Halo 2 Multiplayer Peaking At 20 Players, Shutting Down


The PC version of the original Halo was actually pretty strong, all things considered. Fun fact: it was the first Halo game anywhere to have official online multiplayer. Halo 2, however, didn’t manage such a sterling performance. Mainly, it was meant to be Windows Vista’s killer app, and Vista – at least, at launch – just let people with a desire to kill. As a result of that exclusivity, Master Chief’s Covenant-bomb-giving-back-est adventure went largely ignored and was left to the ravages of time – which brings us to today. According to Microsoft, it’s now got 20 players. Yes, 20 – concurrently, at least. Unsurprisingly, they’ve declared it time to pull the plug.

The big M explained the situation in a weekly Halo bulletin:

“We’re sad to report that the service end-date for Halo 2 PC Multiplayer will be February 15, 2013. We’ve been monitoring the population for months, and it’s been peaking consistently at approximately 20 players or less. Those that own this game can continue to enjoy multiplayer over LAN after that date; however our network services will be turned off at that time. We love you, Halo 2 PC, and you will live forever in our hearts.”

So then, that’s that, I suppose. It’s a bit odd to see something that was – at one point in PC gaming’s past – such a cataclysmically controversial state of affairs end with such a whimper. But then, I guess it just goes to show how much things have changed. At the time, Microsoft’s flippant treatment of PC was emblematic of a larger, industry-wide mentality. Now, though, seeing them do the same thing with Skulls of the Shogun and a halfhearted, Xbox-branded “Microsoft Studios Play” platform is completely baffling to everyone except Microsoft.

So then, Halo 2’s gone, and – for the most part – so is a rather dark chapter in the PC gaming history books. Good riddance, I say.


  1. dontnormally says:

    Halo 2 multiplayer on the xbox was amazing, even (especially?) compared to the current quality of console matchmaking.

    • Kaira- says:

      Halo 2 on the consoles is pretty much the definitive FPS experience for me (on consoles, that is obviously). Great matchmaking, good maps and it hit all the right spots. Halo 3’s multiplayer was okay-ish and Reach was… eeh, meh, I’d say.

      So it goes, as Vonnegut phrased.

  2. RakeShark says:

    Hrm, suppose there’s a little to lament about. Halo’s about as close to old Quake 1-2/Marathon style multiplayer combat as we’ll get these days, albeit the speed of combat’s slower than the murderous rampage of yore. Ah well.

    • DickSocrates says:

      There are probably more than 20 people playing Quake 2 online right now.

      • RobinOttens says:

        And there’s probably more than 20 people playing some incarnation of halo online right now. While the pc version of halo 2 and the playstation version of quake II hold hands, watching sadly from the sidelines.

        • Jelly says:

          funny enough, halo custom edition currently has over 2100 players online. halo pc (the non-custom edition) is probably pulling double that

          • rockman29 says:

            Because it’s a more fun game imo.

            Not balanced, just more fun and more of a sandbox to play in and shoot people.

            Exactly why I like Halo 1 so much.

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  3. Didero says:

    Alternatively, release server software so people can run their own servers.

    • DickSocrates says:

      There’s no money in it for them so they won’t do it. They don’t have any goodness in their hearts to fuel such a magnanimous gesture.

    • Teovald says:

      I would really love to see some developers do this. Absolutely zero hope to see this move from Microsoft though. But for some oldies that are still popular, it would even be a smart move in order to maintain the value of the UP.

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        In fact, Bungie did this with the Marathon series. Well, they released the source code, ‘at least’.

      • jrodman says:

        Save the Upper Peninsula!

    • Joshua says:

      Or, alternatively, let them use GameRanger or a similar service to play the game over internet using the game’s lan systems.

      • rapchee says:

        or evolve, as it was mentioned earlier and more users are highly welcome
        i’d be okay with multilayer games “just” having a mandatory lan option

        • xc2910 says:

          But then they’d be easier to pirate, right? Well, then how about adding LAN support when dropping online multiplayer?

    • sidhellfire says:

      This should be standard operating procedure – once you abandon a title (or at least supporting it), you release at least robust master server files that would allow players to spread wings.

      Isn’t that what Mircosoft did with Allegiance? FreeAllegiance is an outstanding project. Of course, you could always make something from scratch, like OpenTTD guys did, but home free-time developement is really limiting communities.

    • Underwhelmed says:

      I am sure that there would be about 22 very happy people out there if they did that!

      • Droopy The Dog says:

        20 odd concurrent players probably equates a few hundred actual people.

        Also, I’ve known indie multiplayer communities that size, and it still seems a shame for the people still playing it. Really wouldn’t have done any harm to release server tools.

    • Squishpoke says:

      There’s still Hamachi, I guess.

