We’re about three months out from Sony and Microsoft’s generational brawl to be top dog as the latest gaming console- and Xbox will be fighting without one of their best players.
Recently, 343 Industries announced that Halo Infinite won’t meet its original Holiday 2020 release, instead being pushed back to 2021. In a development update posted earlier this month, the team announced that due to multiple factors (chief among them being the current pandemic) it would miss their targeted launch. While it may be a surprise to see Halo absent this year, it’s not a terrible shock considering the amount of studios seeing projects get pushed back to accommodate COVID-work hurdles (the outcry about the game’s polish might also have something to do with its postponement).
A Heavy Legacy
This isn’t the first year Microsoft has launched their latest console without Halo in tow. Although the two are linked arguably closer than any franchise and system across gaming, it’s actually commonplace to see the latest Halo drop sometime after a console’s big launch. Halo 3, for example, released two years after the Xbox 360’s launch in 2007. And Halo 5 followed the same formula, launching two years after the Xbox One’s launch in 2013. There’s a slight trend in seeing Master Chief arrive a little late to the party.
But those were markedly different times. Microsoft could afford to give Bungie the space it needed to make Halo 3 the way they saw fit. 343 squeezed The Master Chief Collection in between years to give fans a little something to keep ’em busy before Halo 5. Now, on the precipice of a huge year for Microsoft, where their flagship console unquestionably lagged behind its biggest competitor in PlayStation for the last seven years, they’re looking to be on the attack this time around. The Xbox One’s 2013 launch was marred by disastrous decisions and a weak lineup of launch titles that it never really recovered from. With positive word-of-mouth stemming from services like GamePass and backwards-compatible peripherals, the company knows it can’t make the same mistakes again. The turbulence of competition has left Microsoft in a very different place than ever before.
But now, they’ll be without their biggest brand.
No Room for Error
Obviously, rising pressures are being placed upon Halo Infinite and 343 Industries. There’s less of a ‘backseat’ comfort that previous entries have enjoyed, with duress stemming from a needed sales boost and a rebound after the poorly-received Halo 5. 343’s in a precarious position consisting of meeting both company and fan aspirations at the same time as a brand-new console launch. Nobody’s certain how significant not having Halo sales could be this year, but it’s likely Microsoft wasn’t planning on repeating trends of the past.
Perhaps a stronger launch lineup would ease Infinite‘s burden, but little in Microsoft’s upcoming slate seems to excite beyond Halo. Xbox is leaning on the Series X’s backwards compatibility from the previous four generations as a selling point along with their enticing GamePass subscription- though marketing analysts predict this strategy may falter if the new console doesn’t offer anything Xbox One doesn’t. Simply put, Microsoft needs Chief now more than ever.
There’s still much we don’t yet know about this upcoming ‘console war.’ Sony and Microsoft continue to play an absurd game of chicken regarding their respective console’s price points that’s dragged throughout the summer. Microsoft has another, more secretive console being worked on aiming to be a more affordable alternative than the Xbox Series X, which could rattle Sony’s holiday sales. And who knows? There’s a chance this war could stretch out into next year with delays affecting console production for both parties. Uncertainty clouds the air.
But what will be known is Halo‘s absence. And we’ll soon find out if this could be a more serious blow to launch of the Series X.