Look, before you all get pitchforks and torches and raid my office for saying that the game might suck, I want to point out that I’m a huge fan of the gameplay itself. The game feels very much like a return to form for Halo Multiplayer. I think the new weapons are really fun to use and the equipment and Spartan changes add something fresh to the series without losing the Halo feel.
I’m also a huge fan of the music, as I always have been through the series. The multiplayer maps feel great and I don’t think there’s a single one that wasn’t well thought out – they’re all a blast to play.
The problem with Halo Infinite is a pretty common one nowadays. Rather than charging for the Multiplayer experience, 343 has decided to make their game free. This is the classic wolf using a sheep’s clothing. “Free” on the surface might seem generous and pro-consumer, and it’s really supposed to look that way, the trouble is that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
In general, the basis for defending the freemium model can be summed up as:
“The game is free and the studio needs to make money somehow”.
This defense really has no legs to stand on. Developers and studios could charge you a one-time purchase fee for the game, but they choose not to because offering a battle pass and having an in-game store will earn far more money in the long term.
Essentially, this payment model boils down to greed and a lack of interest in being consumer-focused. They don’t offer a game to the public for free so that everyone who wants to play gets an opportunity to do so or Kumbaya shit like that. They do it to cast the widest net possible for raking in money. They’re huntin’ for whales, boy!
The alternative to this is charging the consumer for their product, one-time, and ending the charges there. This means that the consumer can earn the rewards in-game without having to spend anything but their time. It worked for the fantastic customization in Reach and people commend that decision still.
The issue with the latter model is that it earns less revenue and therefore shareholders are less happy.
Unfortunately, due to this, we’re getting the hyper-aggressive wallet-snatching that we find in Halo Infinite as a result. And don’t be mistaken, the things that you’ve read about the battle pass and in-game store and how bad they are, are absolutely true without an ounce of hyperbole.
I know the internet often makes mountains out of molehills, especially when it comes to gaming, but I don’t think this is the case here. Halo holds a dear place in the hearts of a lot of people. And to see such a beloved franchise turned into a tool for peddling micro-transactions is pretty disappointing, to say the least.
The Armor Tint Problem
A large point of the controversy behind the aggressive wallet-snatching is related to the armor tinting. That is, changing the color of your Spartan character for you and others online to see and enjoy.
In past Halo games, this was a pretty simple feature. You just selected which color you wanted and which armor pieces you wanted to apply it to. You could mix and match this and that and have your Spartan character’s coloring look just as you please.
343 have taken this feature, this basic level of customization, and milked it to a point where even I am surprised at how greedy it is.
Say, your favourite color is red, and you would like your Spartan to be mostly red with maybe some black or grey accents. You’re going to need to locate a color tint that features red as the main color and then the accents that you like. And where are those tints? They’re either in the in-game store where you’ll need to fork over real money, or somewhere along the battle pass that you have to purchase for real money.
If there isn’t a tint that matches your exact preference, you’re shit out of luck because you cannot create your own tints. If you do find that exact mix of red, grey, and black that you want, you’re going to have to spend real money to obtain it. There is no other option. You either obtain it through the painfully slow battle pass or buy it right now from the in-game store. One is obviously meant to be easier than the other, I’ll let you guess which is which.
Let’s say that you do get it. Great. Now, you have the armor tint that you want. You then try and apply it only to find out that it’s incompatible with your current “armor core”. That’s right, boys and girls. Tints that you earn or outright purchase are only compatible with specific armor cores. It’s not going to apply universally. You will need to manually purchase the color red several times.
I know that sounds like bullshit, but that’s only because it is. This is how egregious the effort to monetize every aspect of Halo Infinite is.
Progress is Purposely Slow and Frustrating
I’d like to tell you that’s where the anti-consumer tactics for bleeding the player of their money through manipulation ends, but I’d be lying. Let’s move on to the battle pass.
The battle pass for Halo Infinite is purposely slow and agonizing. Experience is gained only through completing challenges and the rewards for completing said challenges contribute only a minuscule amount to your progress.
The challenges themselves are nigh-impossible to complete. They are often game-mode specific, where there is no existing option to search only for that particular game mode when looking for a multiplayer game.
This is not incompetence, lack of planning, growing pains, or poor decision-making by the studio. This is deliberate.
These are all intentional and active decisions to ensure that the best way of leveling the battle pass and collecting equipment throughout, is by purchasing “level-ups” to the pass or by purchasing “challenge-swaps”.
If you’re not going to get your wallet out to buy battle pass levels, or to buy the swaps to your battle pass challenges, you’re going to have an infinitely more painful experience than someone who does.
It’s intentional. It’s greedy. And Halo deserves better. We deserve better.
Selling Minimum Effort for Maximum Price
Simply put, recoloring armor isn’t difficult. It requires so little effort to apply a shader to the rendering and have the result not look like it was made in MS Paint. It’s something that can be done in a matter of minutes, and this is pretty obvious by just how many variants there are to purchase for the various cores. My issue with the cores and having to purchase a color multiple times is something that we’ve already gone over.
This isn’t a lack of talent or personnel. It’s creating the maximum number of avenues to take your money, with the least amount of effort or cost. I think the outrage over the armor tint system and the cores system would be much less if those purchases were for significantly smaller amounts.
40 cents here or there for purchasing a specific piece of cool armor or elaborate coloring pattern wouldn’t raise too many flags. It’s not as good as earning these items, but the fact that we’re being charged up to $8 AUD for a color pattern that a designer has spent 18 seconds on, only to have to purchase that pattern several times for each core, without any additional effort or time on the developer’s part, well, that’s just a bit too much for me to swallow.
I don’t mind showing my support for a dedicated design and art team, but this game’s monetization decisions tarnish Halo’s legacy. It would’ve been nice if the “Infinite” part of the name didn’t refer to 343’s nickel and diming.
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