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Halo Infinite's player retention is sharply declining, but why?

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

What you need to know

  • Halo Infinite's player count has fallen sharply since its launch period late in 2021.
  • The game has a variety of serious issues, including a lack of the content that Halo fans have come to expect, shallow customization options, a controversial microtransactions shop, poor performance on PC, a rampant cheating problem, and a severe issue with ranked matchmaking.
  • Recent and upcoming fixes and adjustments have alleviated fan concerns over these problems, but many improvements are still needed.

While Halo Infinite rocketed out of the gate with rave reviews and a massive concurrent player count of 200k on Steam on its launch day, the game's player retention has sharply declined over the course of the last two months. Despite the fact that 20 million players have played Halo Infinite in total, many of these players haven't stuck with the game for long and have already moved on to other titles. The game is no longer in Xbox's top five most played games list (it sits at sixth place under Roblox at the time of writing), and on Steam, it typically hovers between 10-20k concurrent players — a small fraction of what the player count looked like a couple months ago.

So, why is this happening? Why is a new Halo game with strong core gameplay mechanics and a free-to-play, no barrier to entry model struggling to retain its player base? There are a variety of reasons.

For starters, Halo Infinite is lacking a lot of the content that most players have come to expect from the franchise. There are only a handful of playlists and game modes available, and many staple Halo modes like Infection, Grifball, King of the Hill, Action Sack, Team Doubles, Team Snipers, and more are nowhere to be found. The game also only has three Big Team Battle maps, which often makes the beloved social mode feel stale after a few matches. Campaign co-op and the Forge map creation tool — both of which are considered crucial elements of the Halo experience — aren't being added until later in 2022. Co-op is expected to launch in May 2022 at the start of Season 2, while the developers are planning to add Forge three months later when Season 3 begins.

Source: Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios)

Fans have also been vocal about their disappointment with Halo Infinite's customization and monetization systems. Many of the game's customization options are unacceptably shallow and restrictive, and Halo Infinite's microtransactions shop has been heavily criticized for charging high prices and offering little value. The developers have recently made some improvements to the shop, thankfully, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

Halo Infinite on PC also simply isn't good enough, as many players (yours truly included) have reported a myriad of both major and minor issues with the PC version of the game. Everything from terrible framerates and severe instances of screen tearing to infinite loading screens, texture stretching bugs, and desync with the game's servers has made the game nigh-unplayable for many PC players, regardless of whether or not they're using powerful hardware or updated drivers.

PC players using cheats have also run rampant throughout the game's servers for months due to Halo Infinite's ineffective anti-cheat, and while a fix for the issue is supposedly coming later this month, the cheating problem has gotten out of hand and hackers have already driven countless players away. The hacking epidemic affects Xbox players, too, as there's currently no way for players to disable crossplay.

Source: Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios)

Finally, fans also recently discovered a severe issue with Halo Infinite's ranked matchmaking. The game's matchmaker takes your performance in social and practice modes like Big Team Battle and Bot Bootcamp into account when matching you with other players in the competitive playlist, giving you highly-skilled opponents if you got a lot of kills in these playlists. Conversely, you'll be given less-skilled opponents if you perform poorly in these modes, which has led some players to intentionally lose social games to make ranked play easier for themselves. It's clear that this is not a healthy matchmaking system for Halo Infinite's competitive multiplayer, and it needs to be adjusted sooner rather than later.

Ultimately, Halo Infinite simply isn't in an acceptable state right now, and the game is losing players at a rapid pace because of it. Halo Infinite's excellent core mechanics give it the potential to become one of the best Xbox games as well as one of the best PC games, too. Without the content, customization options, quality performance, and anti-cheat measures that fans expect from modern shooters, though, Halo Infinite will fail to capitalize on that potential. Hopefully the developers are able to turn this ship around.

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.

