A recent leak on the Microsoft Store seemingly revealed that Halo Infinite‘s release date is officially set for December 8th. That leak has since been verified by multiple outlets citing their own sources who have independently confirmed that information.
On the one hand, this release date feels like a sigh of relief. Halo Infinite was supposed to be the Xbox Series X/S biggest launch game (it was even prominently featured on the Xbox Series X’s retail packaging), but when developer 343 Industries announced in August of last year that they decided to delay the game to 2021 due to “development challenges” that included the “ongoing COVID-related impacts,” they created a void in the Xbox library that was entirely understandable given the circumstances but heartbreaking to many nonetheless.
On the other hand, given what we know about the state of the industry at the moment and the history of Halo Infinite‘s development, it’s really hard to trust that Halo Infinite will actually launch on December 8th or will be anywhere close to the final version of the game at that time if it does.
First off, it should be very clear at this time that 2021 is not going according to plan for most major game development studios. While some of those challenges have been accelerated by unique outside factors (most notably, the lawsuit that has rocked Activision Blizzard), the fact of the matter is that most of the video game industry is still battling the incredible challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic even as some parts of the world look to slowly get back to whatever “normal” might look like in the post-pandemic environment.
While it’s difficult to say how many games have been delayed specifically due to the challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic (unless a developer specifically says that is the case), it’s easy to imagine that games like Horizon Forbidden West, WWE 2K22, and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction would have been released in 2021 were it not for these unbelievable circumstances. That’s to say nothing of games that were delayed from 2020 to 2021 or titles like Cyberpunk 2077 that were almost certainly impacted by the sudden change in working conditions.
The point is that it’s currently even more difficult than ever before to finish a Triple-A game in a reasonable time frame and ensure that it is released in the best condition possible. It’s quite amazing to see so many people act surprised when they hear that another game has been delayed. At this point, you should probably expect every major upcoming game to be delayed right up until you’re actually playing it. That’s especially true of any title with a late 2021 release date. After all, December has long been a kind of code word for “this game could be delayed until next year,” and that’s especially true now.
That of course brings us back to Halo Infinite. As a Triple-A game with a December release date being finished in the midst of pandemic working conditions, Halo Infinite would already be a candidate for a likely delay even if the game’s development had gone smoothly up until this point.
Of course, Halo Infinite‘s development hasn’t gone smoothly up until this point. We’ve talked about this more extensively in the past, but the short version of a long story is that Halo Infinite‘s development has, by most accounts, been a years-long nightmare thus far. From staffing changes and reported creative differences to technical issues and bad first impressions, there have been very few positive stories about Halo Infinite‘s development over the last few years. Honestly, the recent success of the game’s competitive multiplayer beta may be the closest that the game has come to a significant PR win in quite some time.
I really hope you also enjoyed Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer beta, because at the moment, it’s looking like the game’s free-to-play multiplayer might be the only thing that has a shot of being released this year in anything resembling a completed form. We already knew that Halo Infinite‘s Forge mode won’t launch alongside the game, and while there’s a chance that some of the game’s still mysterious campaign may be released this year, we also now know that Halo Infinite‘s co-op campaign options won’t be available until a later date.
In the best of times, a late release date is an indication that a studio needs as much time as possible to finish their project in an effort to avoid the dreaded “next year” delay. While developers deserve as much time as they can get to finish their games in a way that doesn’t force employees to endure the horrors of crunch, the fact of the matter is that Halo Infinite‘s red flags were clouding our ability to see this game’s future long before Microsoft came out with this “just in time” 2021 release date that makes the game’s future foggier than ever.
Maybe that’s the big takeaway here. There is a very good chance that Halo Infinite could still be delayed until 2022, but there is an equally good chance that the game will “launch” in a state that allows us to enjoy some pieces of content related to Halo Infinite while still waiting until 2022 to play something close to what we once imagined we would be playing when Halo Infinite was finally released.
Halo Infinite‘s release date could be telling us a lot about the current state of the game and its future. The question now is, “How much do we trust that’s going to be the game’s ‘real’ release date?”