Halo Infinite is slipping. As first reported by Forbes, 343 Industries’ popular shooter—the marquee Xbox game of this generation—has dropped out of the top five most-played games on Xbox, down from once upon a time holding fast in the top position.
In November, Halo Infinite’s multiplayer portion launched out of the blue on Xbox and PC. The first mainline Halo shooter in six years, it’s also the first to feature a free-to-play multiplayer mode—a combination of factors that led to a stratospheric launch. On Steam, it quickly closed in on almost 300,000 concurrent players. More recently, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella noted how Halo Infinite has been played by 20 million people to date, making it the “biggest” launch in series history.
These numbers are of course impressive, but the trajectory that’s unfolded since is arguably concerning, at least that’s what the internet pundits say. Halo, after all, is Xbox’s flagship series, with Infinite the sort of definitive take that only happens maybe once a generation, if you’re lucky. If it’s not even on the podium of Xbox’s most-played games, what first-party game could possibly crack it? Right now, Infinite is behind—in reverse order—Roblox, Apex Legends, Grand Theft Auto V, Call of Duty: Warzone, and the eternally indomitable Fortnite. (Like Halo Infinite’s multiplayer mode, all of those industry behemoths, save for GTA V, are free-to-play.)
On Steam, meanwhile, Halo Infinite has fewer than 10,000 concurrent players (as of this writing), though it’s still in the top 100. Barely. That said, take the Steam metric with a grain of salt, as it’s not entirely indicative of Infinite’s health. Halo has historically had a console-focused community. And those on PC could be playing, through a Game Pass membership, on Microsoft’s PC storefront. Anyone who plays Halo Infinite via Game Pass, which recently claimed 25 million subscribers, gets a markdown on the battle pass and other microtransactions, plus can earn free cosmetic rewards.
Representatives for Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Dwindled numbers seem to echo a sentiment from some of Halo Infinite’s most vocal members: that the game has been spinning its wheels when it comes to long-term retention for some time.
“I wonder what the problem is and how 343 can fix it,” one fan mused yesterday in a now-viral Reddit post. Players responded en masse by listing the reasons they’ve stopped playing, calling out matters like the Big Team Battle mode, high-priced microtransactions, a general lack of content, and rampant issues of desync, which have gone largely unaddressed by developer 343 Industries. Others lament how they’ve fully completed the 100-level battle pass, and find little to work toward.
Last week, 343 Industries officially rolled out a fix for the Big Team Battle mode. (It works swimmingly now.) That’s in addition to a slew of marginal improvements to the pilloried microtransaction store. But the game is still absent a lot of content, with fewer maps than its predecessor, Halo 5: Guardians. Custom games have long been a staple of Halo’s community, allowing the player base to embrace its collective sillier side, but those are functionally nonexistent in Halo Infinite. Yes, you can technically set games up with friends, but you’re confined by strict parameters. All some players (read: me) want is the option to create a low-gravity mode where everyone spawns with grappleshots and can move at triple their normal speed!!!
Halo Infinite’s second season, which will introduce support for a cooperative campaign (two locally, four online), is slated to begin the first week of May. The season will feature a second-season battle pass, and will allow players to earn credits for use in the game’s microtransaction store. Down the line, 343 Industries will add Forge—Halo’s robust creative mode—to Infinite. And data-mining accounts have suggested no fewer than five new maps will join the rotation, and the well-liked Attrition mode, which was playable for a few weeks earlier this year, will make a return eventually.
In January, players expected 343 to release a roadmap for all of this stuff, but that announcement has since been deferred, with Halo Infinite creative lead Joe Staten saying, “We need more time to finalize our plans so what we share is something you can rely on.”
So it’s not that Halo Infinite has nothing in the pipeline, even though it might feel that way to hardcore fans who have sped through all the existing content. It’s that players have done what they can for now, and are cooling their jets for the future, resulting in a natural drop-off in a genre defined by the ebbs and flows of ever-fickle player interest. The number to panic about isn’t where Halo Infinite is at today. The number to watch is where it’s at in May, when a wave of new content floods the game. If players don’t return in droves following that, then yes, Halo Infinite may be in trouble.