Although it’s been said, let me start by saying Halo Infinite’s core gameplay is simply outstanding; classic, yet modern at the same time. It feels damn good to be on Xbox.
To rewind to 2001, Halo CE is the reason I asked my father for an Xbox and got me to fall in love with gaming all over again. Split-screen/LAN sessions in Halo 2 with friends in high school helped get me through difficult times and the untimely passing of a friend at age 18. Lastly, Halo 3 was a staple and nothing short of amazing while attending university.
When I think of the magnitude of the mistake Microsoft and 343i are in the process of making, I think back to both the infamous Xbox 360 Red Ring of Death, years later followed by executive Don Mattrick’s botched comments and messaging on Xbox One being always online.
As someone who’s worked in the technology business sector for years, the live service/As-a-service model is highly profitable and provides a predictable revenue stream, while greatly expanding the reach to customers. The as-a-service model isn’t going away anytime soon. However, whoever designed the model for Halo undoubtedly thinks the consumers of this product are damn fools. Unfortunately for them, at a glance it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the complete nonsensical, counterintuitive and predatory nature of Halo Infinite’s progression system.
The fact that this system was even greenlit in the first place is baffling and clearly shows where the decision-making power lies within 343i and Microsoft; the devs have nothing to do with it. In business, it’s to be understood the end goal is to maximize profit. Microsoft obviously wants Halo Infinite to be more profitable than previous titles and they have reverse engineered a pricing strategy around these goals, leading to the current monetization system we see in the game.
The reason we haven’t seen any sweeping changes to the monetization/progression system, is because the forecasting to executives won’t meet expectations based on their initial projections. I can only imagine the executive pay bonuses riding off this game’s success. Their finance team is using this beta period to gather data, analyze spending, and see what will fly with consumers. The question they’re asking themselves is “what’s the most we can charge the customer without harming overall profits” when they should be asking, “what is the long-term sustainability of both the player base and the Xbox brand if we don’t get this right.”
It’s my understanding in response to the Red Ring of Death issue, Peter Moore alongside Phil Spencer told former President of Entertainment & Devices, Robbie Bach that it would cost them nearly a billion dollars ($1.15 billion) to correct this mistake and for Xbox to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive gaming market. Although they knew the cost, Microsoft approved this decision without hesitation, as they knew the future of one of their most valuable brands depended on it. Customer satisfaction was paramount, as warranty periods were extended in the interest of maintaining the long-term sustainably of the Xbox brand.
Fast forward to 2021, seemingly Microsoft is about to make their biggest mistake since Don Mattrick’s Xbox One “always online” fumble, and the former Red Ring of Death issue. Halo is an instantly recognizable and cherished brand among fans, gamers, adults and children alike. It’s also on of the most profitable revenue streams for the company. Although early reception of the game is outstanding, the gaming community’s recognition of predatory monetization schemes has become all too familiar in recent years. Not to mention, the negative press and brand association have already begun, and are only being further magnified by the very nature of today’s internet.
From a business standpoint, Microsoft and 343i need to take action on correcting this mistake immediately. The Xbox brand, it’s new consoles and games, plus Game Pass are currently firing on all cylinders. With Halo Infinite’s release quickly approaching on December 8, and negative reviews impending they must at the very least substantially improve the current system as a short-term fix before launch with a detailed plan on how they’ll improve it moving forward.
The current monetization scheme might fly with some gamers, but for the majority of us and particularly Halo’s core audience, it seems that Microsoft is forgetting that we’ve lived through it all and can smell the BS from a mile away.
tl;dr From a business standpoint, Halo Infinite’s current progression/monetization system is putting the Xbox brand’s goodwill and long-term sustainability at risk. They need a temporary or solid fix before launch with a roadmap to move forward.