Halo Infinite: A Timeline of the Game’s Troubled Development

How did Halo Infinite go from Xbox Series X launch game to a game we hope to play in 2021? We look at the history of its troubled development for answers.

Halo Infinite
Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft recently confirmed that Halo Infinite is now scheduled to be released sometime during the fall of 2021. The revelation that the game will be released a year after its recently delayed debut has prompted some fans to ask the question, “How did we get to this point?”

The answer to that question involves requires us to go all the way back to 2015 when Halo Infinite was little more than an idea. What began as the seemingly inevitable development of Halo 6 morphed into one of the deepest dives into development hell that we’ve seen in recent memory.

The timeline of Halo Infinite‘s troubled development isn’t always pretty, but it’s a necessary tool for anyone who wants to understand how Halo Infinite went from a game on the back of the Xbox Series X packaging to a title that may or may not even be released next year.

September 2015 – “Serious, Real Planning” Begins on Halo 6

Weeks before the release of Halo 5, Microsoft surprised many by confirming that initial work had already begun on the next Halo game. 

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While Microsoft’s Frank O’Connor stopped short of naming that game in an interview with GamesRadar, he did mention that most people felt that the “Reclaimer Trilogy” which was supposed to play out across Halo 4, 5, and 6 had grown into more of a saga. 

Looking back, it’s pretty clear that this was the first official sign that “Halo 6” was going to be something different. As Halo 5 hadn’t even been released at the time of this interview, though, there was little speculation at that time regarding the full meaning of this interview.

October 27, 2015 – Halo 5 is Released to a Mixed Reception 

The story of Halo Infinite’s troubled development has to include the somewhat mixed reception of Halo 5

While Halo 5 received a fair bit of praise for its multiplayer features and certain gameplay innovations, more and more people wondered whether Halo had lost its identity as part of 343 Industries’ apparent attempt to incorporate more modern trends. There were real concerns regarding what a Halo game was anymore and whether 343 had done enough to truly leave their own mark on the series. 

Those concerns would seemingly form the basis of much of what came next. 

2015 – 343 Expands Development of a New “Slipspace” Engine

Around the time of Halo 5’s launch (the exact date is unofficial) 343 Industries ramped up the development of a new graphic engine called Slipspace.

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While it seems that Slipspace retains a few key elements of Halo’s old Blam! engine, 343 Industries made it clear that they intend for this engine to fuel the future of the Halo franchise.

Given the reactions to Halo 5, many fans felt that the development of this engine was not just a way to help ensure the Halo franchise remained technologically impressive in the future but to help 343 leave behind another remnant of the past and make Halo something closer to their own. 

February 2017 – 343 Industries Talks About Halo 6’s Splitscreen and Co-Op Options

After spending most of 2016 focusing on Halo 5, 343 finally broke their silence on the next Halo game by confirming that the project would incorporate split-screen play and emphasize co-op. 

The announcement, which came during a D.I.C.E presentation, ultimately didn’t amount to much, but the fact that one of the first official pieces of information we heard about the next Halo game was a commitment to split-screen play inspired some fans to believe that the next Halo game would emphasize the franchise’s classic “staple’ concepts.

April 2017 – Microsoft Promises to Focus More on Master Chief

In what would prove to be an interesting interview with GamesTM magazine, Frank O’Connor acknowledged that fans were disappointed by Halo 5’s lack of Master Chief storylines and the ways that the game focused on other characters

In the short term, this interview served as a soft promise that the next Halo game would feature Master Chief in a starring role. More importantly, it furthered the idea that the next Halo game would both return to the series’ roots and help 343 Industries reshape the series a bit in order to better make it their own. 

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Combined, those ideas kicked off a series of rumors which strongly suggested that the next Halo game would be a kind of reboot. 

June 2017 – 343 Industries Warns Fans of a Long Halo 6 Development Cycle

The first indication that the wait for the next Halo game could be longer than usual came in a 2017 blog post from developer 343 Industries. 

Ultimately, the post just noted that the company had no immediate plans to showcase the next Halo game and that it would likely be quite some time before they were ready to show off the project. While not an odd announcement in and of itself, some fans noted that there was previously only a three-year gap between the release of Halo 4 and Halo 5 and that this announcement came two years after the release of the last Halo game.

For the most part, though, expectations remained high.

June 10, 2018 – 343 and Microsoft Reveal Halo Infinite

One of Halo Infinite’s biggest moments came during Microsoft’s 2018 E3 conference when the game’s debut trailer was revealed to an enthusiastic audience. 

