Opinion: Xbox should give someone else a chance at Halo
And 343 Industries should be given a chance at something different.
The last few days have been really turbulent for Xbox, 343 Industries, and Halo. At one point, a report was published which stated that 343 would no longer be the developer of Halo, and that it would be taking on an executive producer role while other developers actually created new games in the franchise. Soon after, this report was debunked with 343 putting out an official statement that assured fans that they would be continuing as the sole developer of Halo, now and in the future. It wasn't a good look, but it was confirmation nonetheless. But in the short space of time between this statement and the report first being published there was an eerie sense of relief from fans who were looking forward to someone else taking a crack at Microsoft's flagship gaming franchise, and looking back at the last ten years 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 could be treated at the time as a decent first step for 343 after taking over Bungie's beloved franchise. Halo 5: Guardians started to show cracks in the armour even more, and then Halo: Master Chief Collection didn't help 343's argument in any sense. The MCC of today mind you is a very complete and competent Halo video game, but it didn't start 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, which it missed. Powered by a crazy expensive game engine created and built specifically for Halo, which it is seemingly moving on from. Developed at one of Microsoft's biggest owned game studios, which has seen layoffs and countless leading staff changes. Oh and let's not forget the elephant in the room; it was the next mainline instalment in the Halo franchise. Yet, after a highly criticised gameplay reveal, followed by a lengthy delay, followed by a genuinely quite fun launch, into what has been almost 18 months of limited, dull, and flat post-launch live-service additions, it's truly hard to say that 343's tenure with the Halo brand has been anything less than disappointing.
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So, when the news broke that 343 might be handing Halo off to another developer, I can admit that I was part of the crowd that breathed that sigh of relief, not because I believe that 343 is a bad developer, but simply because the 343-Halo relationship has been at best rocky. While it's hard to admit and harder to put into practice, I think the two need to divorce and head their own way in life so that they can blossom into bigger and better things.
Who should take a shot at Halo?
If 343 did move aside and let someone else have a go at Halo, who should it be? I think it would be wise to take an approach where a couple of developers work hand-in-hand; one focussed on narrative and single player story content and the other on the multiplayer aspect. Assuming the Activision Blizzard acquisition goes through, I think it'd be interesting to see Infinity Ward cook up a true cinematical AAA Halo story, or alternatively, if the idea is to keep things within the Xbox Game Studios family but there's more of a narrative theme that needs to be chased, why not let The Outer Worlds' Obsidian Entertainment take Halo for a spin.
As for the multiplayer side of things, while they are only an indie studio, 1047 Games could be an ideal prospect. The developer created Splitgate, and I would argue that was one of the better player-versus-player arena shooters we've seen since Halo 3. Otherwise, it could be an idea to look back at a developer who created 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 have to worry about, so why not also look toward the very 'AAAA' studio that has been spending years on cooking up a Perfect Dark reboot: The Initiative.
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As you may have noticed, there is generally an Xbox Game Studios trend here, and that's by design. Halo needs to remain as Microsoft and Xbox's premier gaming franchise, so its development ideally needs to stay within the Xbox family, but wherever it does end up, it's become increasingly clear that it needs to be handed off to someone other than 343 Industries.
What would be next for 343 Industries?
With the last ten years 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 a chance to do something fresh and exciting. Whether that comes in the form of a brand new project right off the bat, or perhaps a short stint as a support developer helping out with other, bigger projects while it gets its house in order.
Either way, I'd like to see 343 deliver something else, something without the stigma of Halo attached to it, because I for one don't think I can stomach another Halo game that is simply disappointing. Master Chief has been on the back foot for too long, and it's time that Microsoft took charge of things because in an era of familiar Call of Dutys, lacking Battlefields, and overwhelmingly live-service shooters, we need Halo to be something we can all look to as a light in the darkness.