As part of a wide-ranging new interview, 343 Industries boss Bonnie Ross spoke candidly about Halo Infinite and what Microsoft wants to achieve with the Xbox One and PC game. She also responded to the battle royale phenomenon and confirmed that Halo Infinite will be at E3 2019.
Starting off, Ross told IGN Halo Infinite is a “spiritual reboot” of the Halo franchise. After the struggles of Halo: The Master Chief Collection and shortcomings related to Halo 4 and Halo 5, Ross said 343 took a step back to better consider what Halo Infinite should be.
“There has been a lot of introspective time to really reflect on what have we done as 343, where have we made mistakes, where have we hit it right, and what does Halo mean to all of us,” Ross said. “[Halo Infinite] is coming from [a place of], ‘What does Halo mean to all of us?’ The trailer that we did [at E3], that’s what Halo means to the studio. Maybe it took us two games to get there. We’ve done good things and bad things. But what does Halo mean to us? It’s about hope and wonder and heroism and humanity and community and bringing a community together. That’s what that trailer is, and that’s what we want to do [with Halo Infinite].”
Ross went on to say that she was proud of Halo 4’s campaign, but acknowledged that the multiplayer “lacked what we needed.” As for Halo 5, the game made improvements to the multiplayer package, but its story was “overwhelming,” she admitted. Halo Infinite aims to get it right with both single-player and multiplayer.
“So I look at Infinite as, we’re going to put the whole thing together,” she said. “Story is incredibly important and so is multiplayer. We have audiences that champion both sides–and then a lot of them that like both of them.”
Also during the interview, Ross responded to the current craze around battle royale games. She acknowledged that 343 is aware that some fans want to see a battle royale mode in Halo Infinite. She praised Respawn for Apex Legends, and said that game feels more like Halo than Fortnite, which could be a clue to Microsoft’s plans for Halo Infinite. But will Halo Infinite have a battle royale mode? “We have conversations all the time about what the right thing to do is,” she said, adding that the sandbox nature of Halo’s multiplayer allows for lots of different game modes, potentially including battle royale.
Whatever Microsoft decides to do with regards to battle royale or any other new game modes, Ross stressed that fans can rest assured that 343 won’t do anything that doesn’t feel right for Halo.
“Whatever we do needs to be the right thing for Halo. Whether or not you call it a battle royale or how we’re thinking about things going forward, the team thinks about, ‘This needs to be right for Halo,'” She said. “It’s always an active conversation, but I’m not saying anything more about [battle royale] right now.”
The interview also touched on the long gap between Halo 5 and Halo Infinite. In the past, mainline Halo games typically came out every three years, but that’s being extended for Halo Infinite. She confirmed that Microsoft considered releasing what she called “Halo 5.5” or a “Halo 6: ODST” type of Halo game that could launch as quickly as two years after Halo 5, but she and Xbox boss Phil Spencer ultimately decided it was “not the right thing for the fans.” Importantly, Ross stressed that no actual development work went into Halo 5.5 or Halo 6: ODST; it was only brainstorming.
She and Spencer had discussions about how to build a foundation for Halo that would set up the franchise for continued success over the next 10 to 20 years. Launching a “truncated” or “half-baked” Halo game, as Ross called them, would have potentially damaged the Halo brand. She acknowledged that Halo 5 lacked the kind of innovation that fans were looking for, so the team is taking extra time with Halo Infinite to ensure it’s an innovative game that also appeals to veteran fans.
Halo Infinite is rumoured to be a launch title for a new Xbox console said to be launching in 2020. Ross said Microsoft’s philosophy is to make sure a game is great before releasing it. It would seemingly be advantageous for a new Xbox platform to launch with a Halo game to help boost hardware sales, but she stressed that Microsoft is more focused on making sure the game is great instead of timing it to launch with new hardware. For reference, Halo: Combat Evolved was the only Halo game to be released as a launch title for Xbox hardware, and that was all the way back in 2001.
Looking ahead, Ross confirmed that Halo Infinite director Chris Lee will talk about the game at E3 2019 in June, but she didn’t give any teases for what to expect. While Halo Infinite’s release date hasn’t been announced yet, there is another rumour that claims the single-player will release in 2019 with the multiplayer component coming in 2020. Nothing is confirmed at this stage, but Microsoft has confirmed it’ll let people play the game ahead of launch through “flighting” programs.
Another interesting tidbit from the interview include Ross stating that Microsoft eventually wants to try again to make a Halo movie. There is a Halo TV show coming up sooner, and Ross said TV is a good format for a Halo story because its provides more time for character development. She also briefly spoke about the canceled Halo Mega Bloks game. She said the game, which had a more “whimsical and fun” take on Halo, lacked a clear design focus, and added that it was in development for a year longer than it should have been. Regarding other more experimental Halo games, Ross said 343 holds “hack-a-thon” events internally to come up with new ideas that could be made into Halo games after Halo Infinite.
Ross was recently inducted into the AIAS Hall of Fame. The first woman in the AIAS Hall of Fame, Ross joins other industry legends like Bethesda’s Todd Howard, along with Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, Metal Gear designer Hideo Kojima, and Valve founder Gabe Newell.