Of all the Microsoft teams caught in the blast radius of massive layoffs announced yesterdayit’s possible Infinite Halo Manufacturer 343 Industries was among the hardest hit. The studio faced a wave of departures following Infinite Halo’s multiplayer struggles, and the new cuts have drawn heavy criticism from those who made it through this mess in the first place.
“The layoffs at 343 should not have happened and Infinite Halo should be in a better state”, the former Infinite Halo multiplayer designer, Patrick Wren, tweeted Wednesday evening. “The reason for both of these things is incompetent leadership at the top during Infinite Halo development causing tremendous stress to those working hard to make Halo the best it can be.
It’s no secret at this point that Infinite Halo faces a tumultuous development cycle, from rotating cast of directors to long delays after a gameplay reveal was pilloried online for its rough graphics. Former studio heads have also previously alluded to periods of crisis on the project, while a Bloomberg report the developers’ detailed struggles with the game’s engine, and issues with Microsoft’s reliance on contractors constantly filtering out of the studio rather than full-time staff. “The contract thing is a whole other pandora’s box that pisses me off,” Wren tweeted last night. “So many amazing people and talents that just disappeared.”
It’s extremely rare for game developers to speak candidly about issues they’ve witnessed in past projects, let alone openly share their opinions on how a team or studio has been run. Wren, who left 343 Industries just before Infinite Haloof the launch in 2021, then praised his former colleagues and their efforts to fully deliver on the game’s multiplayer promise.
“The people I worked with on a daily basis were passionate about Halo and wanted to do something awesome for the fans,” he tweeted. “hey they helped push for a better Halo and was fired for it. The developers are still working hard on this dream. Watch Forged. Be kind to them during this terrible time.
The harsh criticism came after Microsoft announced that 10,000 jobs would be cut across the tech giant’s operations, including gaming, despite reports “save results” last year, including $83 billion in operating profit. The night before, the company senior executives would have been busy being serenade by sting at a personalized concert in the Swiss Alps.
Meanwhile, as reports of Kotaku and others poured in that Xbox studios ranging from The Coalition to Bethesda have been caught up in the layoffs, it became clear as the day went on that 343 Industries was facing particularly steep cuts, as many developers on Infinite Halosome of whom are very experienced, announced on social networks that they had been affected.
Even before yesterday’s layoffs, 343 Industries had to deal with successive waves of high profile departures as Infinite Halo struggled to ship new seasonal updates and features on time. Most notable was the departure of studio head Bonnie Ross. last september. Most recently multiplayer and longtime director Halo veteran Tom French revealed he was leaving in December. And yesterday, in the midst of chaos, Bloomberg reported that longtime Halo director and writer Joseph Staten was heading to the Xbox publishing side of the business as the studio made the “difficult decision to restructure”.
Even more unfortunate, this latest studio setback follows a rare glimmer of hope in Infinite HaloPost-Launch Live Service Campaign: Forge creator mode. Following the cancellation of split-screen co-op, many fans saw it as an opportunity to save game by allowing players to create their own maps and modes. And so they have, with creations inspired by everything from The Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim to Pokemon. It’s the most positive some Infinite Halo players have felt since launch, but just like that, the future of the game is once again uncertain.
Back when Halo Infinite was first revealed in 2020, 343 Industries studio head Chris Lee called it the “beginning of the next 10 years of Halo.” A few months later, he left to join Amazon.
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