The trailer was a true teaser that largely consisted of sweeping environmental shots, musical stings, and a brief look of what appeared to be Master Chief. Aside from publicly revealing the name of the next Halo project, the biggest thing to come from this trailer was increased speculation that the next Halo game would effectively serve as a throwback to previous Halo titles. 

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What’s maybe more important to note is that 343 and Microsoft remained quiet about many of the specifics of the project at this time despite growing speculation and even a few emerging concerns.

June 10, 2018 – 343 Industries Promises to Listen to Fan Feedback When Developing Halo Infinite

In a blog post published shortly after the reveal of Halo Infinite, 343 Industries promised to listen to fan feedback throughout the development of the game. 

There are two notable things about this blog post. The first was that it emphasized the idea that fans would be able to participate in playable tests of Halo Infinite similar to the Insider program used to test Halo: The Master Chief Collection. To our knowledge, those tests not only never happened but the development of Halo Infinite has often been defined by a distinct lack of updates from its creators. 

The other notable thing about that blog post? It was written by Chris Lee. You’re going to want to remember that name for later. 

July 19, 2018 – 343 Denies Battle Royale Rumors

Shortly after Halo Infinite’s debut, fans started to speculate that Halo Infinite either was a battle royale game or featured a battle royale mode.

This rumor was driven by the game’s mysterious name, the growth of battle royale titles at that time, and the fact that 343 remained silent about the finer points of the project’s gameplay ambitions. 

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343 shot down these rumors by saying that “the only BR we’re really interested in is Battle Rifle.” Still, the battle royale rumors became symbolic of both fan fears for the future of the franchise and 343’s lack of communication. 

December 19, 2018 – 343 Says Fans Happy With Halo Reach’s Customization Will Likely Enjoy Halo Infinite‘s Systems

During a stream on Mixer (R.I.P.) the 343 team revealed a few new tidbits about Halo Infinite, including the revelation that the game’s armor customization system was inspired by Halo Reach. They suggested that those who love expanded customization options would enjoy what they were working on. 

The general reaction to that news seemed to be largely positive. This is another point you’ll want to keep in mind for a little later.

June 9, 2019 – A New Halo Infinite Trailer Debuts at E3

Our next proper look at Halo Infinite came during E3 2019 when 343 and Microsoft revealed arguably the game’s most famous trailer and confirmed that Halo Infinite would be a launch game for the company’s next-gen console.

The beauty of this trailer was its simplicity. It stylishly emphasized the idea of Halo harkening back to its roots while establishing the foundation of the project’s new storyline. 

It was a wonderful moment that generated quite a bit of unfiltered excitement for the game, but that hype would soon be spoiled by some emerging practicalities. 

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June 9, 2019 – 343 Confirms Halo Infinite is a Spiritual Reboot

A year after Halo Infinite’s debut, 343 Industries finally confirmed that the game was viewed internally as a spiritual reboot. 

Not only was it odd that it took so long for 343 to address a rumor as old as the game itself, but they did it in a way that left an unusual amount of room for speculation regarding the game’s timeline, purpose, and gameplay inspirations. Over a year after this revelation, we still find ourselves asking many of these questions. 

August 16, 2019 – Halo Infinite Creative Director Tim Longo Leaves 343 Industries 

While Halo Infinite had long been burdened by unanswered questions regarding the game’s development process, the first major public roadblock happened when Halo Infinite creative director Tim Longo decided to leave 343 Industries.

The news came as quite the shock given Longo’s work on the project up until this point and his history with the company, but the impact of the announcement was mitigated somewhat by Microsoft’s assurances that Halo Infinite’s development was otherwise proceeding as planned. In fact, Microsoft said that producer Mary Olson had already taken over as the game’s head of the game’s campaign team. 

October 14, 2019 – Mary Olson Leaves 343 Industries

Less than two months after being named as one of the key pieces of Halo Infinite’s development team, it was revealed that Mary Olson had left 343 Industries. 

Microsoft and the 343 team once again tried to employ some damage in the form of optimistic PR statements, but their strategy was significantly less effective this time around given the timeline of this departure in relation to Longo’s already stunning decision to leave the studio. Suddenly, many more fans were much more worried about what was happening behind the scenes.

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July 23, 2020 – Halo Infinite Gameplay Trailer Falls Flat

Two years after its reveal, 343 Industries finally showcased Halo Infinite’s gameplay. What followed was a resounding “meh.”

Actually, that might be a generous summary of the reaction to Halo Infinite’s gameplay. Not only did the game look rough from a technological standpoint, but most people walked away from the gameplay reveal without a strong idea of what kind of game Halo Infinite actually is. 