34 Comments
  • Brendan, I don't disagree with you at all on your points. Though we might have to consider that some people may be playing like I am, in short bursts. I know if I play it as much as I want to I will quickly burn out on it due to the limited starting options. I am currently level 75 of the pass, so I have out a good bit of time in. Those like me might be waiting for a new event ( I have yet to join in on the latest run of Fiesta) or entire new modes to drop before rejoining. I'm not sure if in this instance this is a fault of the game or if I am just not the type of person that will play Apex or Warzone alll day every day.
  • That's entirely fair - I'm sure many people aren't playing Halo Infinite all the time due to the lack of stuff to do right now, but play in bursts like you say. I do feel like the fact that the player count never fluctuates much these days beyond 10-20k is indicative of the population declining overall tho.
  • The reason is simple and obvious. 35 to 50 . Every game is 35 to 50. One side gets all the best weapons. But the time the other teams gets a hold of them through kills , you're 15 down and you lose...every time. The computer does this in 9 out of ten times. I'm a reasonable good shooter. I get the top kills in almost every game. If I'm on the winning side, decided by the computers, my team wins by 30 or more. Between that and the Aimbots, which make headshots that kill from ridiculous distance through full shields, and the cheaters that 343 swore they would deal with, and haven't, the game is ruined. Everyone is frustrated at the horrible game play. In the first month headshots were rare. Now they are more than half the kills. No one can overcome that kind of cheating.
  • I've played Halo since day 1. From Halo 1 to 2, the game changed, I won't say improved, I'll day changed.. because 2 was just as good as 1. For 20 years, however, they've really failed to innovate. Some abilities, maybe a new enemy or two.. but the same functionality and clunky gameplay. It's still fun, but it's 2005 fun.. not 2020 fun. Shooters are in a sad state currently; Warzone is bad, Battlefield is perhaps the biggest bust in fps history, and there's nothing on the horizon. To rinse and repeat the same Halo experience was a mistake, and they're paying for it. No BR? Same tired storyline? Literally the same game modes from 2005 when I was running ethernet cable through my dorm window to the next room?! Come on, Halo.. some heads need to roll at 343.
  • I know I'm not offering anything new and showing my naivety when I say, I just don't understand why people cheat. What do they get out of it? I am a fair player. I have my good times and bad from one round to the next. Sure, its disappointing to get steamrolled by a good team but I try to take those experiences to improve my skills. You can't get good playing against newbs nor can you when you cheat! I guess someone without scruples just likes to feel superior even while knowing they didn't do a damn thing to earn it. I don't know. All they seem to accomplish is drive people away. It just seems easier to me not to play, you hardly have to anyway if you're using cheats...
  • Thecheating is worse than that. I play in ranked and Fiestas. The cheats win all of those, making any goodies completely out of the question. They get the goods, which they use to further dominate. I can out shoot most. I am Gold2, and that's a very long way from the top. I normally get shot through walls, get one shot killed, have to shoot with my most powerful weapons as many as six times to get a kill on some of these "players". and get killed by headshots that are almost impossible for anyone to make, normally. They make them on almost every shot, regardless of weapons. I have no doubt that most players are frustrated enough to quit and not come back. Who's banning these cheaters> It's fairly easy to find them. Simply go through the top 100. 90% of them are cheating.
  • It could also be a significant number of players that only play the campaign. With the current lack of replayable chapters and no Co-op I'm not going to be picking it back up for a while. I haven't really enjoyed Halo matchmaking since Halo 2. In my opinion, Splitscreen and LAN parties are what Halo multiplayer is all about. The further we get from those days, the less interest I have in "engaging" with the game outside of single player and Co-op.
  • The last good Halo game was Halo 3. Since then it simply hasn't been that good. 343 hasn't done a great job with the series since bungie left.
  • That just isn't true, Halo Reach was incredible
  • If Sea of Thieves can turn around so can Halo.
  • If the bar of success is Sea of Thieves, then Halo might as well get a gravestone, in terms of being a modern flagship title.
  • One of the top streamed games on twitch... Still critically acclaimed.. Still being supported.. still enjoys high engagement even on steam.... What are you talking about? Sea of Thieves was a total success. The only game that experienced a bigger turnaround was No Man Sky
  • I played and finished the campaign. I did almost all the side quest stuff but I have no interest in dealing with the online side of things so until co-op exists I have no reason to play it again.
  • it's weird to me how no big sources mention at all how the social experience is completely missing from the game.
    no lobbies
    no match chat
    no private messaging (outside of current friends)
    they made a "recent players" that doesn't keep track of players you recently played with
    you can't talk to anyone who isn't on your team in a match or on your friends list
    I can't hop on and make random friends or enemies
    I want to game and hang out with people. so if I don't have friends who are on, why would I play?
    why is everything becoming Nintendo online style of social approach?
  • I agree. I'm playing online and feel like I'm by myself without a good option for chat. It gets boring quick.
  • I see what you mean, but in this article I didn't mention that since other big shooters don't have these features anymore either and they're holding their players much better than Halo Infinite has so far. But regardless, I agree with you and wish more games had social features like this again.
  • What do you mean? I'm currently playing Overwatch, a game from 2016, that has match chat.
  • Overwatch is kind of an outlier though (and I appreciate those features). Most other shooter games these days don’t have this stuff.
  • That's what the Xbox app is for... It's an entire social network for gaming.
  • The Xbox app... Try using it. Seriously, you want social features? That app is part of every MS game. Use it. It's got tons of social stuff. It's a full social network for gaming. It has text & voice chats friends list, clans with LFG. Clips and screenshots people post and allot more and all Microsoft's games are intended to be used with it. Even 3rd party games should be used with it.
  • That's asinine. You shouldn't have to use a secondary device to enjoy things on your console.
