Is Microsoft Making a Major Mistake?

This year has been plagued by delays in the gaming world. It seems like more and more developers are pushing back their games so they can have time to polish things up a bit more, especially with the debuts of the new gaming systems still being several months away. What's surprising, though, is the news that Halo Infinite isn't going to be ready until 2021 which means it will not accompany the launch of the Xbox Series X. While this might be a small story if the game was delayed later on in the lifespan of the console, many are wondering if Microsoft is making a huge mistake launching its system without a Halo game.

A Missing Piece

halo-infinite-3 Halo Infinite | Credit:

One of the biggest criticisms levied against Microsoft over the course of the last console generation has been the overall lack of must-play exclusive games. While Microsoft has managed to put out some fantastic exclusives like the Forza series and Gears of War, the truth is that the company hasn't been able to keep pace with its competition when it comes to genre-defining hits. There's certainly a feeling among many in the gaming community that the biggest thing holding back the Xbox isn't its technology, but rather the games that are played on the system.

Halo has traditionally been the closest thing that Microsoft has had to a flagship franchise. As hard as the company has tried to push games like Gears of War, Fable, or Forza, it's still Master Chief that takes precedence as the face of the system. Failing to have a Halo game ready to go at launch feels a little bit like Nintendo not having something from the Mario or Zelda series at launch - a sign that something isn't quite right with the system and that the priorities of the developers are not quite aligned with those of the audience.

In truth, the loss of Halo is a big deal on paper. Sony came out of the gate touting a number of exciting new games for the Playstation 5, while Microsoft's offerings have largely been more of the same. That's not to say that Microsoft has been short on showing exciting games, but nothing has taken the marquee spot for the console quite like Halo Infinite. Failing to deliver this game on launch makes for a very notable hole in the launch lineup for the console, especially considering that some of its other big exclusives may still be quite some time off.

Getting it Right

Halo-Infinite-4 Halo Infinite | Credit:

Of course, there are few who would say that it's a good thing for Microsoft to launch a marquee game in an unfinished state. Though most are a little more forgiving towards those titles released right around the launch of a console, it's important to remember that it's hard for consumers to shake the first impression. If Halo: Infinite came out in a rushed or unfinished state, it would certainly be hard for Microsoft to make a case that they have a better gaming experience for the next generation of video game hardware.

There's also the fact that the Halo franchise isn't in quite the place it was during Bungie's tenure. Though Halo is still an incredibly popular series, it has lost a lot of its luster in recent years. Halo 4 was a commercial success but a critical failure and Halo 5 didn't generate quite the kind of buzz one would hope for from a title in the series. If Halo: Infinite fails to impress, it very well could sound a death knell for one of Microsoft's best-known franchises and leave the software giant playing catchup against a pair of opponents who have managed to generate quite a bit of beloved IP.

New Priorities

Halo-Infinite-5 Halo Infinite | Credit:

It's also worth noting that Microsoft itself seems fairly unbothered by the idea of releasing a console without a Halo game. It's not just that the series has been on a downturn or that Microsoft feels confident that it has other series that can pick up some of the slack now, but rather that Microsoft has been very public about their feelings insofar as what constitutes success in the modern gaming atmosphere.

This isn't to say that Microsoft doesn't care about console sales numbers - it does - but one should remember that most companies take a loss on the early iterations of their consoles. Microsoft personnel have rather loudly exclaimed that the big money they're looking for in the future has little to do with the new software and quite a bit more to do with the growing and successful adoption of their Game Pass service.

Remember, Halo Infinite isn't necessarily going to be a title that every player is going to pick up off the shelf. Instead, it's almost certainly going to be present with many other first-party Microsoft titles on GamePass. It doesn't necessarily matter when the game releases so long as Microsoft is able to keep players paying for their subscriptions to the service.

It's also worth remembering that Microsoft doesn't seem to be shooting for an early victory this time around. They've been clear about the fact that players shouldn't expect any games that are exclusive to this console generation for at least another year, so there's plenty of time to position Halo Infinite as whatever they'd like it to be. If Microsoft is willing and able to be patient for the game's release, it only seems logical that fans should be able to do the same.

A Calculated Strategy

In all honesty, it seems a little silly to say that Microsoft is making a mistake not rushing out a game before it is ready. While it certainly isn't ideal, it isn't likely to impact Microsoft's plans for the future. Though the console war will certainly heat up once the new consoles have finally be released, Microsoft is clearly trying to pursue a strategy now that's got less to do with individual games and more to do with the overall experience of Xbox console owners. While the strategy might be risky, it doesn't seem like Halo's release date will have much impact on how it plays out.