Halo: Master Chief Collection would—in theory—be a perfect point of entry for PC gamers who've missed out on the series over the years. So why is it, for now, Xbox One-only? And could that change?
Halo is Microsoft's flagship game series on the Xbox, but they've also got that whole Windows thing going on. You might have heard of it—for instance from hundreds of millions of people the world over maybe. PC players have been clamoring for more Halo (Halo 1 and 2 were both released for office place computing machines years ago; middling strategy spin-off Spartan Assault came out more recently) for years, but their cries have largely fallen on deaf ears. But with Microsoft pledging better PC support, what's stopping them now?
"We've definitely heard the questions about PC," said executive producer Dan Ayoub. "Right now we're a couple months out from the Xbox version's release, and that's our main focus right now. That's quite honestly where all our headspace is right now."
Ayoub explained that while porting old games to new platforms and remastering them to varying degrees might not seem like the most labor intensive thing, the sheer scale of this project—four games, one of which is getting a complete graphical overhaul—would make it hard to churn out two versions at once.
"From a technical standpoint, you look at the architecture of the Xbox One and there are some similarities to the architecture of a modern PC," he said. "That certainly makes that sort of cross-platform development easier. But beyond that the ease goes away. Master Chief Collection is massive. We have to coordinate four games, 100-plus maps, a lot of new cinematics, and Halo 2 Anniversary."
And while it's not what a lot of PC players want to hear, this remaster is, in a lot of ways, about consoles. For them. Ayoub claimed that, given the amount of work the collection took, 343 had to make a choice. Xbox One won out.
"We wanted to do a great job on console," Ayoub explained. "The anchor of Halo: Master Chief Collection is the ten-year anniversary of Halo 2 on console. So our approach was to focus primarily on console as a result of that."
That said, 343 Industries isn't blind to the PC community's ongoing interest in green men shooting at every color of the alien rainbow. The PC version of the original Halo still has a passionate playerbase improving it, and some especially ambitious modders are trying to make their own full PC Halo game in CryEngine 3. Fan projects like these help keep games and series alive long after their natural expiration dates. More and more, it seems almost silly for developers to ignore that.
"That's one of the things I love about the PC community," said Ayoub. "You've got so many cool things going on [with fans]. And then you've got the breadth; PCs are everywhere all over the planet. Obviously as part of Microsoft PCs are part of our business. When you look at that market and community, there's almost limitless possibilities in terms of what we can do."
Nothing's set in stone, but Ayoub's words are encouraging. However, that's all they are for now: words. On top of that the previous Halo release on PC—Spartan Assault—wasn't exactly the most... spirited effort. Time will tell. A PC version of Master Chief Collection seems like a no-brainer, but unfortunately brains don't magically poof video games into existence. We'll see.