After a mass wave of 10,000 layoffs at Microsoft that impacted, among other Xbox teams, 343 Industries, there have been a number of concerning reports and rumors surrounding the future of the Halo series in the hands of a significantly downsized team. In response to these concerns, Xbox head Phil Spencer has reassured that 343 remains “critically important” to the success of Halo.
Speaking to IGN, Spencer first celebrated Halo’s initial launch, saying 343 “did a really good job delivering a great Halo game.” But he followed up by acknowledging they “didn’t hit our own bar” for content update timing and quality.
“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,” Spencer continued. “And Halo will remain critically important to what Xbox is doing, and 343 is critically important to the success of Halo. In terms of support studios and other things, that’s just part of development and having other partners help us. But 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.”
When asked what that plan going forward might entail, Spencer deferred to letting 343 explain in its own time, but did note that the team still had “some other things, some rumored, some announced, that they’ll be working on.”
“Halo is always going to be one of those things in my mind that is part of Xbox lore, part of just the foundation of what Xbox is about,” he continued. “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. 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.”
Speaking more generally about the layoffs, Spencer said he “take[s] to heart” the impact on individuals, and acknowledged that as the person with business responsibility to create “a safe space where people can do their best work,” the very fact of layoffs happening at all meant he hadn’t succeeded.
Xbox 20th Anniversary Halo Infinite Multiplayer Images
343 Industries specifically was “hit hard” by layoffs according to IGN’s sources, with 30 people let go from its art department alone and positions impacted across all disciplines. One source suggested the studio had been reduced to a publishing team only, but other conversations IGN had indicated that the situation was ongoing, but may end with 343 no longer the sole developer of Halo.
Halo Infinite was initially praised at launch for its campaign and free-to-play multiplayer, but has since garnered criticism for its controversial progression system, cancelled split-screen co-op, delays to Forge Mode, and long content droughts. It’s seen a creative and leadership exodus in the last year since launch, losing founder Bonnie Ross, multiplayer creative director Tom French, lead narrative designer Aaron Linde, and most recently head of creative Joseph Staten, who was moved to Xbox’s publishing division amidst the 343 layoffs.
We spoke with Spencer on a number of other topics, including the Activision Blizzard acquisition, Xbox’s presence around E3 2023, and the success of HBO’s The Last of Us. You can check out our full interview right here.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.