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Halo Infinite's players are frustrated, and streamers are feeling the pinch

A live service game that’s forgotten it’s a live service game

Halo Infinite officially launched last December, receiving rave reviews from critics and fans - including Brendan’s review here at RPS. It peaked with over 200k viewers on Twitch. And for many content creators like Kevin Lynch, aka KevinKoolx, December marked their best month ever in terms of engagement on YouTube and Twitch. Halo, after a decade of somewhat divisive releases, was back. It’s hard to overstate how impressive a feat this was, since the Halo fanbase is almost as divided as the Star Wars one - a seemingly trivial topic like the inclusion of sprint is just one of many decade-long points of contention. But somehow with Halo Infinite 343 Industries created an experience that almost every type of Halo fan could rally behind. But now, just four months after launch, Infinite is struggling to retain its playerbase.

Now the Twitch peaks are below 10k and dropping, with the averages even lower. Lynch says February was his worst month views-wise in over a year. You'd expect some tail off after launch for any game, but every content creator I’ve spoken to echoes this sentiment: engagement for Infinite is abnormally low for a live service-game at the beginning of its multi-year journey, especially for a franchise as big as this. The game plays great, so what’s the problem? I spoke to a number of different streamers and content creators to get their point of view.

Taras Hrebinka, better known as Late Night Gaming, has been making Halo content for over seven years and is one of the largest Halo channels on YouTube. He says that Infinite’s main issue is that it “released with less modes and maps than past titles, so all it has to offer is a slow drip feed of stuff Halo used to have as a default at launch.” What Hrebinka is referring to is. Well. It’s a lot.

Before launch we learned that Halo staple features like campaign co-op and Forge were delayed until later this year. Multiplayer favourite modes like Infection, Shotty Snipers and Team Doubles are missing (though King of the Hill has been confirmed for Season Two, expected in May.) Custom games and Theater mode, which are crucial for content creators, have been inoperable since launch. Desync issues plague matchmaking. There’s no long-term progression system. There’s no option to replay campaign missions without restarting the game. There’s no service record. I could go on.

"Unless we start to see bigger features added the seasons will just be small upticks that fade away in a month or so."

While standard series features are missing, in the four months since launch Infinite hasn’t added any new playable content either. The mid-season update was more akin to a week one patch, rather than the kind of content drop of maps, modes and weapons that other live-service games receive. After promising players a content roadmap in January, director Joseph Staten said the team needed “more time to finalize plans” on February 1st. The roadmap is still missing, though 343 have outlined their next season due on May 3rd, Lone Wolves, promising one new map for Arena, one new map for Big Team Battle, three new modes and, of course, a season pass.

Content creators like Arrrash aren’t convinced that 343’s outlined plans will change the state of the game. "Unless we start to see bigger features added the seasons will just be small upticks that fade away in a month or so," he tells me. Arrrash’s says his views have more than halved in the first three months of Season One, so more of the same content doesn’t inspire hope. Hrebinka agrees, and says that “nobody will care if Infinite eventually has enough content to rival games that launched years ago if it takes baby steps every few months.”

Sgt Johnson has his cigar lit by an alien in Halo

If fixing features and adding maps/modes aren’t enough, what can 343 do? When I asked Hrebinka if Forge mode - a long-time series feature that allows players to edit maps and create unique game modes - could help he laughed: “Of course! You’re asking me if the ability to make any experience will provide replay value in Halo Infinite.”

Fans have used Forge to create some genuinely amazing stuff like remakes of old Halo maps, or even maps from other classics like Goldeneye. They’ve come up with some of the most chaotic modes like a Wipeout stage, and stages that have players dodging avalanche sized snowballs. The community were so good at creating content in Forge that 343 used Forged Big Team Battle maps in Halo 5, rather than 343-developed ones.

Forge could be a massive boon for Halo Infinite. It’s an infinite - pun intended - source of content. It can provide the playerbase with an endless number of new modes to play, and content creators would have no difficulty finding interesting, silly stuff to stream. Of course, 343 can’t just release a Forge mode and be done with it. Discoverability and file sharing need to function well for Forge to have any significant impact on Infinite’s playerbase. But as of right now, Forge mode is scheduled to launch during Halo Infinite's third season, due all the way off in August.

Halo Infinite running on its Ultra graphics setting.

Another recurring view between the people I spoke to was the belief that a larger third mode could bring lapsed players back. Lynch points to prior Halo games as examples, saying that “Halo Reach had Invasion, Halo 4 had Spartan Ops, Halo 5 had Warzone… Infinite doesn’t really have that signature mode.” The rumoured Certain Affinity-developed mode could be a Halo take on Battle Royale, an attempt to bring back a larger, more mainstream audience and compete with other multiplayer titans like Apex Legends and CoD Warzone.

Halo Infinite's Mark V (B) Armor Core, sporting the Catherine-B320 Armor Kit.

For the content creators I spoke to, some sort of change can't come soon enough, as making content about Halo Infinite is now pretty unsustainable. Lynch says there’s not enough news or content to make daily videos, and that “we have long periods of nothing.” Arrrash comments that “morale is pretty terrible” within the Halo content sphere and that most of his friends don’t play anymore, “and that includes larger Halo YouTubers.”

Many of those larger Halo YouTubers are in the process of covering different games - including Hrebinka, who’s recently made some Call Of Duty videos and streamed Elden Ring. He thinks the switch is “viable” but acknowledges that the “transition will be slow.” But Hrebinka’s LateNightGaming is one of YouTube’s biggest Halo channels, so regardless of what he makes there’ll be eyes on it. Covering different games seems to be a riskier proposition for slightly smaller Halo channels.

A Warthog is parked at a forested space base in Halo Infinite

Arrrash is also in the process of “testing the waters because of how little Halo content there is to make”, but he’s less confident. “I hope it works but switching games on YouTube is really hard, and Halo fans seem to be really stuck in only watching Halo content.” YouTube algorithms and Halo-centric audiences don’t give smaller creators enough stability. Lynch, who isn't interested in covering other games, is in a similar position, and says that “my audience is certainly there for Halo.” So while larger channels can leave the game for now, Halo Infinite seems to be leaving smaller creators in a state of limbo with not enough news to make content on, but not enough of an audience to leave Halo.

Halo is a lot of things. It’s a series of epic campaigns, it’s a story of tragic Spartans and ‘effed up AI romance, it’s Microsoft's golden goose. But more than all of that, Halo is a digital place that has anchored a community of people for two decades. They came together to flood the 343 offices with pizza after the studio announced MCC would be coming to PC. They've edited Master Chief saying "Trans Rights" into multiple Halo cutscenes. It's a place where friends have been made and siblings have, temporarily, put aside their own differences to kill scary alien monkeys in space. The exodus in engagement will, I guess, hurt 343 and Microsoft, but its biggest impact will be on the people brought together by this storied series. At least the developers seem to be aware of player frustrations. We'll see what Season Two brings.

About the Author

Kaan Serin avatar

Kaan Serin

Contributor

Kaan is currently an English and Film student who spends more time thinking about food than his degree. Also, trying to cut down on sharing unprompted video game trivia.

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