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E3 2021: Microsoft promises Halo Infinite for holiday season after delay

Halo is Microsoft’s biggest video game series, but the latest installment has been plagued with production problems.
Halo is Microsoft’s biggest video game series, but the latest installment has been plagued with production problems. (Steam)

The newest Halo will feature a standard single-player campaign mode and a multiplayer component that will be free to all players, even if they don’t buy the game, Microsoft said.

Microsoft Corp.’s much-anticipated Halo Infinite will be out this holiday season, the company said Sunday during a press showcase at the E3 gaming conference that was full of upcoming game trailers and reveals.

The newest Halo will feature a standard single-player campaign mode and a multiplayer component that will be free to all players, even if they don’t buy the game, Microsoft said. The presentation was brief and showed minimal gameplay from the campaign.

Halo is Microsoft’s biggest video game series, but the latest installment has been plagued with production problems. The game was originally intended to be released last November alongside Microsoft’s newest console, the Xbox Series X, but it was delayed in August after poor fan reception to early previews. Chris Lee, who oversaw production of Halo Infinite at 343 Industries, which is developing the game for Microsoft, left the team shortly after the announcement of the delay. Microsoft brought in Halo veteran Joe Staten to lead the single-player campaign and another senior executive, Pierre Hintze, to run multiplayer.

This was Microsoft’s first time participating in an E3 showcase since purchasing the game publisher Bethesda Softworks Inc. last year for $7.5 billion, and the tech giant was keen to prove the deal was worth it. Microsoft showed Starfield and Redfall from Bethesda, neither of which will be available on rival Sony Corp.’s PlayStation. With Sony investing big in its stable of PlayStation exclusive games, Xbox is facing pressure to compete.

Under Xbox chief Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s video game strategy has revolved around its Netflix-like subscription service, Xbox Game Pass, which allows users to pay a monthly fee for access to hundreds of games. As of January, Xbox Game Pass had 18 million subscribers across both Xbox consoles and personal computers. Spencer has said his division is prioritizing Game Pass subscribers over console sales.

Almost every game Microsoft showed at E3 will be available on Xbox Game Pass, the company said. At the presentation, Microsoft also announced Contraband from Avalanche Studios and Forza Horizon 5, a new entry in the popular racing game series.

In the most recent quarter, Microsoft saw Xbox hardware revenue jump 232%, boosted by the release of the new generation of consoles last fall. Content and services sales rose 34%. But consoles are in short supply as a shortage of chips is disrupting industries from tech to autos, and Microsoft has forecast that to continue in the coming months.

Meanwhile, the company expects content and services sales to decline in the quarter ending in June, compared with the year-ago period when demand was boosted by a pandemic-fueled gaming boom. Microsoft is relying on new first-party games, which it offers on launch day on Game Pass, to keep gamers signing up.

Subscribers to Game Pass help smooth and boost overall sales. Microsoft last week said those customers spend 50% more on games and content, in addition to paying the monthly fee. That’s a jump from last August when Microsoft said subscribers paid 20% more.

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