This Tuesday, 343 Industries announced a delay to Halo Infinite: their latest instalment in the blockbuster Halo series. Expectedly, the news was met with mixed reactions. While some fans were disheartened to hear their favourite game will not be released this year, a surprising majority took to social media to offer support.
In their official post, 343 cited COVID-19 among the reasons for delay. Like most other industries, the video game industry has had to adapt overnight to a whole new world. What was once a more social, interconnected, in-person artistic venture, game development has been forced online. Teams have had to be trained for months on new tools and workflows. This inevitably cost the entire industry precious time.
As the holidays loom, a game of chicken has begun between PlayStation and Xbox. Neither company has set a firm release date or price of their new consoles (PS5 and Xbox Series X, respectively.) What was formerly a launch title for Xbox Series X will now be released at an unknown date in 2021. There is no indication if this means Q1 or Q4.
At their recent Xbox Games Showcase, an 8-minute Halo Infinite gameplay demo was shown off. Despite sitting at over 5 million views and 164,000 likes on YouTube (with a positive like ratio), viewers were quick to criticize the graphics and art-style of the game. The consensus was that the game looked “plastic-y” and “unfinished”. While 343 acknowledged the demo was an older build, they took the feedback to heart and are dedicated to improving the title before release. The “polish” phase of game design typically takes place near the end, so this may hint that the game isn’t as close to being finished as everyone expected. In his statement, Chris Lee, studio head of 343 on Halo Infinite, didn’t acknowledge the negative demo reception as a cause for delay, but it can safely be assumed that it was another issue on a larger pile.
As the world adapts to a global pandemic and working from home, more and more delays are inevitable. Cyberpunk 2077 was initially releasing April 16, 2020, but has been delayed to November 19 (this could be another reason 343 was cautious to release a competing game at the same time). Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 recently posted a similar statement to Halo, delaying their game to 2021. With no end in sight to a very different way of living, keeping expectations in check and having empathy for the real people behind the games is the best thing we can do.