Halo developer 343 Industries says Master Chief and Cortana remain under its roof, but reports of deep cuts to Halo’s development staff call into question the studio’s ability to sustainably develop future Halo content.
This saga began last week when we learned of it The Halo studio was affected by Microsoft plans to lay off 10,000 people. Since the news broke, speculation has run rampant about Microsoft’s plans for its flagship franchise, including rumours that Microsoft could hand over Halo development to another studio entirely, leaving 343 Industries in more of a producer role. Those rumors prompted 343 Industries to speak out over the weekend to put the rumblings to rest.
343 Industries’ study manager Pierre Hintze shared a message on Halo’s official Twitter accountand writes: “Halo and Master Chief are here to stay. 343 Industries will continue to develop Halo now and into the future, including epic stories, multiplayer and more of what makes Halo great.”
– Bye Bye) 21 January 2023
But for a studio that has struggled to meet Halo infinite publication dates repeatedly, can the recently downsized 343 continue to handle the development of a big-budget, AAA first-person shooter franchise? It is hard to say.
IGN reached out to Xbox representatives but did not receive a comment prior to publication.
IGN has learned that significant cuts have been made to 343’s Halo development team. A former 343 employee affected by the layoffs estimated that about a quarter of 343’s employees were affected, though that’s not a firm statistic. We’ve also learned that about 30 people were let go from 343’s art department alone, with former employees saying 343 Industries was hit “hard with positions impacted across all disciplines.”
Meanwhile, at least one senior-level source with knowledge of 343’s inner workings, but who is no longer with the studio, has claimed to IGN that it has been reduced to publishing team. But based on conversations IGN has had with knowledgeable sources, the situation at 343 appears to be ongoing, and there’s a growing — if unconfirmed — belief that 343 will no longer be Halo’s sole developer once it’s settled.
Looking at LinkedIn profiles of other laid-off employees reveals hits for people working on Halo Infinite’s engine, presentation, VFX, gameplay, game design and more substantial departments. It’s clear that 343 is a significantly different studio compared to just seven days ago. Additionally, 343 Industries was already dealing with the growing pains of launching a live service game, with a whirlwind of ups and downs over the past year since Halo Infinite’s initial release.
Despite a strong launch in late 2021 that included praise for both Infinite’s new take on a Halo campaign and the franchise the first free multiplayer ever, the cracks quickly began to show. Fans immediately pushed back against Infinite’s controversial multiplayer progression systemas 343 set out to fix the shop and battle pass.
Halo games in chronological order
But the problems didn’t stop there, either canceling split-screen co-op, long delays to Forge Modeand prolonged periods of drought during Halo Infinite’s first seasons. Just five months after what appeared to be the start of Halo’s big comeback, society was out of patience.
343 quickly experienced a creative exodus after launch, with 343 founder Bonnie Ross, multiplayer creative director Tom Frenchand lead narrative designer Aaron Linde all will leave the company in 2022.
Patrick Wren, a former senior multiplayer designer now working on Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, was cautious in his assessment of 343’s leadership in a post on Twitter.
“The layoffs at 343 shouldn’t have happened and Halo Infinite should be in a better state. The reason for both of these things is incompetent leadership at the top during Halo Infinite development, causing massive stress on those working hard to make Halo the best it can be,” Wren wrote.
The layoffs at 343 shouldn’t have happened and Halo Infinite should be in a better state. The reason for both of these things is incompetent leadership at the top during Halo Infinite development, causing massive stress on those working hard to make Halo the best it can be.
— Patrick Wren (@Witdarkstar) 19 January 2023
Along with these departures, 343 faces another creative void at the top with the Halo Infinite director Joseph Staten is leaving 343 to rejoin Xbox publishing. The return of the States to Halo was always designed to be one temporary arrangementbut his departure still raises concerns among the Halo faithful.
Whatever happens with Halo in the future, it’s clear that the initial 10-year plan for Halo Infinite isn’t working out exactly as Microsoft had hoped. For now, Halo Infinite Season 3: Echoes Within is still set to launch in early March, adding new maps, modes and weapons to the game.
Additional reporting by Kat Bailey.
Logan Plant is a freelance writer for IGN covering video game and entertainment news. He has over six years of experience in the gaming industry with bylines at IGN, Nintendo Wire, Switch Player Magazine and Lifewire. Find him on Twitter @LoganJPlant.