Xbox lead Phil Spencer: 'The heart and soul of Halo is with 343'

Xbox Phil Spencer
(Image credit: Matt Brown | Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer has addressed concerns about the future of the Halo franchise and its developer, 343 Industries, in a new interview.
  • Spencer says that he believes 343 delivered "a great Halo game" with Halo Infinite, acknowledging that there were "missteps we made as a team."
  • He also reaffirmed that "the heart and soul of Halo is with 343," and that both Halo and 343 "will remain critical to what Xbox is doing."
  • Moving forward, Spencer is focused on "continuing to support and grow Halo," making sure that 343 is "set up to succeed."

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced that it plans to axe over 10,000 jobs between January and March 31 in 2023, with many layoffs already taking place amid volatile economic conditions and a looming recession. Those impacted by the cuts include several developers under the Xbox Game Studios banner, such as The Coalition, Bethesda Game Studios, and 343 Industries. 343, which develops Halo games like Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Halo Infinite, was hit particularly hard by the layoffs. The studio reportedly lost over 60 of its developers, many of which were part of its campaign team.

In the wake of the cuts, Microsoft has faced intense criticism from former 343 developers, several of which have claimed that the firm's poor management "set Halo up for failure" and contributed to the weak position that Halo Infinite finds itself in over a year after its launch. Despite assurances from 343 that "Halo is here to stay," many fans have also expressed concerns about the future of the studio and Halo itself.

In a new interview, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer addressed the growing uncertainty, discussing the state of Halo Infinite and 343's future as the franchise's steward.

"I thought it [Halo Infinite] was fantastic. Obviously, we're talking about the following year, and I think there are some missteps that we made as a team, absolutely. But I don't want to take away from the fact that the team did a really good job delivering a great Halo game ... at the same time, when we launched that game, we know we needed to make some commitments to people about the content updates and our timing on those and the quality, and we didn't hit our own bar for doing that," Spencer said. "I believe in the team that's there, Pierre and the leadership team, and the plan that they have. Obviously, he's [343 Studio Head Pierre Hintze] the studio head now, [and] has been on Halo for a long time. He's worked on [Halo: The Master Chief Collection], he's done some great work there. The team has a very good plan."

"What we're doing now is we want to make sure that leadership team is set up with the flexibility to build the plan that they need to go build. And Halo will remain critically important to what Xbox is doing, and 343 is critically important to the success of Halo," Spencer continued. "The heart and soul of Halo is with 343 and the team that's there, and I have the utmost confidence in the team that's there and leading and the plan that they have going forward."

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

When asked about the publicly announced 10-year live service plan for Halo Infinite, Spencer said that he'd defer to the developers at 343, and that Microsoft's focus will be giving the studio the support it needs.

"I'm going to let 343 talk about the plans that they have right now, that people know they have the next season that's coming up, and they're excited about that. They've got some other things, some rumored, some announced, that they'll be working on. They're excited about the plan forward," said Spencer. "I look at, say, the work that they've done on Forge and the amazing support we've had from creators there. The timeline for Halo...Halo is always going to be one of those things in my mind that is part of Xbox lore, part of the foundation of what Xbox is about."

"I expect that we'll be continuing to support and grow Halo for as long as the Xbox is a platform for people to play," he continued. "So I think the timeline goes on and on in line with Xbox, and I want to make sure the team's set up to succeed with that."

Halo Infinite has begun looking up in recent months, with the recent launch of the Forge mapmaking tool and the early release of the Custom Games Browser breathing new life into the struggling live service shooter. The introduction of a red reticle for Windows PC players and basic cross-core armor coating customization was also a pleasant surprise. The game's next season, Season 3: Echoes Within, is slated to arrive on March 7, 2023.


Halo Infinite

Despite its issues, there's plenty to like about Halo Infinite. The core multiplayer gameplay is great, and since it's free-to-play, there's no barrier to entry. The campaign is fantastic, too, as it features an excellent story, fun open world gameplay, and plenty of action-packed levels to play through.

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Brendan Lowry

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.