

The release date was pushed back by Microsoft. Joseph Staten was the lead writer for the first three games in the series. Staten had left the franchise in 2009, but was still working for Microsoft as a senior creative director. Staten rejoined 343 Industries, the Microsoft-owned gaming studio that makes Halo, as its creative director after the demo debacle. The first thing he did was remind the staff that the franchise had been marked by several bumpy introductions, including a disastrous demonstration of the very first game in 2001 that almost doomed the series before it even got started. Over the years, we have had some rough demos.

Staten convinced Microsoft to give 343 as much time as it needed to fix things. Microsoft saw a buggy version of the game as bad for the game, but they didn't release it because they wanted to influence people to buy the new console.

The studio made a mistake with the release of the Master Chief Collection, which was so glitchy that 343 ended up making multiple public apologies. Microsoft couldn't afford a repeat of the episode that serious gaming players remember as a significant breach of trust. The release of a game with bugs or other issues that are going to ruin the experience is something that is worse than a game itself, says Brown, who competed in the professional e-sports league under the name Lunchbox.

The decision to slow down seems to have saved lives. 343 surprised fans by releasing a free mode of the game on the 20th anniversary of the first game. The game had set a record for most concurrent players on the online gaming platform. The full version went on sale in December. It can't be another halo. Mark Serrels wrote that it needs to be the halo that exists in your imagination. It's incredibly, against all odds.

Initial reviews of the game were positive.

Microsoft's false start seems to have made the gaming community ready to forgive it. Matt McDonald, a moderator of a Halo forum, says that the community has done a 180, but that they have turned 130 degrees.

The future of humanity is at stake in the battle between the Master Chief and a religious cult of aliens. It has been produced in-house at Microsoft since its inception. 343 took over production of the game from Bungie in 2007. Interviews with more than 20 current and former employees show that the Microsoft-owned studio has been characterized by infighting, high turnover and flawed internal tech tools.

The studio began planning for the next game in the series just after the last game in the series was released. The developers came up with an idea that stuck: a game that was open world. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is considered to be one of the greatest games of all time, because players explore a giant land mass, completing missions in any order, rather than progressing through a series of levels.

Video games are made using software tools. 343 had based their engine on the old code from Bungie. The studio was known for being difficult to use and buggy because of the parts of the engine. Tech debt is a term used in engineering to describe problems that are put up because the previous programmers of a system chose quick, easy solutions over more sustainable ones. Some 343 engineers referred to the code as "tech bankruptcy" because it had so much debt.

Almost half of the staff at 343 was made up of contract workers, which made the staffing unstable. Microsoft restricts contractors from staying in their jobs for more than 18 months.

The creative direction of Halo Infinite was in a state of change until late in its development. 343 was described as a company split into fiefdoms, with every team jockeying for resources and making conflicting decisions. A developer describes the process as four to five games being developed at the same time.

By the summer of the year, the game was in crisis mode. The studio decided to cut almost two-thirds of the game, leaving managers to instruct some designers to stay in the office and wait for the studio to figure out the next move. The open world of the game was cut back from a large experience to a smaller one. Even with the compromises, getting the game into shape by the fall would be impossible. The timing of the release was not up for discussion. Microsoft told 343 that it had to be a launch game for the next Xbox and that it would be released in November 2020.

Go deep inside the video game business with the weekly newsletter.

The demo changed everything. The exact timing of the game was left vague by Microsoft, who said on August 11, 2020, that it would delay the game. Staten pushed his bosses to let 343 take its time, presenting them with a list of features that would make the game a success if time weren't the only factor. He told them a list of things they could do to make the game better. What more time buys us?

Staten liked how computer-controlled Marines would join him on his battles. Marines in the game were programmed to stay close to the spots where the player first encountered them, he says. Staten says that he runs into a couple of Marines. They don't join me on my adventure, and they are not part of that heroic feeling that you get from classic Halo games.

Staten got his Marines after 343 fixed the graphics problems. The finished product of the game is not yet known. That would not have been true for past versions. Since the last full version of the game was released, the industry has moved more toward regularly updated games than new titles. Co-op mode, which lets players play the campaign with a friend, and forge, which allows for the creation of maps, will be added to the game.

The version 343 is releasing and players are content to play it. Marcus Lovejoy, who competed in the professional e-sports league under the name "Elumnite" before becoming a team manager, says that it has a good balance of new and old. That has been one of the biggest changes.

Unable to win Beijing's approval, the game gave up on China.