Halo Infinite’s delay is rough for Xbox Series X in 2020, but how bad is it really?

There’s no two ways about it: Halo Infinite’s delay is a gut punch for the launch of Microsoft’s next generation plans. I’m not just talking about the Xbox Series X release in November, but their whole vision for an era of subscription led cross-platform gaming. It’s not putting the nail in the coffin for this plan, but at the very least it’s a stumble that puts them at an even bigger disadvantage compared to their biggest rivals.

Ultimately, Halo Infinite’s delay might well be the best decision for the game. The old Shigeru Miyamoto adage  that “A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever,” might not ring quite so true in the age of live games, DLC and ‘Games as a Service’, but it doesn’t hurt to get things right at the first attempt. Not every game can pull off the recoveries that No Man’s Sky, Sea of Thieves or Destiny (twice!) have managed and it’s obviously better not having to go through those growing pains.

Still, it leaves Microsoft without a marquee title for the launch of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Streaming, and the release of Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X. We’ve been eagerly awaiting the official reveal of Microsoft’s lower powered console, not to mention the announcement of the price of either Xbox or PlayStation 5, but now it’s like one of the teams turning up to the World Cup final is doing so without their star striker. For this winter, at least.

While that’s a big blow for 2020, Microsoft are playing the long game. After promising that all their first party games for the first year or tow of the next-generation would be cross-generational, they rocked up to their Xbox Games Showcase with a bunch of rendered concept trailers for games that would be exclusive to Xbox Series X. From Forza Motorsport, to Fable, to Avowed, these are games that are at least a year away and Microsoft was seemingly going to have to rely on third parties for quite some time anyway.

That said, Xbox fans aren’t entirely bereft of other games to look forward to this year, of course, and Xbox Series X will provide advantages across a wide range of games. In first party titles, there’s the prospect of Gears Tactics and maybe Microsoft Flight Simulator – OK, so ports of months old PC games might not be particularly exciting, but I’m looking forward to them on console nonetheless. As we come to the end of the year, let’s be honest that this November is going to be all about Cyberpunk 2077, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and the next Call of Duty for an awful lot of people.

In fairness, Microsoft aren’t really alone here. Outside of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales being a launch title and the bundled Astros’ Playroom, do we really have any idea of when all of those first party games from the PlayStation 5 showcase will be released alongside the console? Sony have a big, hugely popular tent pole release to market, but there’s lingering doubts over just how big an experience it’s going to be, as it builds on the foundations of the 2018 PS4 exclusive. The difference is that the overall perception is of Sony having fistfuls of games that are ready to go through the PS5’s first year.

For Xbox, the concern is that without that one big system seller, those thinking of next-gen will either delay their purchase plans to 2021 or now lean toward picking up a PS5. Delayed purchases and upgrades have obviously been a part of their plan, with the cross-generational releases intended to soften the potential blow of a high ticket price for the upcoming machines in the West, and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate streaming aiming to let them reach new audiences whenever people want to engage, but they’ve got to try and shift the cloud of negativity currently hovering over them if they hope to stay in touch with Sony through the generation.

Through all of this, and as with any major game delay, we shouldn’t forget the developers themselves. Passion is one of the key attributes that defines many developers, as their love for their creation shines through, but that can be manipulated, it can be crunched. 343 Industries will have been in a maladjusted form of crunch for some time already, the lines between work and home blurred even further thanks to COVID. The response to the gameplay reveal will have hurt, even if it was maybe expected in some quarters, and now those wearying heads have to face an even longer stretch to reach the finish line, whenever that might be.

At the end of the day, while it will hurt in 2020, Halo Infinite’s delay isn’t quite terminal for Xbox Series X and Microsoft’s future plans, but it’s felt like the company has been on the back foot all through the summer. It will take something big (or small, to be more precise) to shift things back in their favour.

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8 Comments

  1. So you think MS are going to be off to a slow start and will eventually manage to sell some consoles once they actually have some games? Has that ever worked before? I guess the PS3 got off to a bad start and eventually overtook the competition, but apart from that one time?

    It does appear that’s the plan MS have though, with all this talk of thousands of games from previous generations. Did they hear the story of the hairy tortoise and think “That’ll work. Let Sony sell millions and we can catch up later”.

    At this point, I think the best strategy MS could follow at the moment would be to shut up until November and then just release the consoles and games. Everything they’ve been doing so far is just making people less interested.

  2. It’s a shame really. Spencer did a lot of good catch up moves during this gen, so I expected much more from them towards the switch to next gen. We as Sony customers will directly suffer from this, the quality of Plus games will become even worse, network quality will suffer, etc., as we’d really need some competition in the console market for Sony to continue making an effort.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Spencer left MS by the end of this year.

    • I think this is basically a disaster for Microsoft. They are making an error that many failed console manufacturers have made – they are assuming people will buy their product simply because it exists. What is the incentive to buy an Xbox Series X? Current Xbox systems can already play all of their games. And a PS5 will play all of those games, and more. To lose a major launch game like Halo is very bad and there is now basically no motivation whatsoever for someone to buy a new Xbox.

      And what are they thinking with the Series S? The Series X is already a proposition of “It plays all your current games, but better.” The Series S is “it plays all your current games, but slightly better, but not as good as our other one.” This is a ludicrous strategy in the console market. I genuinely don’t see why people are impressed with the leadership at Xbox. They have had seven years to put next-gen plans together and this is the best they have come up with?

    • Sorry, didn’t mean to reply specifically to you.

  3. Maybe it’s because I’m still enjoying this generation and have a big backlog of games to get through, but I’m just not interested in a new console yet. Especially when there is nothing much to shout about on it.

    • For me it’s the opposite, but for some of the same reasons, if that makes sense: because I have a massive backlog, I’m more excited about a new generation of consoles that’ll for once actually still play my backlog games…

  4. Microsoft seem to have the weirdest strategy ever, releasing their most powerful next-gen console alongside their cheapest next-gen console without any defining exclusives while simultaneously pushing for the death of consoles in favour of games as a service.

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