The monetization and customization system can work, but it needs serious tuning

Let me preface this by saying that a lot of this post might come across as echoing community sentiment and feel redundant to some ears, but I feel like it’s helpful to levy a holistic and complete analysis and criticism of the systems at play.

I don’t think a rotating shop is necessarily a bad idea. I think a lot of new and interesting and inventive and experimental armor design concepts can be experimented with and gauged this way, and players can actually communicate directly with their wallets on the designs they feel fit best; Hopefully that sort of data can be aggregated to avoid armor designs that look ridiculous or silly in future bundles and future halo games! And the monetization of cosmetic armor pieces of course naturally motivates the production of more cosmetic elements, which produces more variability in player expression… Theoretically.

The problems with the current monetization strategy undermine this pretty heavily, because it’s hard to justify buying anything at all in the store when the content you receive per-price-point is a pittance compared to the game’s contemporaries.

If you look at a game like Fortnite, where 7.99 USD gets you 1,000 in-game currency, and the vast majority of player cosmetics are in the 800-1500 currency range and replace the player’s entire body with a fully bespoke and unique design, that’s something to the equivalent of 6 dollars for a cheapo skin or about 9-10 dollars for a more elaborate skin that almost always comes with additional accessories or weapon skins. Granted, there are a fair amount of legacy items from Fortnite’s early days that cost much more than items of similar quality and category released more recently, but I’m mainly looking at the current strategy (looking at some of those more egregiously expensive pickaxes.

In Halo Infinite, 20 dollars gets you the color white for ONE core of armor which is non-transferrable or applicable to any other cores, a helmet, a visor color which practically amounts to an RGB color swap a shoulder pad, knee pads, and a nigh-unnoticeable chestplate cover. From a purely geometric standpoint these assets are not meaningfully complex, and I can guarantee are produced from a material and asset library 343 certainly uses for their armor components (because it’s an intelligent thing to do for any 3D art pipeline that can permit it) and from an actual impact-to-customization perspective they provide extremely little for players to play with.

15 dollars gets you a rope belt, with two sheathed blades. that’s all you get, for forking over an entire doordash meal’s worth of cash (granted, if you have dashpass), and AGAIN this accessory is only applicable to one single armor core.

And if this wasn’t bad enough, you only get to preview and purchase up to 3 bundles in the rotating shop per day, meaning the pool of available cosmetic permutations for purchase is the slowest imaginable drip-feed I’ve seen in a game with this financial structure. With all the leaked bundles for season 1 alone, it’s befuddling to see such a puny shop offering to begin with even ignoring the exorbitant pricing.

The problem is not that a rotating item shop is in and of itself a bad concept for halo customization, but that the structuring of the current shop is predicated on nickel and diming players for customization options they want and have no other way of acquiring, and then not even allowing them the full breadth of utility of those items that the game already has supported framework for.

And lets talk about that! It’s been shown with image and video proof ad nauseum by now that bot players are capable of mixing and matching many varieties of armor cores and helmets, coatings, et cetera. It is a well documented fact that the game supports all coatings and helmets on any core - because the methods used to apply coatings are procedural and based on specifically defined color regions that even correspond to the coating graphic that previews the different materials. I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt and imagine that non-helmet components dont work cross-core because they’re specifically fitted to the geometry of each core, but helmets are such a distinct and separate part of customization that I fail to see any reason that they couldn’t be worn between all cores. The same applies for Visor colors, I don’t really feel like I need to elaborate on this one given what we know about Coatings.

As for Coatings: I would LIKE to see a system in which non-paying players can still access the same basic level of color customization as they did in prior halo games. I believe that the coating system would benefit if paid coatings were reserved for coatings with distinct and unique patterns and material types (e.g. winter camo and anodized metals). That way players could at minimum choose to use basic paints in a mix and match style to choose their favorite palette, and then potentially buy-in to coatings when a snazzy coating matches their sense for palette and materials. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that the variety of basic customization down to simple colors is far more heavily limited than in previous titles, especially in a game purporting to be a return to form for the series. In an ideal world, paid/unlockable coatings would slot into the mix and match system to allow for even more nuanced and diverse color customization, but I think a compromise approach would make the most players satisfied and amicable toward the idea of paid coatings.

And beyond that; Kits! WOW are kits a cocktease. The fact that you can literally unlock an armor component - say, the COMMANDO shoulder piece that Carter wears - but only within a single kit, wherein that component lies and solely lies and cannot be worn outside of… It really goes without saying but it’s utterly deranged to sell every other component of a classic character’s armor set in a battle pass and allow them to be unlocked and used distinctly and freely with any other components, but not allow the same for some of their more iconic pieces. And the motivation is obvious; they want to nickel and dime you for those specific pieces by placing them in the rotating shop. I can absolutely defend the shop system for bespoke and unique cosmetics, but the idea that I can wear an armor piece in-game within a kit, but have to buy it again in order to use it on its own with other cosmetics is absolutely beyond the pale.

I’m not going to lambast the battle pass itself, it’s a little bit sparse for content - and the fact that shoulder armors are split between tiers is very ridiculous and obvious padding - but for 10 dollars it provides far more value than any of the shop bundles. Criticisms of the slow leveling rate have been talked about to death, been necromanced, and then talked about to death once more, and we already know they’re keeping a close eye on that to hopefully resolve it. Not much to say there

As a final note; Halo historically has had a lot of armor components tied to actual player achievement. there was a sense of wonder and impression to see someone who had the katana in Halo 3, or crazy armor effects in Reach, or even simpler things like Emile’s helmet. You could infer a bit of each player’s history and gameplay accomplishments based on what they were wearing. I always felt like this was a very profound component of Halo’s player expression, and I would love to see it return in some form

I don’t mean to say that all cosmetics should be acquirable through achievement, but I feel like great feats of gameplay in the campaign and multiplayer, and specific sorts of hidden challenges should have their own unique cosmetic rewards that could be mixed and matched into player armor customization. Having a few helmets, shoulder pads, and things such as that can only be obtained through challenges, achievements, and easter egg hunting would go a long way to instilling that sense of personality into armor customization, and could even help motivate other cosmetic purchases to build unique loadouts around them!

It’s worth emphasizing that point; in a game like Halo, how your armor components fit with other components to produce a spartan that is uniquely yours is a positive feedback loop that motivates exploration, gameplay, and player excellence, and that sort of feeling can absolutely motivate players to make cosmetic purchases to complement their achievement items.

My hope is to demonstrate to people that a lot of the current limitations to customization are deliberate limitations placed presumably so they can sell you alternatives later, rather than actual systemic limitations caused by the armor cores themselves. And to levy criticism against the way monetization is currently structured.

TL;DR

  • The rotating shop is not a bad idea in and of itself, but the exorbitant prices and scarcity of content render it feeling toxic and stifling to player expression.

  • The armor core system in theory allows them to make more bespoke armor appearances with inspired designs like Yoroi, but in current practice they’re using it to over-limit player customization when the frameworks they have in place support a lot more than they’re allowing.

  • Kits are dumb.

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