Free-to-play Halo Infinite multiplayer: Good or bad?

Halo Infinite
Halo Infinite (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Recently, a listing on the Smyths Toys website suggested that Halo Infinite's multiplayer experience might be free-to-play. Following this, 343 Industries confirmed it, surprising many. This new direction is a bold one — and one that will potentially come with both benefits and drawbacks.

Here's how we think the Halo franchise will benefit from a free Halo Infinite multiplayer, as well as some of the concerns we have about such a system.

The Good: No barrier to entry, high player count

Halo Infinite

Source: 343 Industries (Image credit: Source: 343 Industries)

The most exciting thing about Halo Infinite's multiplayer being free is that the barrier to entry will be non-existent. This will enable anyone interested in the game to give it a shot without worrying about cost. This is great considering that Halo Infinite is coming to PC, a platform where players have never had a chance to try a modern Halo gameplay experience and will likely want to dip their toes in to test the water.

On top of this, Halo Infinite's esports scene will most likely flourish since players of all skill levels can get involved easier. If the Forge mode (a branch of the multiplayer experience) is free as well, Halo's map-making community will grow, too.

It's also important to note that Halo Infinite multiplayer being free will no doubt swell the active player count to a number well beyond what it would be if it cost money. If the game turns out to be good, then so many people talking about and playing the game will help bring it, and Halo in general, some much-needed popularity. Halo's multiplayer has struggled to grab the gaming community's attention for more than a few months from Halo 4 on, but a free-to-play model can help Halo Infinite climb that hill.

The Bad (potentially): Microtransactions, issues with cheaters

Halo Infinite Master Chief

Source: 343 Industries (Image credit: Source: 343 Industries)

Whenever discussing the cons of free-to-play games, microtransactions always come up first and for good reason. Free games are often plagued with things like intrusive paid loot box systems that hinder the overall experience, reducing the experience to something akin to gambling. Worst of all, some games have been reduced to pay-to-win models.

Thankfully, we know this specific form of microtransaction won't be in the game based on comments made by 343 Industries Studio Head Chris Lee. However, that doesn't mean that other forms of microtransactions won't be in the game. Ideally, 343 Industries should create a system with two goals in mind: no pay-to-win advantages in any game mode whatsoever, and the preservation of the ability for players to unlock cosmetics through reasonable amounts of gameplay. A system where players can choose to pay for cosmetics they want is fine, but restricting the player's ability to earn them by playing or allowing players to get an in-game edge over others would be problematic.

Secondly, Halo Infinite being a free-to-play game on PC naturally raises concerns about cheating. If cheaters don't have to worry about spending money on a new copy of Halo Infinite's multiplayer after being banned, it will be signficantly easier for them to resume their antics. Destiny 2, which went free-to-play in late 2019, stands as a perfect example of how cheaters can run rampant when there isn't a monetary incentive to discourage cheaters from hacking. Players constantly complain about hackers ruining the gameplay experience in competitive Crucible modes like Survival and Trials of Osiris, and despite Bungie's best efforts, the issue still persists far into 2020.

It should be noted, however, that this problem can be rectified with extensive anti-cheat systems. For instance, Valve's hit tactical shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive went free-to-play in 2018, and the developers have managed to stay on top of cheating ever since.

Conclusion: Exciting, but only if supported properly

Halo Infinite Chief Marine

Source: 343 Industries (Image credit: Source: 343 Industries)

Ultimately, Halo Infinite having free multiplayer is exciting. However, if it doesn't have the proper systems to support it, things could quickly fall apart. Halo Infinite would benefit greatly from sky-high player counts and the lack of an entry barrier, but intrusive microtransaction systems could ruin the progression experience for fans and cheaters may damage the integrity of the game on PC. While the free-to-play model will potentially bring great success to Halo, we don't want it to happen unless 343 Industries takes the necessary steps to make it work.

Halo Infinite is expected to launch on Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and Windows 10 PCs during the Holiday 2020 season. For more on the game, don't miss our article on five gameplay details you might have missed from the official gameplay reveal.

July 31, 2020: We've updated this article following 343 Industries' confirmation that Halo Infinite will have free-to-play multiplayer.

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.

  • In different really. More so because I don't care much for free-to-play multiplayer games. I'll likely give it a try, but won't stay around long.
  • Hey, Brendan, could you post a simple poll maybe with the article? I'd like to see what the collective thinks about this. I personally think that because it will be on Game Pass day 1, they shouldn't make it free-to-play. Everyone should be on Game Pass, that's "free-to-play enough".
  • Game pass is not free. It's a $10-15/month service.
    Also this is not really free to play on console since gold costs $10/month at the moment.
    Here they are telling non-game pass members can pay the game, why should it matter to you whether people "should" be on game pass or not.
    Are you saying this because you feel your game pass membership will be wasted if you play Halo Infinite?
  • The thoughts of this sounds good. But wouldn’t this kill MCC for pc? Since everyone can just jump into multiplayer for free on halo infinite? That what makes me wonder. I know things are rough at this moment of typing about MCC on pc. The community there already small enough.
  • Indifferent as it doesnt matter to me. Although microtransactions will be prevalent with FTP.
  • I've got a feeling that they will take some pointers from Rare on this with the success of Sea of Thieves. I know SoT isn't free to play, but for multi-player it's a good model since the Halo story will sell copies of the game.
  • Let's look at Halo MCC. It has the best battle pass system in the entire industry. Seasonal passes that are not locked when a season finishes. You can go back at anytime and work on unlocking more from previous seasons. And it's Entirely cosmetic. No pay to win anywhere in the Arena. As others are saying around the internet. This is a fantastic move. Based on Halo MCC this is the absolute best move for Halo Multi-player. There is sites like VGChartz heavy Sony sites praising this as well. This was a great move.
  • I think Microsoft should take the approach many games take. The more you play, the better server you are in and thus the better quality your opponents. If you cheat, you get put into a server full of cheaters.
  • So, is cheating being classified if you purchase a Microtransaction purchase? If that's the case I don't get it? Are you saying if the game provides microstransactions and you take advantage of that, then that's cheating? If that's the case how is that considered cheating? Everyone has the opportunity to purchase the same said items correct? You either chose to or don't. Unless I'm misunderstanding the premise, cheating would be when NO ONE could purchase anything and someone somehow develops a way to circumvent the system to obtain additional powers, equipment, etc. That would be cheating. Is that what's happening? If not, then they word cheating is being used incorrectly.
  • It will be cosmetic.
  • Like I said somewhere else,
    This will NEVER be free2play on console if people need to pay $10/month to play it.
    MS need to explain themselves for removing the $60/year gold subscription.
    A Free2Play service should be free, so not asking players to pay to get in is a step in the right direction. Next step (and it's a major step) is that they make it free to play online.
    If they don't then this is a meaningless announcement. And it'll only encourage them to add insane amount of microtransactions and frustrating progression or grinding... like we often see in free2play games...
  • There was a study in 2018 that showed that only around 1.3% of gamers actually were fans of microtransactions.
    It's interesting, how so many people defend something that so few gamers actually want.
    It's funny...