Since the launch of the original Xbox console back in the early 2000s, Halo has been the brand’s killer app. The first Halo game revolutionised first-person shooters, combining the arcade-like sensibilities of early FPS games with the military focus and emphasis on realism which would come to dominate the latter half of the decade. Throughout each Xbox console’s lifespan, Halo has been present, and although the original Xbox is the only Microsoft console to actually launch with a fully-fledged Halo game, the two brands are now inextricably linked with one another.
When Halo Infinite was originally announced, it was going to be a launch title for the new Xbox Series X console. Launching with a Halo game makes a lot of sense; despite a fair few high-profile acquisitions in recent years, Microsoft has always struggled on the exclusives front, and that’s all the more true now that every major Xbox Game Studios title for the Xbox console range will launch simultaneously on PC. That’s why leading with one of Xbox’s most recognisable names was a sensible proposition, but unfortunately, it was not to be; Halo Infinite has officially been delayed until 2021, even though the Xbox Series X is targeting a November launch.
Before we attempt to understand whether it would be possible for the Xbox Series X to survive without Halo, we need to know why the game has been delayed. The official word is that the coronavirus pandemic has interrupted development as employees work from home and triple-A games continue to demand increased resources. When the first gameplay trailer launched, there were some murmurs from Halo’s fanbase that the visuals weren’t quite up to the standards they expected. It’s entirely possible that Infinite was being rushed and that Microsoft and 343 Industries scaled back its development in order to make sure the game was of the highest quality possible.
What will Microsoft fill the Halo Infinite void with?
This is the million-dollar question. What exactly can Microsoft do in order to ensure a smooth launch for the Xbox Series X without Halo? The first answer is obvious: try to shore up more exclusives that could fill the Halo void. Other Xbox exclusives (which are also available on PC, but they won’t be appearing on PlayStation 5) include Gears Tactics, Psychonauts 2, and Neon Giant’s The Ascent. While these are all excellent prospects in and of themselves, it’s hard to imagine them truly stepping up to fill Halo Infinite’s colossal shoes.
So if the Xbox Series X can’t rely on launch day exclusives, what else does it have? Microsoft has claimed that the Series X will be the most powerful console ever made when it launches. It’s possible that despite having no exclusives to boast of, Microsoft could simply coast on the idea that its console is the most capable machine on the market. After all, if you want to play games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla or Watch Dogs Legion, Microsoft will be banking on the idea that you want to play them with the highest graphical fidelity and technical prowess possible.
The other ace up Microsoft’s sleeve when it comes to launching the Series X is, of course, backward compatibility. While it’s true that Sony is also offering this feature, the PlayStation 5’s confirmed back-comp is spotty at best. You’ll be able to play most PlayStation 4 games on Sony’s machine at launch, but not all of them, and you certainly won’t be able to physically access PlayStation 3 games or anything earlier than Sony’s current-gen machine. Microsoft, meanwhile, says that everything that’s currently playable on Xbox One will be accessible on Xbox Series X, with more games to come.
Which Xbox consoles have launched with Halo games?
It’s worth noting that Microsoft has only ever launched one Xbox console with a Halo game to accompany it. The original Xbox launched with Halo: Combat Evolved, but the subsequent Xbox 360 and Xbox One didn’t have Halo games available on day one. Granted, those consoles did eventually get Halo releases, but they were able to perform perfectly fine (if a little below expectations) without Master Chief initially gracing their software library. With that in mind, the lack of Halo Infinite won’t necessarily scupper Microsoft’s plans, but there’s a crucial difference: Infinite was announced as a launch game, then delayed, whereas the other Halo games were never intended to be launch titles.
This could mean that many people who wanted to buy Xbox Series X consoles at launch will be rethinking their decision if they were buying specifically for Halo. However, it’s worth remembering that Microsoft also has plenty of other incentives on offer for potential Xbox Series X buyers. Xbox Game Pass will grant access to lots of games on launch for a flat subscription fee, and there’s also your full Xbox One and backward-compatible library to enjoy, too. We’re betting that the Xbox Series X will launch with plenty of exciting, enticing games to play, but the fact that Halo Infinite won’t be among them is sure to be a disappointment for fans of the big green fella and his ongoing space opera adventures.