  4. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    Sucks for those 20 dudes!

    • x3m157 says:

      Yes, it sucks. I was really looking forward to playing it when I fixed my Vista box. This game had the best multiplayer I’ve played next to TF2 and Tribes:Ascend.

      I hope they continue with what Bungie did with Marathon and release it for free in a few years.

  5. TimMc says:

    I’m honestly impressed that Microsoft waited until only 20 people were playing before pulling the plug.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Especially given how poorly Microsoft seems to view PC gaming in general.

      I’m inclined to believe it had simply been forgotten about, and was only discovered as still active by someone following up on a minor mismatch in the overall server budgets.

      • mlaskus says:

        You could read the article thoroughly and you wouldn’t be surprised. Service end date, that meaning anything to you?

        • Universal Quitter says:

          You do realize the article didn’t clarify when the “service end date” was originally set, right?

          Granted, it probably was set far in advance, and granted, you may have already known that, but I hardly see how you could expect anyone else to. Everyone assumes. and everyone jumps to conclusions. It’s how people get through the day without a nervous breakdown from too much thinking.

          If no one is being a dick about it, why stir the S pot and get all accusatory?

          And, no, the irony of my chewing you out, while advising you to not chew people out, is not lost on me.

          • mlaskus says:

            No hard feelings, I commented without going back to the article to check. I was pretty sure the quote stated that the game reached an end date that was set in advance. I did deserve chewing out. :)

          • Skabooga says:

            Damn, I know there are a lot of people out there who continuously lament the state of RPS’s comments, but it’s happenings like this which make me believe it’s still a pretty wonderful place. You two are the best.

    • Snuffy the Evil says:

      I’m surprised there are still 20 people playing! The Halo 2 PC port was a mess.

    • Cytrom says:

      Yeah.. EA’s killing games from last year lol. It’s kinda scary when microsoft is the lesser evil in a comparison.

    • OrangyTang says:

      It’s not 20 people, but a peak of 20 people. There might a a few thousand unique people playing each week, but only 20 of them online at the same time. At least, that’s what the standard meaning of ‘peak player count’ is.

      ‘Active population count’ would be a more useful figure, but I’m guessing that’s a lot higher than 20, so it’d sound less good.

      Of course, they don’t say how they calculated any of this, so large pinches of salt all around. Lies, damned lies and statistics etc. etc.

    • TormDK says:

      Agreed, as per their own guidelines they should have shut it down back in September 2012 : link to support.microsoft.com

  6. eclipse mattaru says:

    “The PC version of the original Halo was actually pretty strong”? I’d hate to see what it would take for you to call it “a lazy, resource hogging port”.

  7. SuicideKing says:

    I wanted Halo: Anniversary to release for the PC…had so much fun playing the original…

  8. Rao Dao Zao says:

    I’ve never played any Halo and feel like I’m probably missing out on some cultural phenomenon, but I’m not going to fork out for parts one and two of a trilogy with no sign of the third part (or other extended bits) ever coming to PC.

    • Cytrom says:

      TBH the first halo was by far the best game in the entire series (and much closer to the spirit of oldschool fps-es), and can stand on its own without the feeling that something is missing.

      Good music, nice unique setting, decent gameplay, and decent story. The singleplayer is worth a playthrough imo. The multiplayer part (that made it big on consoles) is mediocre compared to unreal tournament, quake or any decent MP FPS on PC from the same era though.

      • Jenks says:

        I’ve gone to (and hosted) plenty of LAN parties for FPS games, Quake is my favorite FPS of all time and I was an enormous fan of Quake III, but the most fun LAN parties I’ve ever attended were 16 player Halo Blood Gulch marathons.

      • eclipse mattaru says:

        TBH the first halo was by far the best game in the entire series (and much closer to the spirit of oldschool fps-es), and can stand on its own without the feeling that something is missing.

        Seriously? Even putting aside the retarded “wacky” aliens (are those supposed to be funny?), the Mattel-design weaponry and all the blatant ripping off of actual good sci-fi works; my memory of the first Halo is just about one of the most boring experiences in my entire life.

        When the flood level repeated itself for like the 12th time, I just quit the game for good. Samey levels are bad enough, but repeating them verbatim over and over is just ridiculous, especially when they don’t even look very good the first time.

        • Mattressi says:

          Exactly how I felt. The first level was ok, even if the guns felt mostly useless and everything just had a…”Mattel”, as you say, feel to it. But past that the levels just kept getting longer and longer, with each level being extremely repetitive. Finally I got to a level where there were zombies (or something like that) and just quit after it repeated the same corridor and the same bloody zombies a hundred times for no reason I just realised the zombies were called “The Flood” – apparently I’m not the only one who hated that crap!