  • I agree with you in this instance, but I also really, REALLY miss Xbox Smartglass. And I couldn't imagine Destiny 2 without the companion app.
  • I mean, isn't this all baked into the dashboard (Xbox) and game bar/Xbox app (Windows)? It even kinda had lobbies in a way if you think about the LFG functionality.
  • This is a comically easy question to answer. They focused most of their efforts on monetization--the store seemed like the only part of the game that was "polished" at launch. The prices bordered on offensive, and the structure of customization ran completely counter to the claims of what 343 said we would be getting. Modes are lacking. Maps are lacking. Bugs are...to complete opposite of lacking. The ranking system is easy to abuse. Cheaters are barely punished. Social features are nonexistent. There's so little substance to enjoy, between the crappy challenges, poorly gated events, content delays, and total lack of integrity for the competitive experience. It's a joke across the board.
  • Well yeah, that's part and parcel for all the big Microsoft series.
  • It's the same boring generic maps over and over again. I think they took one map out of rotation too so it's even fewer boring maps to play. Not enough variety either. Make a 6v6 or 8v8 mode. Add team snipers, koth. It's barebones. And they finally appear to have fixed btb after a month or so.
  • Hard to fix an issue that doesn't make sense. I could play BTB fine but my son whose on a series x (like me) and we are in the same network and he has issues all the time. So what could cause that? It can't be something running in the bg because it's a console. The network is configured the same way for both of us. So we are playing the same game in the same hardware and on the same network. I've never had an issue, he has or had one like 40% of the time. I don't work in game development anymore but I still know how it works and an issue like this... It can be really really hard to chase down end even harder to fix
  • Except it's not true. Steam doesn't show all the people playing on Xbox or the UWP version. It only shows people running the game on steam. Chances are some people are taking a break for some of the other games out now because they finished the battlepass. Yes we know the prices were and are too high... But how is COD any different if not worse. In COD you spend 2000 points for a skin, 1 or 2 pay to win guns and a nameplate. So they charge the same prices on average and it's partly pay to win which sucks AND you pay $30 every 4 months for a battlepass but if you don't attack it hard you won't get everything and there's higher powered guns in there. Cheaters... Give me a break. This parroting has to stop. Yes there are some cheaters. In over 500 matches I've seen ONE. In COD there's generally 1 cheater in every match. In BF there's probably... 5% of players on the map cheating. Halo has a small number of cheaters because they get the boot. Eventually games are going to hardware ban people and you know who will lead that charge that finally fixes PC PvP after 20 years of constant cheating? Microsoft. Yeah modes are lacking but nothing is preventing you from custom games. You invite a group of friends and do what you want.. and once forge is out it's going to be a whole new world. Lacking social features? Wth are you talking about? You do realize that you're supposed to run the Xbox PC app right? That aside it has the exam same social features as every other game. Then you add in the Xbox app and you have what's essentially a gaming social network... But yeah, no social features. Microsoft doesn't build them into the game (beyond the stuff you NEED) because they already have a great app for that. Content delays.. yeah that sucks but so does trying to develop a game when over 300 developers are all working from home. It's not the same, it's not as productive and it's not as collaborative.. So little substance to enjoy? How do you figure? The game is fun as hell, it runs great, it's not a bug ridden mess and ITS FUN AS HELL. The ranked system is fine. If some morons want to try and win more by playing bad it makes no difference at all to the people that care about their rank. They won't be playing with those people. I'll wrap up by telling you a little secret about Halo and other Microsoft games. People who mess with their rank, people who quit, people who get reported for certain things... They all end up getting matched with each other and ONLY each other. Shhhh, dont let them know.
  • They need a battle royale mode.
  • Not really but I'm sure once forge is out people will make a BR style mode. The thing is... Halo's meta doesn't really lend itself to battle royale. Halo's meta is basically a rush to the power weapons. In a BR they would have to leave some weapons out and locations would have to be random which could lead to some seriously one sided matches. Of course I'm not a game designer and I'm sure the Halo team could make it fun and the people who go insane with forge probably could too We will know soon enough.
  • Wait wait wait... Steam player counts don't include people playing on console (xbox, Xbox one X, series S/X, Xcloud) and the Windows store/gamepass version. Steam numbers are never accurate for multiplatform games and halo's numbers are just fine. Also keep in mind that some people have finished the battlepass, hell I almost have. I think I have 3 levels to go and I don't play games as much as I used to... And I can't stop playing Forza horizon 5 lol.
  • Main reason I don't play very often is there is no sense of accomplishment after completing the battle pass. I know there are weekly challenges, but the award for those is not worth the grind. Since they delayed season 2 until May they should of added at least another 50 to 100 tiers to the season 1 battle pass. Well I do have fun when playing the MP but need a better way to award players for playing. Still think they could do an accolade system like Forza 5 to award players for accomplishments they do in each match. Well hopefully new modes and maps will be added soon.
  • A voice in the wilderness here: I absolutely adore Halo Infinite, and it is the first console game I have 'properly' played in over a decade. Why? Because the design of it's campaign mode is perfectly geared to casual gamers who dip in-and-out for half an hour or so per day. I have absolutely zero interest in downloading the latest 'rainbow-pride-Iron-Man-glittery pink-gun' DLC pack, or being tea-bagged squeaky voiced 11 year olds online. I simply want a bit of down-time once they kids are in bed and the work laptop is off. I am probably wrong, but it feels like the game was made for the people who loved the original Halo, and allows for the fact they have..well..grown up! and for that, I absolutely adore it.
  • Oh let's not talk about how the story sucked. Just completely threw everything out that the last stories did. Didn't show us the Chief/ Halsey reunion that Halo 5 hinted at. It felt like a completely different/ alternate universe.