Halo as a Service

At E3 2018, Microsoft and 343 Industries teased a brand new Halo experience dubbed “Halo Infinite.” A brief video was shown of UNSC marines exploring a Halo ring and concluded with Master Chief walking into view. Later on, Microsoft representatives stated that the game would put Chief front and center again, serving as a return to the series roots. These announcements came as great news to many Halo fans who found themselves disappointed with Halo 5: Guardians after it strayed from the core Halo experience. That relief quickly transformed into worry, however, once it was discovered that the game will be following a monetized live-service model.

The discovery was made via a job listing that appeared on Microsoft’s website shortly after the game was announced. The position calls for an “Online Experience Design Director,” whose duties would include tasks such as business plan integration and creating a player investment experience that would encourage players to engage with microtransactions among other things. Microtransactions are nothing new for the Halo series, but increased focus on an element that was, at best, tolerated by fans is understandably concerning. Little is currently known about the game to be sure, but just taking it in this direction will have major repercussions for the series. These could possibly be positive, but the gaming industry’s track record with microtransactions doesn’t inspire much confidence.

Halo Infinite’s live service nature could be good for the series if it follows the example set by Capcom’s Monster Hunter World. Microtransactions are present in the game, but they’re largely unobtrusive. More importantly, Capcom uses the live service components of Monster Hunter World as tool to content to enjoy rather than as a means to fleece them out of more money. Imagine a Halo supported with new maps, game modes and even story beats added free of charge every month. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

Halo Infinite Rings
On the other hand, there’s every possibility that this won’t be the case. Microsoft could instead choose to look at the money they’ve made off of Halo 5’s REQ Packs and design a game with an even greater focus on microtransactions. This surely means cosmetic purchases, but they could go farther. They would *need* to go farther; just like in Halo 5. A 343 representative already stated that players won’t have to pay real money for lootboxes, so the current version of REQ packs won’t be an option, assuming 343 keeps its word of course.

If players won’t be buying loot boxes, then 343 will have to offer a la carte products in their place. Weapons, weapon skins, armor pieces and skins, load-out slots, character buffs, exp boosts, vehicle and weapon spawns; all of these wouldn’t be too surprising to see in a live service version of Halo. It wouldn’t even be too much of a stretch to see a shared world structure complete with daily tasks, gear to collect and some sort of hub location to launch activities from. Halo has never followed such a format before, but it would be much more microtransaction-friendly; up-selling players is easier when they’re playing for reasons beyond simply enjoying the story or ranking up in multiplayer, as they have with almost all the previous games in the series.

Once again, there’s still no concrete information about Halo Infinite available at the moment; it could very well be that 343 Industries intends to follow the example of Rainbow Six: Siege or Monster Hunter World and offer fans a game aided by its live service element rather than hampered by it. If that’s the case, then they’ll likely have no problem convincing fans to spend a little extra and “express their passion” for the franchise. Otherwise, Halo Infinite might just be too much of a departure for long-time fans to stomach.