The Rise, The Fall, and The Redemption of Halo

In 1999, the world was introduced to Bungie game studio’s latest creation: Halo. They didn’t know it then, but they would start a cultural phenomenon that is still popular to this day. However in 2007, Bungie and Microsoft announced they would be parting ways and Microsoft would retain the Halo franchise. In that same year, 343 Industries was established and was tasked with taking on the Halo franchise after Bungie’s contract expired. Under 343 Industries however, Halos’ popularity and reception would begin to spiral down, game after game. It wouldn’t be until September 2018 that we would see a rise in popularity and reception in the Halo series. What caused Halo’s popularity? What caused Halo’s downfall? And what is causing Halo’s return in popularity?

The Rise

Bungie was founded in 1991 by Alexander Seropian and Jason Jones. Between 1991 and 1999, Bungie released nine games including the Myth series, Marathon series, Pathways Into The Darkness, Gnop!, and Operation Desert Storm. While other members worked on different projects, Jason Jones, Shiek Wang, and Marcus Lehto began work on a new game code named “Blam”, which is what we know today as Halo. Halo began development as an RPG (Role Playing Game), then was moved to an RTS (Real Time Strategy), they finally settled on a FPS (First Person Shooter) as they thought the game was more fun that way. This fun factor would determine how Bungie would approach the rest of their games. In 1999, Jason went to Macworld to present the trailer for Halo and announced that it would be available on Mac and PC. However in 2000, in the midst of financial trouble, Bungie was bought by Microsoft to make Halo for the Xbox.

With the release every Halo iteration under Bungie, the series drew more and more fans who enjoyed the fun gameplay and the deep story. According to Fandom.com, Bungie’s Halo trilogy has sold 44.22+ million copies both physical and digital copies of the games. The high sales numbers are likely caused by the fun gameplay loops, map design, and the story. 

Halo jumped in at the perfect time. With games like Doom, Golden Eye, and Half-Life, Halo was the first one with this huge multiplayer that shocked the world,”said sophomore Andre Newton. 

Today, Bungie has left Halo and moved on to their own IP (independent property) called Destiny.  “Ten years ago, [Bungie was] putting out good products, but now they aren’t putting as good of products out as they were,” said senior Lawson Greene. Once they had left Halo, another studio would need to take over.

The Fall

After the announcement that Bungie was leaving Microsoft, Bonnie Ross, who worked at Microsoft, established 343 Industries and would take on the Halo franchise after Bungie left. 343i would then completely change the Halo franchise for the worse, and throw everything fans loved out the window. “They’re adequate,” said junior Liam Forde, describing 343i’s work on the Halo games.

The 343i Halo trilogy according to vgsales.fandom.com, has sold 17.88+ million copies, significantly less number of copies than the Bungie trilogy. While the sales performance of the first generation Xbox One had affected the sales performances of the 343i trilogy, another significant cause was the reputation that 343i has garnered with the Halo series.

Halo 4 received positive reviews from critics and players. However, 343i changed the gameplay loop of Halo 4, adding a “Create A Class” system with perks you could add to your character. The whole game seemed to take a more competitive approach to multiplayer and stray away from the casual fun of the Bungie trilogy.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection or Halo: MCC was possibly one of, if not the biggest disappointment in video game history. Halo: MCC had some big shoes to fill with the announcement at E3 Expo 2014 (gaming/electronic convention). Halo:MCC was a game collection that contained Halo: CE/Anniversary, Halo 2/Anniversary, Halo 3, Halo 3:ODST, and Halo 4 all in one game. Along with all 5 games, Executive Producer, Dan Ayoub announced,”Halo 2 Anniversary will contain the original Halo 2 multiplayer exactly as it shipped ten years ago”. Upon release, Halo: MCC shipped in a broken mess. The menu was buggy, enemies in campaign would bug out of the map and could intrude on cutscenes, multiplayer had long load times and wouldn’t even work. The only thing remotely playable game modes was Campaign and local play.

When Halo 5: Guardians was announced, it accompanied two trailers building up a sense of mystery and suspense. If you were to look for those trailers on the 343i or Xbox Youtube channel, you would find nothing because they took the trailers down after the poor reception of the lackluster story those trailers had nothing to do with. Along with that, there were predatory micro transactions that made the new Warzone gamemode pay to win with special weapons and vehicles. Ultimately the only sales numbers we have for Halo 5: Guardians is the announcement that the game sold five million copies within the first three months. With that information at hand, there is definitely less than five million players right now.  In the custom server browser in Halo 5: Guardians, the amount of custom servers fluctuated between 62 and 89 custom servers which seems like a lot of players, until you factor in that not every server will be full. Regular quick match took around a minute and thirty seconds to load into a match while the Warzone mode took anywhere from three minutes to five. It is possible to run into the same players on Halo 5: Guardians’ multiplayer really idolizing how small these server populations are.

There were many ways to stop this downfall from happening. “One big downfall is when Halo stopped being developed by Bungie,” said Newton . Halo would still be one of the top AAA games if Bungie was still developing it”. Many fans of the Halo series feel the same way and finally accepting that the Halo trilogy will never return to its former glory and reputation.

The Redemption

After the flop of Halo 5: Guardians, 343i strayed away from the main franchise to work on spinoff games like Halo Wars 2. However, there was a bit more going on behind the scenes as beta test forms and job forms started going live with no official announcement. Something big was about to happen.

Halo Infinite was unveiled at E3 2018. The trailer showed off the new, powerful “Slip Space Engine” that 343i had been working on in the background. During the end of the reveal, fans got a glimpse of Master Chiefs’ classic Halo 3 helmet and armour, which built up hype for the unreleased game.

While not much is known about the game besides it coming to the new Xbox and Windows 10, it seems that 343i is starting to listen to the fans and doing what they want.

On August 21, 2018, 343 dropped a major update on Halo: MCC. This major update fixed the games’ major bugs, server issues, enhanced visuals, and upgraded the fps (frames per second) from rough 30  to stable 60. With this major update, fans could finally play what should have been delivered in 2014. Even more good news was still to come.

In the days leading up to the Inside Xbox livestream, a Reddit user posted a prediction saying, “I will buy the first 343 employee that comments on this post pizza if MCC for Pc gets announced during the special announcement this month”. During the the Inside Xbox livestream, Brian Jarrard from 343i came on stage with three boxes of pizza with the confirmation that Halo: MCC and Halo Reach were both coming to Pc. He also added that they would be hosting public test flights for Halo Reach. The aftermath of the announcement resulted in excited fans shipping paid boxes of pizza to 343 Industries in Seattle, Washington.

As fans rejoice that 343i has started to take action and fix their mistake, it begs the question: has 343i redeemed themselves for their mistakes? For the time being, yes, but we still have a ways to go till the launch of Halo Infinite. In that time, all we can hope is that development goes smooth. “I’m looking forward to it definitely. If Halo Infinite flops, I don’t know if they can get back up,” Greene said enthusiastically. Clearly there is a possibility that Halo Infinite could launch wrong. One thing is certain, however: Halo fans are now on the hype train to Halo Infinite.

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