Halo Infinite multiplayer saw a surprise release on Monday, being completely free-to-play for everybody, with the campaign releasing later this year for $60. This really is only the first stage, with further free content updates and more story content planned to be added down the line. This has left some curious why the campaign is being released at list price, but the multiplayer element of the game is free for everybody.
Following a delay, Halo Infinite is the long-awaited follow-up to Halo 5, released in 2022. The campaign is set to once more follow Master Chief, traversing the ringworld Zeta Halo, in order to find a man-made intelligence known as “The Weapon” to be able to find his previous AI companion Cortana, battling anyone who may pose a menace to her following the previous game's ending. In a big change of form for that series, Infinite will take on the semi-open-world style of gameplay, with players in a position to active fast travel round the sprawling landscape of Zeta Halo as well as use new movement options granted to Master Chief, such as the grapple shot and thruster.
The Halo Infinite campaign retailing for $60 never was called into question all throughout development, why just the campaign? The potential explanation is just to broaden the gamer base for Halo games. With eight main games in the Halo storyline, playing through all of them to trap up might seem a challenging job for some, even with these games conveniently being released around the Master Chief Collection. As a result, Microsoft seems to be giving players an option – people who wish to begin to see the story of Halo continue can buy the campaign once it launches, and people who are only thinking about the multiplayer can now can get on free of charge, without also investing in a campaign with a long, branching story that references narratives they might not have access to followed prior. By providing Halo Infinite multiplayer free of charge, Microsoft can also be opening itself up to alternative revenue sources it previously did not have access to with prior Halo games.
The Rise of Free Shooters Might have Influenced Halo Infinite's Release
The rise of professional gaming leagues in the past couple of years may also have influenced Microsoft to produce Halo Infinite's multiplayer like a free-to-play title. Professional eSports draws lots of livestream viewers to look at the best players participating in their favorite competitive games, and most importantly, it may inspire more players to get into the game themselves. Riot Games indicates clear success in this, with high player counts in League of Legends and VALORANT, both free-to-play games that offer in-game purchases, much like Halo Infinite multiplayer. Riot is known for their support of professional eSports, especially for their own games, being major tournament organizers and using in-game purchases to directly fund the prize pools for the tournaments they run.
Halo Infinite seems already to become preparing with this, with skins available to buy that correspond with the nine teams which have partnered using the Halo Championship Series. If Infinite would use its battle passes and in-game cosmetics to boost attention for Halo eSports and potentially increase the prize pool for major tournament play, Microsoft could be ensuring lots of eyes around the game, and as prize pools go up, player counts tend to increase – people who want to play the game for a long time and actively improve hoping one day qualifying to get a bit of that prize pool.
With multiplayer-focused titles for example Call of Duty: Vanguard and Battlefield: 2042 garnering mixed reception due to buggy launches, Halo Infinite's surprise launch supplies a stark contrast. Although it's unlikely all game titles will one day be free-to-play at launch and depend on in-game purchases to turn an income, Halo Infinite might be making history using its launch. One could argue that the Halo series has always been a number of massive campaigns, the theatricality and detail which are what people largely pay for, rather than the multiplayer modes, but Halo Infinite leans in to the mindset by taking out the need of owning the campaign at all to gain access to multiplayer. Boosting the multiplayer's player base and removing barriers to entry will probably allow Halo Infinite multiplayer to keep attraction to the in-game cosmetics providing the profit the publishers need to see. Microsoft and 343 Studios seem to have were built with a relatively smooth launch for Halo Infinite multiplayer, and if they still offer the game – and the potential eSports leagues that spawn for this game – Halo Infinite may be the strong start Microsoft needs for the next 10 years of Halo.