          The multiplayer was relatively fun (not enough that I played it instead of other MP games), but I will never understand why people think Halo 1 is anything but a perfect example of a terrible corridor shooter with bad weapons and boring, repetitive gameplay, levels and enemies.

        • mouton says:

          Halo 1 did have some nice features. It was one of the veeery few games where enemies actually hid behind cover without leaving half of their head for you to headshot. Even better, after losing their shields, they patiently sat fully hidden until they regenerated.

          I also like the idea of only having two weapons at a time. It is not appropriate everywhere, but it is a nice touch of realism.

        • psaldorn says:

          Agreed, Halo 1 was terrible, only the buggy was memorable (riding over the dunes with allied forces). The flood level was blatant copy pasting. I nearly gave up, but forced my way through.. then it was the end and I felt cheated and relieved at the same time. Short, dull and ridiculous story. I laughed at our idiot console brethren for thinking it so brilliant. (At the time everyone was creaming over Halo like Half-Life, Quake et al didn’t exist)

  9. mrwonko says:

    Good thing it has LAN support and can thus still be enjoyed. If only all mp games had that…

    But then they’d be easier to pirate, right? Well, then how about adding LAN support when dropping online multiplayer?

    • rocketman71 says:

      Adding LAN support does not make the game easier to pirate. Not adding LAN makes the game harder to sell.

      Nowadays, I refuse to buy any multiplayer game that doesn’t support LAN. Especially given how quickly the douchebag publishers are downing their servers without giving LAN support or server files as a replacement.

  10. Pindie says:

    I guess the fact you can no longer run the game on modern systems (Win7/Win8) has something to do with this.

    • Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

      Wait, so that makes it a de facto Vista exclusive?? Poor thing.

  11. The JG Man says:

    Halo 1 actually still has a good few servers up. I reinstalled it recently to see give the campaign a go and wanted to have a look at the MP state. Either 200 or 300 servers, a lot of them filled up.

  12. psepho says:

    Your mission, RPS, should you choose to accept it: get in touch with those 20-odd people and interview them. I would be fascinated to hear what keeps them engaged in such a tiny community. What does the switch off mean for them personally? Maybe it’s a bit like being part of a separatist commune or something? Perhaps this is PC gaming’s Dale Farm moment?

    • Martel says:

      That would be pretty interesting to see

    • Skofnung says:

      This is a pretty interesting idea I’ve never considered before. Pretty pretty please, RPS!

    • Koozer says:

      …but it’s 20 people peak, not just 20 people.

  13. Paul says:

    I liked Halo 1 PC, and I tried to play Halo 2 PC, but its vomit-inducing low FoV made it completely unplayable. Never bothered with any other Halo after that.
    Great soundtracks though. I like all of those, with Halo 4 getting a lot of my ear time lately.

  14. Moraven says:

    Crimson Skies, Halo 2, Phantom Dust. Xbox Live I miss you.

    I love the PC in that I can still play older games online. (more so due to early online tech and modders). Now its reiterate every 2-3 years and basically force people to upgrade to the new game, even if they will hate it due to changes.

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  16. Hahaha says:

    link to x360magazine.com
    Go pc halo fans follow the example set by your xbox brothers

  17. Neurotic says:

    I’ve struggled to get various shady copies of Halo 2 working on XP and W7 over the years, never with success. It’s a real shame that MS (and Bungee?) killed Halo as a PC franchise. It so belongs on the beige box. I guess Halo 2 coincided with the X-Box boom and that was it. Put the cash cows where they have the most grass to eat.

  18. Soapeh says:

    Halo? Is that the game with 4 types of enemy which just change colours over the course of the game?

    • WoundedBum says:

      Halo 1 alone has 8 different enemy types with AI that for the time was quite good. It’s certainly more varied than most FPS games.

  19. squirrel says:

    Those 20 guys must all be from Seattle – they are sleepless in Seattle, so they play this to pass through their lonely nights.

    But seriously, if MS permits Xbox players to use those mostly idle servers, I bet there will be a larger crowd than even that of Battlefield 3, but of course, MS in its right mind will not since this won’t generate one dime of profit.

  20. Kills Alone says:

    I guess I am labeled as one of the remaining “20” players and I’ve been playing H2 since its first incarnation. There are far more then twenty remaining players, its just that many players are not hardcore players; the type that play some H2V everyday. Everyday I see new players (new GTs I’ve never see before).

    BTW, the picture at the top of this thread is from Halo 2 for the original XBOX, yes it has been ported to H2V but that is because my team H2MT did so. It was not included in the retail package, nor was Desolation.

    We’ve made a lot of custom content for H2V; from new and reworked weapons\vehicles to new maps to play on, applications for improved development in real-time, we have tried to extend and improve on a shoddy port.

