Halo: Infinite could have as many as three monetization paths that all weave together and reflect Microsoft's emphasis on services, engagement, and recurring revenues.
Halo: Infinite isn't just a game. It's a platform that'll span the next 10 years of Halo games. More importantly, it's a gateway to monetization that's explicitly tied to Xbox Game Pass. Infinite has been built from the ground up to monetized engagement in a number of ways.
It's an open-world FPS with RPG elements that're designed to keep you playing for a long time. It also has replayable multiplayer. Both have been built to incentivize continued Game Pass subscriptions, but just in case you don't buy Game Pass, 343i and Microsoft have lots of other opportunities to monetize you.
In this article, I'll late out my predictions on Halo: Infinite's monetization structure. I could be wrong about it, but my guesses are based on current industry trends for live games/GaaS titles. With Infinite, Microsoft apparently wants to innovate GaaS in a new way.
First and foremost, let's talk about what Halo: Infinite is.
In short, 343i is trying to simultaneously merge and separate campaign and multiplayer using live services. The idea is to have two separate monetizable live elements running at the same time, both of which are joined in key ways.
Halo: Infinite's campaign is now an online-driven, live platform that can (and will) evolve over time. It's more like Destiny than Halo 5: Guardians. But it's not locked to online play--expect to be able to play Infinite's campaign offline, too.
Halo: Infinite's multiplayer is now free-to-play and more accessible than ever, so we might expect monetization paths similar to Apex Legends, Fortnite, and Warzone.
In a very real sense, Halo: Infinite's forked hard separation of campaign and multiplayer is similar to Warzone and Modern Warfare. Monetization should likewise be separated. There should be some carry-over, though, namely with comsetics.
What separates Infinite from its competitors is its multiple access points. You can download Infinite's multiplayer for free on Steam, Windows Store, or Xbox Live. You can access the multiplayer through Game Pass, too. And finally, MP is of course included with the $59.99 retail purchase of the game.
Campaign has two access avenues: The first is through the $10 a month Game Pass subscription, and the second is a full game purchase.
These access points determine how their respective parts could be monetized.
Campaign - Expansion Passes
Halo: Infinite's campaign is unlike any other in the series. It's kind of like RAGE 2, with a huge open world to explore and has the telltale features of an engagement-driven game. There's heavy emphasis on replayability, a reactive open world with lots of exploration, story beats interwoven into gameplay, respawning enemies, and an RPG system complete with upgrades, progression, and missions.
To put it simply, Halo: Infinite's campaign is a live sandbox playground. It's a lot like Spartan Ops mixed with Firefight. It's something you can keep playing over and over, an environment that feels like a live game because it keeps serving up enemies and stuff to do.
"Halo Infinite is the start of our platform for the future," 343i's studio boss Chris Lee told IGN.
"We want Infinite to grow over time, versus going to those numbered titles and having all that segmentation that we had before. It's really about creating Halo Infinite as the start of the next ten years for Halo and then building that as we go with our fans and community."
The motivations for this are clear. 343i is setting Halo: Infinite up to have two simultaneous live platforms running at once. There's campaign, which has four-player online co-op set in a massive world, and multiplayer, which is more closed-off and frenetic.
343i confirms that Infinite's campaign will continue evolving over time, bringing to mind Destiny 2's story structure.
The studio also said Infinite is a platform, not a game, that will set the bar for the next 10 years of Halo. There's no more numbered Halo sequels. Infinite is the last game.
Bungie is doing the same thing with Destiny 2. They confirmed Destiny 3 is no longer in development, and Destiny 2 is now the future of the franchise.
Based on this, it's likely 343i will follow a similar campaign/story monetization path for Halo: Infinite as Destiny 2. This should include major paid expansions with new story content, missions, and major new overhauls to the campaign sandbox.
At the same time, we expect 343i to release tons of fixes, updates, and free content drops for the campaign in between expansions. Expect to see rotating events and challenges to maximize engagement and push 4-player online co-op.
Multiplayer - Battle Passes and Microtransactions
There's a few options to monetize Infinite's multiplayer and it's possible Microsoft will go with a multi-layered approach. Remember, Microsoft makes billions every year from its services. It cares about subscriptions, services, and digital revenues above all else, and this is reflected in the Xbox business in innumerable ways--Xbox Game Pass, for example, is the life's blood of Xbox right now thanks to its deep links to the cross-platform ecosystem foundations.
So let's go over what Infinite's MP monetization could look like. As a free-to-play multiplayer component I think we'll see two forms: micro-monetization and macro-monetization.
Micro-monetization is basically microtransactions.
343 Industries confirmed that Infinite would have microtransactions and in-game purchases, but didn't specify what that'd entail. They only said what wouldn't be included. Lootbox-style REQ packs have been nixed from Infinite, but we'll likely see cosmetics being sold in the game.
If it weren't for the massive controversy of lootboxes, 343i would absolutely include REQ packs in the game. REQ packs have generated far, far more money than original Halo map packs ever did (REQ packs made $1 million in revenue just 2 months after Halo 5 launched).
Here's where the link to campaign comes in. We'll likely see these cosmetics--which should include weapon skins, armor variants/effects, and maybe even grappling hook customizations--show up in campaign. Gamers who join up with strangers via matchmaking or with friends for co-op play should be able to see each other's custom armors and cosmetics.
Halo: CE just received optional unlockable cosmetics. They aren't monetized, but they are locked behind the progression system that requires you to play more and level up.
This is a tremendously powerful motivator for engagement. Players who see other players wearing higher-level armor sets or unlockables are more likely to keep playing to unlock them for themselves. It's an organic form of engagement and monetization incentives.
Cosmetics should be buyable with real money or via a premium currency in a set storefront. Gamers should be able to see exactly what they want to buy in a straightforward store.
Cosmetics should also be earnable in-game via a battle pass scheme similar to the Master Chief Collection.
This brings us to macro-monetization.
Expect Halo: Infinite to have buyable battle passes similar to gaming's top-tier free-to-play games. This includes rotating seasons with their own battle passes that unlock various goodies as well as instant access to specific skins and other content.
The other link between MP and campaign should come with a bundled pass that combines both story and multiplayer content.
Game Pass could change monetization completely
There's a chance the game being on Game Pass will remove any need for microtransaction monetization (although we don't think it's likely). Game Pass in itself is a form of continued monetization that's removed the need for microtransaction systems in a number of online, engagement-driven games.
But Microsoft's bigger AAA games are typically monetized with microtransactions and Halo: Infinite probably won't be any different. We may have gotten some of the details wrong--Infinite may not be nearly as ambitious as to include expansion passes with paid story content, for example--but this is merely a guide to help frame your expectations with the new, live-based evolution of the Halo franchise.
Halo: Infinite releases this November alongside the Xbox Series X. It'll be playable on Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC via Steam and the Windows Store. It's also included in Game Pass both on console and PC.