BEFORE WE BEGIN
This article is intended to fill my "E3 predictions" article, as required by Halo media commentary law. Any resemblance to actual events is purely coincidental, and is not intended to prove my clairvoyance, or any connection to a 343 "insider".
For reference, Halo: Podcast Evolved and Blogging Evolved use Halopedia as our primary source of information.
The following article makes reference to and could potentially contain spoilers for Halo 5: Guardians.
343 Industries, along with Microsoft Corporation, are planning on creating a single game called 'Halo' to be released as the next mainline Halo game, which will contain all future Halo first-person shooter releases, including all multiplayer updates and single-player campaigns. This will potentially include all previous Halo FPS games, from Halo: CE through Halo 5: Guardians. Evidence to support this include comments from 343 regarding the naming of future Halo games, the desire for Microsoft to make use of the newly released Xbox Game Pass, and changes made to 343's Master Chief Collection team and ambitions.
With Electronic Entertainment Expo 2018 right around the corner, most of the Halo community expect to finally get some new Halo news regarding the next Halo title, including when it is coming out and maybe a hint at the story. What I think most people aren't expecting, is a big change to how Halo is released to the public, including multiplayer and campaign additions. The little bits and pieces we have gotten from 343 and Microsoft since the release of Halo 5: Guardians point to a singular Halo game to be released for Xbox and Windows 10, and I fully expect that to be the be all end all Halo game for the foreseeable future. That includes the management of multiplayer updates and changes, and additional campaign DLC.
There is also some evidence to point to 343 looking to merge the Master Chief Collection with the next Halo, making a single Halo game that would possess EVERY Halo FPS game since the birth of Halo. While this does seem like a crazy idea, 343 has shown to be overly ambitious before, and I think they are looking to do so again. This idea might seem a bit too crazy, and admittedly I am not sure I am completely on board with it either, but it is curious where the evidence we have does point. Lets cover all the evidence and I'll tell you what I think it means.
WHAT IS IN A NAME?
In the run-up to the release of Halo 5: Guardians, it was pointed out that the name is different than previous Halos, which have just gone by release number, with the exception of Halo: CE, Halo 3: ODST, and Halo: Reach. When questioned regarding this, 343 representatives commented that the plan was to transition from a numbering convention to just 'Halo:' followed by the name of the game, 'Guardians', etc. The reasoning makes sense, since this is the direction many if not most big game and movie franchises have moved towards. It frees 343 from making each subsequent release a continuation of the last game, and frankly just sounds cooler. Halo 12 just sounds silly in my opinion. That doesn't really make a great argument for a single Halo game going forward, but it certainly does give 343 the opportunity to do so, particularly when you consider....
Halo has a problem. Not a story-line problem, but a fan-base problem. I mean, it does have a bit of a story-line problem, but that isn't what we are talking about here. What I am saying is Halo has two distinct sets of fans: lore fans and multiplayer fans. That isn't to say those people don't overlap, but there is a large contingent of people who play Halo multiplayer and never even bother with the campaign. These people are an enigma wrapped in a mystery to me, but they exist, and in large numbers. There are also a lot of Halo fans that play mostly the campaign and don't play a ton of multiplayer. I am pretty sure this crowd is smaller, but they definitely exist.
So what's the problem? Consistency is the problem. Every time 343 looks to push the story of Halo forward, they have to release a new game, which means everyone has to buy the new Halo title. And as I just said, a lot of people don't give a crap about the Halo campaign. So they are paying $60 for a campaign they don't want, just to play the new Halo multiplayer. I'm not saying hundreds of hours of gameplay isn't worth $60, but they are still paying for it. And what comes along with the new game? A big update to multiplayer. This means gameplay changes and all new maps and all new game modes. A lot of this is good, but it also results in a lack of consistency from game to game and the inevitable complaints of "Halo X is the only true Halo, Halo Y is just a Summon of Responsibility clone.
How do you fix this problem, or at least minimize it? Remove the need for releasing a brand new multiplayer every game release with a single 'Halo' game that gets periodic campaign DLC. Multiplayer still would get updated as the game evolved, but it would be a much more gradual process, and would allow for longer-term testing and experimentation that is currently not possible due to project management issues (i.e. 343 eventually has to stop updating the last Halo game to focus on the next one).
This also fixes the issue of moving the growing competitive scene to a new game and a new play-style every three years or so. The Halo Championship Series would benefit greatly from players knowing the new Halo game will continue to be supported for the indefinite future, and it will not see drastic changes to gameplay with the next game release. Where we are now, competitive players are playing a game with a fairly short shelf-life, and making that a career, even for a few years, is nearly impossible when you don't know how long your game will by popular. Imagine if football changed leagues and rules every few years. What serious people would invest their time into playing in that league?
Microsoft is trying to turn gaming into a subscription service with Game Pass just like TV has become with Netflix and Hulu. They have already stated they intend to have every first-party Xbox game on Game Pass, so it should be expected that the next Halo will be released onto Game Pass the same day it hits store shelves. But why is this an argument for a single 'Halo' game going forward? Because it will mean a steady stream of money flowing to Microsoft in support of Halo without the use of REQ packs. A steady stream of money means steady support, and the best use of that steady support will be by focusing on a single Halo experience.