    A shoddy port yes, but at its core most of what made Halo 2 one of the best online FPS experiences remains. There were two new maps included, District and Uplift, these are maps exclusive to the PC world. Why does years of custom content and these exclusive maps have to die?

    It seems such a waste, if only H2V was patched so that hacking applications no longer worked (an easy fix) and they updated the game so that it could easily be installed from their marketplace, and fixed it so there are neither activation issues nor problems with installing the game on Windows 7 or 8.

    Or if they could just give the server list service to the community. We receive donations and have plenty of high-speed servers; its no big deal on our side.

    I made the jump to Halo 2 Vista because I wanted to make my own Halo content, Microsoft did not deliver what they advertised in an Editing Kit so it took years to repair it, many community members fixed what they could and now we’re working on the first custom Halo 2 Vista campaign (which takes place in Mombasa), with hybrid co-op/mp/sp support. We finally have most of what they should have provided in the beginning working, and now they will take away what remains of the community. I can only hope that if Microsoft ever releases another Halo on the PC, that the Editing Kit will be fully unlocked from day one, as it was in Halo Custom Edition.

    What I do not understand is why they offer us no alternative FPS to play on our gaming system of choice. Sure, exclusives sell consoles. But they own Windows, they would still profit. Everyone agrees that Halo 3 would sell gangbusters on the PC. If they wanted to be competitive they would offer a free or low cost version of Halo for the PC, this would entice users to purchase games through their Marketplace as TF2 does with Steam.

    As it is now they think I’m going to pay them to play Solitaire after purchasing Windows 8 and a DX11 GPU, yeah thats what I want to play, not triple AAA Sci-Fi FPS, noooo. Steam will eat their lunch and now its creeping toward the sofa.

  21. popej says:

    Before I say the following you should know that I consider the HL series the greatest ever made. I also find the Source engine much superior to any other FPS engine. It didn’t eclipse the great CS 1.6 mechanics/flow but CS Source gave it a could go.

    Anyway, the point. Halo 2 single player was freaking immense on PC. The mechanics, the movement, the grenade play, the weapon combinations, the brilliantly hard level of difficulty (on legendary) and the pacing. Halo 1 on PC was also great but Halo 2 eclipsed it imo (only just).

    It’s unfortunate that Halo 2 PC was blighted by the Vista fiasco because it really was a great game. It always ‘felt’ like it was designed for PC despite it being the Gashbox flagship game.

    Anyhoo, just thought I’d add my opinionated opiniony opinion.

  22. SeventeenMidgets says:

    LOL I am one of those 20 players. I literally just played yesterday. The hit detection is so bad unless you are somehow hosting, you have to “lead-snipe”. I much prefer counterstrike and it’s efficiency. It feels so lighting accurate to shoot, it’s absolutely brilliant. Still, I love everything about H2V, and it is such a raw deal that they are shutting it down. My guess is that this is in anticipation for some other weird Microsoft deal. (e.g. they make a Halo for Windows 8 since it is selling so poorly, just like they did this one for Vista). Halo started on P.C., and my frank opinion is that it is stupid to remove it from P.C. It is sorely inferior using console controllers; with reduced turn speed and accuracy (as all FPS games on console are). Microsoft is so afraid of piracy and they are such property nazis. Honestly, what do they have to lose?? They don’t realize they will sell a TON of Halo if they release any more on P.C, despite any piracy, especially if they have a dedicated matchmaking system with connection and hit detection as pristine as counter-strike. If they released a huge package, Halo 3, ODST, Reach, and 4, just gave it one dedicated matchmaking type (like Halo 4), and then slap the rest of the matchmaking on for only LAN situations, sell it for 65 bucks, and require Windows(Xbox) Live Gold to play the matchmaking, at 5 bucks a month. They’d make so much profit they should just pay me right here and now. You might have people pirate the single player game, but they would have no matchmaking multiplayer access. Then those players who pirated would eventually break down and buy it anyway. And the effort to perfect it on P.C. will be absolutely minimal compared to the original overhead (which they’ve already made back) it cost to create the content. Or they could be evil, publish a pack just up to Reach, remove support for 3 through Reach on Xbox, and then all the fans of those games would go over to PC. Brilliant and evil. And you know Microsoft would do it.

  23. oceanclub says:

    A crazy idea, but it might have more than 20 players if they’d bothered to try and sell it. This article is the first time I’ve been reminded of it in years, simply because it’s not available on the usual DD sites.

    Microsoft do have a page here:

    link to microsoft.com

    But if you click “Buy it”, you get:

    “We are sorry, the page you requested cannot be found.”

    They really are fucking hopeless, aren’t they?


    • Malibu Stacey says:

      They really are fucking hopeless, aren’t they?

      When it comes to gaming, pretty much.

      Also Halo 2 requires GFWL. Nuff said.