So it’s been 6 years since Halo 5 came out. October 27, 2015. That was the last release of a new Halo FPS game (Note: there were some releases of Halo FPS games on PC from the Master Chief Collection over the years).
The gaming community has been clamoring for something new in the Halo franchise. Ever since the game was announced back at the E3 2018 Xbox event and we got a glimpse of Master Chief and what was next in his journey without Cortana (you’ll have to go play Halo 4 & 5 for what happened there).
About 2 days ago, I woke to rumors that Halo Infinite’s multiplayer would potentially be made available on November 15th, following Xbox’s 20th Anniversary (and coincidently Halo’s 20th Anniversary) event/live stream. The first source that I saw early on Thursday morning was a video from Danny GG.
In this video, he makes several points and has some evidence which looks pretty convincing. Now because I’ve been on the developer side of things for about 7 years now, there are definitely some things that could be true, and somethings that could be just an error on someone’s part in updating.
This first image was taken from the Microsoft Store. In it, you can see that it’s a “bundle” that includes the “Halo Infinite Multiplayer” game tile. It’s important to note that the Halo Infinite Multiplayer and Halo Infinite Campaign are two separate games that have to be setup on the Microsoft/Xbox store front. While Halo Infinite’s campaign is a paid product (or “free” with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate), the Halo Infinite Multiplayer has been said to be a free-to-play multiplayer product since June 2021. Having a “Early Access Digital Bundle” makes sense if you need to setup players with access, but why not just have the regular Halo Infinite Multiplayer as available, not outside of a bundle? Well, it could be one of two things here.
1. Early Access is for press/influencers. Typically press, influencers, esports players, and Microsoft employees will get early access to the game, especially for multiplayer betas. But we’re not in the beta territory anymore. Could this still happen for the regular launch of the game? Absolutely. Press will want to be able to get in there early to do their reviews done. Brand teams work tirelessly to set up press events where all the gaming media outlets are able to get hands on with the game. In the time of this global pandemic, most of these review events happen in their own home where they get access to things digitally.
2. It could be something that’s setup for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscriptions. Xbox has been putting a lot of money into acquiring studios over the last several years. All Xbox Game Studio releases get put into Xbox Game Pass on day 1 of release. Getting the numbers into these subscriptions services is what helps pay for the work the studios do creating games, so it would make sense that if they lock this Early Access Digital Bundle behind the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate paywall, that it could help bolster the sign-ups for their premium version of Xbox Game Pass.
From these next two images, both taken from the same source (the Xbox Game Pass app), it lists two different “release dates”. One is the standard release date that we’ve known now since June, which is 12/8/21. For the other, the Halo Infinite Multiplayer, it simply states “Coming Soon”. Now in checking the other sources (Xbox.com website, Xbox Store on the console), they all list 12/8/21 for both the campaign and the multiplayer, so take this with a grain of salt.
What I believe could have happened is likely the release date was pushed and managed poorly. For all Xbox releases, there’s something called Microsoft Partner Center. This is where all of the meta data for the game is released/images uploaded, etc. A possibility is that whoever was in charge of making the edits to this when it was announced that the game was being pushed from August 2021 to December 2021 forgot to make the change to the Multiplayer game in Partner Center. It’s already been fixed in the Xbox Game Pass app (at least on Android) to show the 12/8/21 release date.
Now the last bit of evidence that’s come up is how November 15th, 2021, will be the 20th anniversary for both Xbox and Halo CE. Xbox is holding a live stream event to serve as a celebration of the last 20 years.
“It’s been fun to reminiscence on all the memories we’ve shared with the Xbox community over the years and are excited about what the next 20 years with has in store as we continue to play.”
If they wanted to release the Halo Infinite Multiplayer early, and do a big mic drop moment at the end of the celebration stating “And you can play Halo Infinite Multiplayer starting…. NOW!” I wouldn’t be against it at all. I played in both of the MS Flights for Xbox (albeit on Xbox One X, then a Xbox Series X). Both experiences were close to flawless. I think I encountered one visual/graphical bug in about 10 hours of playing. I actually felt like the last Flight, that the multiplayer was ready to ship right then. It’s now more than a month past that Flight, and as most typical Betas go, even that game build was likely taken from a earlier branch, so the 343i team has had likely 2 months of sprints to work on any bugs or issues that were found in that build.
If they were wanting to do a release like Apex Legends, this would be the time to do it. It would be a big kick in the nuts to the place I work (Electronic Arts), as Battlefield 2042 just went into Early Access on the 12th, and the full release is on Nov 19th. Microsoft has been a good partner to EA though, but maybe things like this were discussed at a very high level with people way above my pay grade.
11.13.21 EDIT: Pringles today was found to have a Countdown clock, counting down to Nov 15th. Though it was counting down to midnight in whatever timezone your computer was set to, it’s still a little bit more evidence of things being a possibility…