Halo Infinite and Churn
I read this tweet from Gene Park and it really got at something that was bothering me.
“There were memes about how halo was saving the fps genre [first person shooter] where battlefield and cod dropped the ball. Way too presumptuous yes but halo infinite did and still does feel good. There is just nothing to do in it after all these months.”
I find that part I bolded really interesting. It says a whole lot about where gaming is in 2022. Gene clearly enjoys playing Halo Infinite. He’s tweeted about it a ton because it’s a fun game to play. The core fundamentals are all there. It manages to feel like the old Halo games (which feel ancient in an endearing way) while still feeling innovative and modern. I didn’t think it would be possible and yet look! They did it!
This last year I’ve had so much fun playing Halo again with my friends and family. It’s one of those series that anyone can enjoy. Every male person in my life under 35 likes Halo and it’s amazing to have something that all of us can play and enjoy together. And it’s free! Halo Infinite is amazing!
Yet, if you go on Twitter (which you never should) or Reddit (which you never should) or YouTube (which you maybe should) Infinite is considered an unmitigated disaster. If you don’t play a lot of video games, you might be confused as to why.
Fundamentally, the issue people have is what I bolded above. “There is just nothing to do in it after all these months.” This statement isn’t technically true. There’s plenty to do. What he means instead is two things: 1) There’s nothing new to do and 2) there’s not enough incentive for players to stick around.
These are two different things so let’s look at them one by one.
1) There’s nothing new to do
This is straightforward. Halo Infinite’s development timeline is incredibly slow, especially compared to it’s contemporaries. Its second season is slated to last 10 months. The average Fortnite season is 10–12 weeks. Infinite’s developer 343 Games have said that this glacial pace is due to not wanting to overwork their employees, something Fornite dev Epic Games have no qualms over.
343 have been slow their entire lifespan, so this isn’t new. Halo’s Master Chief Collection is still a buggy mess 8 years later. I don’t see this changing in the future. Halo Infinite will never be Fortnite. They will always release new content slower than their competitors. As someone who plays a lot of different games, I appreciate this about Infinite. It lets me dip in and out without making it a second job (looking at you Destiny 2).
2) There’s not enough incentive for players to stick around
Speaking of making Halo Infinite a second job…
This to me is the more interesting reason why Halo Infinite is considered a failure. The truth is there’s a good number of people who did plan on making Halo Infinite their second job. Those people were Twitch streamers and Youtubers. Folks who bet big that the hot new Xbox exclusive would be their chance to quit their day job and pursue being an influencer full time. They might have looked at how Fortnite’s explosive growth and constant churning of new content propelled a new generation of players to nerd celebrity status. That sounds great right?
But it’s hard running a YouTube channel or a Twitch stream when there’s nothing new to talk about. After a year of glacially slow updates, the thing that unites most Halo content creators is frustration. Infinite is a great game to play for 50–100 hours. Not so much when you’re trying to play it full time.
Gamers love a dog pile so when they see a fanbase’s top creators lashing out in frustration, well…
These criticisms are all fair by the way, but here’s my issue with all this.
Why should I care what influencers think? I don’t play this game for a living. My play experience literally couldn’t be more different. This goes for games media too. Folks like Gene make their living playing video games. Most of us don’t. Why are we letting them lead the conversation?
At some point in the last couple decades we decided that every impulse should be monetized and turned into a content conveyor belt. Enjoy playing video games? Why not become a Twitch streamer? Like making videos? Why not become a Youtuber? You’re unhappy at your job right? We all are. Why not make your hobby your livelihood?
Well bro maybe I just like playing Halo Infinite sometimes. I don’t need the devs at 343 to cast aside their loved ones just so I can fork over $20 for a new battle pass so I can then dutifully cast aside my loved ones to complete it every month. I have a life outside of video games. Most of us do.
I appreciate Halo Infinite for what it is. A really solid game that lets me put it down. I wish more folks felt the way I do.