There was a lot of apprehension in the air when Bungie and Microsoft parted ways, leaving the Halo series in a bit of a lurch while Microsoft scrambled to find a new team to be in control of Master Chief’s fate. If you ask a lot of hardcore Halo fans, the series ended with Halo 3 and everything after that was Microsoft looking to cash in on the Halo name. As we now know, Microsoft with 343 Industries at the helm is looking to create a second trilogy in the Halo universe, with Halo 4 serving as the jumping off point for it.
We’ve already seen 343 Industries take a few innovative approaches to try to keep Halo gamers happy, including the “seasons” of Spartan Ops, which is more or less a horde mode a la Gears of War and every other shooter game on the market these days. Yet, it was free content in a world of Season Passes and downloadable content that costs a lot of money. That isn’t to say that 343 Industries passed up on having a Season Pass or downloadable content, because they did, hell, this week we saw the Castle Map Pack for Halo 4.
The latest news regarding Halo is that 343 Industries have been exploring even more ways to make money off of Halo 4 after you’ve already spent the money to buy the game and possible even buy the Season Pass for the new maps. They need to make more money off of Halo 4 and they are beginning to come around on everyone’s favorite topic to hate; microtransactions. Microtransactions have been around for a while now, picking up some serious steam along with the free-to-play movement where developers are releasing games for free, but forcing players to pay using in game transactions for premium content. While that certainly is a model of its own, we’ve also seen full-priced retail games using microtransactions and this is where things get messy.
You could say that the advent of microtransactions as a business model helped to land Electronic Arts as the Consumerist’s Worst Company in America for a second year in a row. So why anyone would continue to pursue microtransactions in full retail games is beyond the grasp of most within the industry, outside of a desire to rake valuable customers over the coals repeatedly.
For a series like Halo, even if Halo 4 was well-received, the switch from Bungie to 343 Industries has left the franchise on a foundation of sand by the beach. There is still potential for the Halo games to continue being a success and to march along unphased, but any little thing could cause the whole franchise to come tumbling down. Many will be left wondering; doesn’t Microsoft have enough money? Didn’t I already pay over $100 for this game?
If Microsoft and 343 Industries are truly serious about continuing to make games in the Halo franchise, they really need to stop and evaluate what fans actually want, not what is making money for other game studios.