Last night, I bought a can of Pringles mostly on the grounds that it would grant me an XP boost in Halo Infinite, only to find that I couldn’t actually redeem the code. See, I’d have to upload a photo of my receipt to the company’s website. The process makes a certain degree of sense (you’d want to prevent people from walking around the deli and scanning QR codes from snacks they don’t pay for) but c’mon, who the hell hangs on to receipts these days?
I didn’t end up with my XP boost (sad trombone) but I did get a front-row seat to Halo Infinite’s bizarre and expansive cross-promotional branding campaign. Much like the launch of other main Halo games, you now can see Master Chief’s not-face on a litany of snacks, energy drinks, and fast-casual food chains.
Most of these promotions have a clear selling point. Engagement in the multiplayer portion of Halo Infinite, which has for all intents and purposes been out on Xbox and PC for roughly three weeks now, is largely driven by a 100-level battle pass. Every 1,000XP you earn, primarily through knocking out daily and weekly challenges, you’ll go up a level. And as you level, you unlock various cosmetic options for your Halo avatar.
Following some vocal backlash about Halo Infinite’s glacial pace of progression, developer 343 Industries tweaked the system so you earn XP simply for seeing matches through to the end. But the fastest way to progress is still to knock out any number of your 20 allotted weekly challenges—tasks like “Get five double kills in PvP” or “Win three matches of capture-the-flag.”
You can buy XP boosts and challenge swaps in Halo Infinite’s microtransaction store at a rate of $2 for four (two boosts, two swaps). You can also earn some of both at a regular clip by making your way through the battle pass. But while the Battle Pass provides some swaps as you go along, for the most part you have to actually buy these items to make your challenges more manageable. Game Pass owners do get a small discount, though.
That can of Pringles, had I kept my receipt, would’ve given me a single-use item called an XP boost. By activating that, I’d double the amount of XP I earn for an hour. Meanwhile, by punching in the promo code “Halo117” on a digitally placed order from Chipotle, the fast-casual chain, I could theoretically earn five challenge swaps. Those would let me swap out any weekly challenges I’d find a bit too challenging. (Challenge swaps don’t work for capstone challenges, the final ones you get each week.)
Rockstar, the energy drink, debatably offers the most tantalizing cross-promotion (a campaign not to be confused with last year’s “win an Xbox and then go to France” collab with Monster Energy). Every Halo-branded can of Rockstar has a code under tab. Redeeming that code enters you for a daily giveaway of an Xbox Series X. Every code you enter grants you an XP boost plus something, including challenge swaps, paint jobs for weapons and vehicles, and customization options for your multiplayer banner. Entering the contest, however, won’t make Rockstar taste like anything other than irradiated lime juice.
The whole thing is a weird exercise in managing the in-game annoyances from getting challenging or unrealistic challenges. Plus, the prizes up for grabs aren’t exactly anything to write home about. You’re not earning sweet, rare cosmetics or raw XP. You’re merely earning the chance to get more XP. And challenge swaps don’t even guarantee a bonus. If you’re saddled with one that seems impossible (“blow up three Warthogs in PvP”), you could use a swap and just as easily end up with one that actually is impossible (“blow up three Wasps in PvP”). And you only really reap benefits from XP boosts if you’re blowing through challenges while one is active.
But that’s the nature of the beast here—that you’d fork over a couple bucks in the hopes of nabbing some marginal improvement to your standing. The flavor of those Pringles? Roasted jalapeno. Yes, even though the far superior salt and vinegar variety was right there. An effective promotional campaign can make a sucker out of any of us.