The industry has shifted. Games are no longer self-contained slices of interactive media, but have grown into sprawling, never-ending online games with tons of spending opportunities. Microsoft is such a big proponent of this live service model that they've formed their entire Xbox gaming business around it. Hardware, subscriptions, retail games--everything Xbox does serves the almighty engagement dollar.
So what does this mean for big marquee games like Halo: Infinite? Live service hooks, of course. Microtransactions, multiplayer progression grinds, community-driven updates, and Game Pass subscription conduits...all of these are now baked into first-party Xbox games. And since Xbox is a service now, these games are coming to PC too. The sooner gamers, investors, and consumers realize these points, the easier it'll be to understand the shifting marketplace and Microsoft's core focus. Big games like Halo: Infinite will adopt these structures for maximum recurring revenues.
But some games could innovate on this model. Using live services, 343 Industries could do something more interesting with Halo: Infinite's campaign. We could see an infusion of live aspects into the campaign itself to offer more replayability.
Traditionally Halo campaigns are static arcs with concrete endings that you beat a few times, and then move on. Its usually the multiplayer that gets continually updated. But what if Halo: Infinite's campaign got that kind of evolution, too? What if 343i continually added more content and updates to the campaign like new missions, randomized events, or branching paths?
Campaign could become a never-ending experience to match the multiplayer cadence.
They've sort of done this in the past with Halo 4's Spartan Ops, which saw Firefight merging with story-based campaigns. Infinite's theoretical ongoing campaign would be a natural evolution of Spartan Ops with some multiplayer engagement elements thrown in.
The "Infinite" part in the game's name is likely a clue. We predicted something like this in December when a job listing suggested Halo: Infinite could have RPG elements.
Here's what I wrote back then:
"Halo bleeding into RPG territory could indicate a new kind of online-based campaign with PVE content set in an ever-changing and evolving live framework. This is me thinking out loud, obviously, but think of it as a Halo-meets-Destiny type of experience with co-op and online PVP multiplayer mixed in. Players could rank up and get stats for their particular Spartan or soldier and the game could take on a lite MMO feel of sorts."
A recent article on GameSpot suggests Halo: Infinite will have games-as-a-service hooks, but this is entirely obvious. The real question is how these hooks will be used. Will it just be multiplayer? Given the enormous investment that 343i and Microsoft are putting into the game, maybe not.
Not only is 343 Industries making a brand new games engine to power Halo: Infinite, but the team is going back to Halo's roots to ensure they learn from Halo 4's and Halo 5's mistakes. Bonnie Ross says Halo 4 had a great story, but multiplayer was off. Halo 5, she said, had great multiplayer, but the story wasn't quite there.
With Halo: Infinite, Ross and her team wants to do both. And live services can offer a unique avenue to do so.
Make no mistake, though: the inclusion of a live-based campaign won't mean an online-only experience. Halo: Infinite will have to include an offline singleplayer campaign that's traditional to the game's original structure. If anything, Halo: Infinite's theoretical live campaign will be entirely optional.
Here's how it should work: there's a set story arc that you play through like normal, and once beaten, you can connect to the internet and download more chapters or even jump right in via levels hosted on Microsoft's cloud servers, sort of like Destiny.
Based on this tremendous investment of funding, manpower, and embracing of PC platforms, I think 343i wants their game to last as long as possible. And that might mean going beyond multiplayer carnage and providing a platform for more interactive Halo stories.
That's what I think Halo: Infinite really is: a platform. The Slipspace engine is already a launch pad for future Halo projects, and Infinite could be designed in such a way where it's a gateway to Halo's evolution rather than just another sequel.
It could be the Halo Waypoint of Halo games.
343 Industries plans to share new Halo: Infinite info at E3 2019, and Microsoft should have some massive announcements for the showcase.