It has been a growing trend for several years now for companies to create a single game-as-a-service and focus their resources on updating that game regularly via multiplayer updates and campaign DLC, ala Destiny. These games have done very well, and do a great job creating a vibrant community of users that are dedicated to the game and the company. Halo and 343 already has this, so it would be odd if they did not try to capitalize on this model. One could try and argue against this model by discussing the difficulty marketing would have trying to keep hype up for a game that would eventually be years old, but it has been proven to be doable by the likes of Destiny and Counter-Strike, the latter with nearly no marketing at all.
MASTER OF YOUR DOMAIN
I think I have made a pretty good argument for why the next Halo game will use the game-as-a-service model and just be called 'Halo'. But, as you may have read in the TL;DR at the top, how does the Master Chief Collection fit into this argument? Well here is where you should put on your tin foil halos. I am about to argue that 343 is planning on rolling all of MCC including Reach, into the next 'Halo' game, making a single 'Halo' game that contains EVERY HALO CAMPAIGN AND MULTIPLAYER IN ONE PACKAGE.
What? Certainly I am insane. I am not. 343 released MCC at the end of 2014 to a fairly terrible response. It was buggy as hell, to the point where the game was hardly playable, and 343 had to spend significantly more time and money on making it workable than they had intended. Three years later, and two years after Halo 5: Guardians released, 343 out of the blue announced they were going to completely fix the Master Chief Collection and re-release the game. Great news, but why would they bother with an old game that was just a collection of older games in the first place? Fan appreciation, sure, but they have more up their sleeves.
The first clue was from Ske7ch in the second MCC Development Update. Here he states that the team assigned to updating MCC had its name changed from the Legacy Team to the Publishing Team. Legacy made sense, since they were working on legacy Halo titles, but Publishing Team? That's an odd name for a team focused on only updating an old Halo game and not working on a new one.
In that same article, Ske7ch states one of the desires is to add Halo 3: ODST firefight and Halo: Reach into the Master Chief Collection. Neither are Master Chief games, but that does mean every Halo FPS game would be covered by MCC, save Halo 5 and whatever new Halo game is being worked on. So why stop there? Well creating one single beast of a game is one really good reason, but I have you covered there.
In the third MCC Development update, Ske7ch said they are targeting their new intelligent install feature for the first new retail update. This means users can actively select which Halo games they want installed on their system, limiting the hard drive space taken by the collection. In line with this, 343 is also removing the cross-game multiplayer, meaning there will be playlists for each game separately, rather than the old mix of all games setup. This makes a merger between MCC and the next Halo game much more doable than it would otherwise.
I realize these are hardly titanium-A-clad pieces of evidence, but there are a lot of little bits and pieces of information floating around that seem out of place otherwise. 343 likes to dream big, even if they miss the mark sometimes, and this would be the ultimate Halo game that no fan could possibly hate if executed well. We know 343 has experience merging several different game engines into one, albeit with limited success, and building a core Halo game that would support all of MCC plus all new Halo games would be a logical extension of their plans for legacy Halo games.
BUT WHAT ABOUT HALO 5?
Well, if 343 does indeed merge all of MCC with the next Halo game, I would assume Halo 5 would be included too. It is just speculation, but I expect the 'Halo' engine to be fairly similar to Halo 5 with the usual upgrades you find as gaming systems evolve. This would conceivably make adding Halo 5 into the new 'Halo' a trivial matter.
I fully expect the next Halo game to be called 'Halo', and serve as the future platform for Halo campaigns and multiplayer for the conceivable future. It would not surprise me at all if they then took the campaign portion of Halo 5 and added it in as free DLC when the new game releases. Halo 5 is really the start of the next trilogy, so putting all of the next story ark together in one game makes a lot of sense.
Merging the Master Chief Collection with the new Halo game is far less definite, but recent announcements about work being done to MCC makes me believe 343 intends on merging everything into a single package. Everything from Halo: CE to Halo 4 would be included in the Master Chief Collection DLC, Halo 5 would be its own DLC, and all future Halo campaigns would be new DLC. Multiplayer would be separated into each old Halo game's playlist, from CE through 4, and Halo 5 and beyond would be broken up into the same basic structure we have now, with updates to matchmaking and Warzone.
There is a decent chance Halo will end up as two Halo games, the Master Chief Collection (or whatever they change the name to following the addition of Reach, ODST firefight, and the gameplay updates), and 'Halo', a new game-as-a-service for Halo including the Halo 5 campaign and future Halo campaign DLC. I think this will strongly depend on the work involved in merging the two, and if 343 sees potential issues, they will likely balk at moving ahead with creating a single unified Halo experience.
We all know the next Halo game, whatever it might be, isn't going to be released until 2019, so I expect a re-release of MCC at the end of this year, with a merger into the new 'Halo' in the middle to end of 2019. E3 is less than a week away at the time of this article being published, so I will very soon be either proven horribly wrong or held up as the most brilliant Halo commentator this world has ever seen. Or somewhere in between.
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