Halo Infinite, the latest installment in the popular first-person series, and a planned launch game for Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox Series X console, has been pushed back to 2021, 343 Industries announced via tweet today.
Chris Lee, the head of 343 Industries, credits the disruption caused by COVID-19 for the delay. If you can’t read that tweet above, here’s the statement in full.
Today I want to share an important Halo Infinite development update with the community. We have made the difficult decision to shift our release to 2021 to ensure the team has adequate time to deliver a Halo game experience that meets our vision.
The decision to shift our release is the result of multiple factors that have contributed to development challenges, including the ongoing COVID-related impacts affecting us all this year. I want to acknowledge the hard work from our team at 343 Industries, who have remained committed to making a great game and finding solutions to development challenges. However, it is not sustainable for the well-being of our team or the overall success of the game to ship it this holiday.
We know this will be disappointing to many of you and we all share in that sentiment. The passion and support the community has shown over the years has been incredible and inspiring. We wanted nothing more than to play our game with the community this holiday. The extra time will let us finish the critical work necessary to deliver the most ambitious Halo game ever at the quality we know our fans expect.
Thank you for your support and understanding.
Development of Halo Infinite began in 2015, with the game’s announcement coming in 2018. Although scheduled to be a launch title for the Xbox Series X, it’ll also be released for the Xbox One and PC, with the multiplayer suite being released on its own as a free-to-play game. It also restores split-screen co-op for local multiplayer, a Halo staple that was missing from Halo 5: Guardians.
Despite the enduring popularity of the Halo series, Halo Infinite came under notable criticism and mockery after an extended preview at Microsoft’s Xbox Games Showcase last month. Many felt the graphics were underwhelming, and the overall buzz on the game was that it looked outdated. Neither 343 nor Microsoft has tied the delay to those complaints, but you can certainly bet that many will videogame fans will see a correlation there.
Given the repeated, ongoing labor issues perpetuated by the games industry, from crunch to cyclical staffing patterns that result in an ongoing carousel of hiring and layoffs, delays can be either a blessing or a curse. Ideally they would be the result of studios letting staff work regular hours with a healthy work-life balance, instead of crunching for dozens of hours a week, for months on end, to hit what are ultimately arbitrary deadlines. Unfortunately delays often just extend that crunch time, piling more months of extreme work onto already overtaxed developers. Factor in the pandemic, and how it’s broken down all barriers between the home and the office, and it’s possible game designers are being worked even harder and longer than before.
Hopefully the Halo Infinite delay isn’t just a reaction to online criticism, and hopefully it won’t result in a worse culture of crunch than what might exist at the studio. If these extra months mean that the team gets to work a less burdensome schedule, while also making the final game a better product, this delay would be a good thing for everybody all around—except for the Xbox Series X itself, which will now be launching without its biggest headliner.