Today 343 Industries confirms Halo: Infinite won't be delayed to 2022, and is still on track for a 2021 release and won't be next-gen exclusive.
Contrary to recent rumors, Halo: Infinite isn't being delayed to 2022. 343i community manager John Junyszek confirmed the news today in a Tweet:
"We're seeing lots of fake "leaks" out there, so please don't believe everything you read. There are no plans to change our 2021 release or the devices and platforms we'll be supporting. We're building Halo Infinite to be the best it can be on each device/platform."
This is the best call given the circumstances. Halo: Infinite shouldn't be a next-gen exclusive for a number of reasons, including development decisions and Microsoft's overall business. Halo: Infinite was built from the ground up with Xbox One in mind, and the Slipspace Engine was also crafted since 2015 to work on the Xbox One. Switching to Xbox Series X could make things easier for 343i, but it'd also scrap a bunch of work on the XO version.
Yes, the Xbox One family is much, much weaker than the Xbox Series X, and yes, Halo: Infinite would look, play, and overall perform better as a next-gen exclusive. The recent gameplay footage 343i showed was anything but next-gen and had some really funky shadow effects. The 2021 delay was a smart move. But delaying it further to 2022 and making it next-gen exclusive would be a bad business decision.
If Halo: Infinite were a next-gen exclusive it would sell less copies, make less monetization cash, and spark less subscription revenue.
Microsoft treats Xbox as an extension of its service-first empire, and it's not nearly as important to Microsoft as PlayStation is to Sony. Xbox made $11.57 billion in 2019, roughly 10% of Microsoft's overall revenues. PlayStation, in comparison, regularly makes up 20-24% of Sony's total revenues.
Xbox gaming is designed to do three things: Sell games, sell monetization in those games, and sell recurring subscriptions through Game Pass.
Hardware sales are incidental and aren't that accretive to the business; they serve more as gateways to subscriptions, services, and digital game purchases. Ultimately, Microsoft doesn't care if you don't buy an Xbox Series X. It cares if you buy Game Pass and is doing everything it can to convince you to buy into its on-demand all-you-can-play service.
This business model is predicated on access, and that means releasing games on as many platforms as possible. Project xCloud allows mobile players to jump in and pay for subscriptions and in-game revenues. Supporting two generations of Xbox hardware gives Halo: Infinite access to the 40 million+ Xbox One console install base that's already been established.
Yes, Microsoft is making Xbox Series X exclusive games. Forza and the new Fable are Series X exclusive and won't come to Xbox One. But those games are far off on the horizon.
Halo: Infinite, however, is closer and Microsoft has spent money developing the game--and the engine--since 2015. The 2021 release will mark 6 years of development and the company is likely wanting to make good on its investment.
There's still a chance Halo: Infinite could be delayed to 2022 or become Xbox Series X exclusive. But what 343i is saying is right now there's no plans to do so. And if it happened, it'd be a bad business call to restrict one of the biggest gaming properties to such a small enthusiast base of hardware.
Halo: Infinite is due out sometime in 2021. The Xbox Series X, however, will release this November, likely on November 5. The cheaper Xbox Series S has yet to be revealed, but we've compiled a side-by-side spec comparison of reported info in a chart below:
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