Spartan fans have already put their armor in cold storage — the Xbox Series X will launch without a new Halo game. But why exactly did Halo Infinite get pushed just two weeks after debuting its first footage? The common sentiment was that, hey, COVID-19 has delayed everything else in the world — why not the soft next-gen reboot of the Halo franchise? But Chris Lee, studio head at 343 Industries, reportedly said that the coronavirus was just one of "multiple factors" in the announcement of the delay. Now some of those other mitigating circumstances may have come to light.
A new report from Thurrott (a website of tech and Microsoft-focused journalists) places the blame on two factors that haven't been publicly considered: outsourcing and the time-draining presence of the Halo TV show in production at Showtime.
Outsourcing is an accepted practice at most companies, let alone game studios, but reportedly the outsourcing had a much higher ratio on Halo Infinite than the industry standard. Like anywhere else, that makes communication and teamwork difficult — even if they weren't building a new game engine for an unreleased console. Add into that a working environment already troubled by the departure of several key figures (like creative directors Tim Longo and Mary Olsen, who left back-to-back in 2019) and you've got yourself a hard place to make a next-gen franchise entry.
But perhaps the strangest factor the report indicates is the nine-episode Halo adaptation coming to Showtime from co-showrunners Kyle Killen and Steve Kane. Pablo Schreiber put on the helmet of Master Chief at the end of 2019 back when the show entered production, but apparently the show has been leeching time from those supposed to be shipping a game.
Thurrott cites an unnamed insider who claims that production of the show has been a "significant distraction" for the top brass at 343 Industries, taking up valuable bandwidth that could've been used on the upcoming game. The series was already a massive money sink, reportedly spending around $4M an episode before its production was halted by the pandemic. Managing the creative direction of the show, which is going to enter into the Halo canon in a major way and is a major investment, naturally muddles priorities for those in charge of the brand at large.
Fans will see how things shake out for themselves next year, because both the Halo Showtime series and Halo Infinite are now set for sometime in 2021.