Ultimately, Halo Infinite’s gameplay reveal was a failure that left many fans wondering how this game was supposed to be released in just four months. 

July 30, 2020 – 343 Tries to Address Fan Concerns in a Blog Post

Not long after Halo Infinite’s gameplay debut, 343 shared a blog post that tried to explain the shape of the early gameplay footage and get ahead of concerns regarding the title’s shortcomings. 

This was really one of the first times we heard 343 Industries prominently address concerns regarding the game’s development. Most of the previous messages we heard from Microsoft and 343 before prior to this point tried to maintain a more noticeable “everything is fine” tone that barely acknowledged reasonable concerns.  

August 11, 2020 – Halo Infinite is Delayed 

Arguably the biggest moment in Halo Infinite’s troubled development occurred when Microsoft and 343 shocked the world by revealing that Halo Infinite would not be released in 2020

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The shock of that announcement lingers to this day. What was supposed to be the Xbox Series X’ premiere launch game instead became yet another 2020 game delayed due to development problems. 

Yet, there are many who felt that the complications caused by developing a game during the COVID-19 pandemic may have had less to do with this delay than the rough shape of the project itself. Those rumors were about to become significantly more popular. 

August 13, 2020 – Reports Suggest Halo Infinite Was Almost Split into Multiple Parts

Shortly after Halo Infinite’s delay, Phil Spencer confirmed that there were discussions at one point regarding whether or not it was better to release Halo Infinite in multiple parts rather than delay it entirely. 

This was an interesting moment as it not only highlighted the extent of the game’s development problems but the idea that prominent members of the Xbox team were in some way dissatisfied with the game’s progress and wanted to step in to remedy the situation. 

August 19, 2020 – A New Report Highlights Halo Infinite’s Internal Development Struggles

After years of speculation regarding Halo Infinite’s development struggles, a report from Thurrott seemed to shed some light on just how rough the road to this point had been. 

The report suggested that a combination of outsourcing, creative turnover, and the struggles of developing a new engine had significantly hindered Halo Infinite’s development and cast serious doubt on the future of the project. 

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This report didn’t contain many revelations that fans hadn’t already assumed were true but it did capture the scope of the game’s development problems and how they may have impacted the project right from the start. 

October 22, 2020 – 343 Update on Halo Infinite’s Armor System Worries Fans

A rare official update regarding Halo Infinite’s development progress doubled as a worrying signal that the game will utilize a Destiny-style shader system that could lean heavily on microtransactions. 

While worrying in and of itself, this update feels especially relevant when coupled with the previous suggestion that fans would love Halo Infinite’s armor and customization system. The optimism that accompanied that suggestion felt like something from a lifetime ago. 

October 28, 2020 – 343 Industries Director Chris Lee Leaves the Project

Just when we all thought that Halo Infinite’s no good, very bad year couldn’t get worse, it was revealed that Chris Lee had decided to move away from Halo Infinite and take on other responsibilities within Microsoft. 

Lee was one of the few remaining high-profile creative presences on the Halo Infinite team as well as the guy who penned that early blog post that suggested Halo Infinite’s development would be driven by the input of its fans. That’s one of the many reasons we felt his departure raised Halo Infinite’s biggest red flag yet

November 30, 2020 – 343 Shoots Down New Battle Royale Rumors in Apology to Fans

While 343 Industries Community Director Brian Jarrard taking to Twitter to downplay the latest rumors regarding the project’s supposed battle royale mode wasn’t necessarily a big story in and of itself, it is interesting that he took that moment to apologize to fans for what a rough year it’s been. 

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The biggest overall complaint regarding Halo Infinite’s development cycle has been the lack of updates from 343 that have forced those to jump to their own conclusions. Jarrard called for patience and understanding at a time when it felt like trust in 343 was at an all-time low. He acknowledged that a lack of updates had fuelled potentially harmful speculation but seemed to suggest that the team still wasn’t ready to share any significant new information about the game.

December 9, 2020 – Halo Infinite Officially Delayed to Fall 2021

With the announcement that Halo Infinite has been delayed until sometime late in 2021, Microsoft has seemingly ended the year in significant Halo Infinite updates on an appropriately despondent note. 

Halo Infinite is not necessarily doomed to fail, but the idea that the game has been delayed a year or more after it was supposed to be the flagship title for Microsoft’s new console highlights the impact of the events that led us to this point and leaves us with serious questions regarding what the best-case scenario for Halo Infinite even is at this point.