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Halo Infinite fans just got terrible news

Though developers managed to ship titles like Doom Eternal, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and Ghost of Tsushima this year, logistical challenges created by COVID-19 have resulted in an increasing number of game delays. In mid-June, CD Projekt Red pushed the Cyberpunk 2077 release to Nov. 19, and today, two more titles joined the growing list of affected projects. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 boarded the delay train first, only to be followed by Halo Infinite hours later.

"We have made the difficult decision to shift our release to 2021 to ensure the team has adequate time to deliver a Halo game experience that meets our vision," wrote studio head Chris Lee. "The extra time will let us finish the critical work necessary to deliver the most ambitious Halo game ever at the quality we know our fans expect."

Microsoft revealed Halo Infinite with an announcement trailer at E3 2018 that included a demo for the new Slipspace Engine. The "Discover Hope" cinematic followed in June 2019, highlighting the fresh direction 343 Industries plans to take the franchise. Described as a "spiritual reboot" by Lee, Halo Infinite will maintain the continuity established in Halo 5 while acting as an entry point for new players into the Halo series.

An exclusive look at Halo Infinite's gameplay dropped at the July Xbox Games Showcase, eliciting mixed reactions from fans. While many were ecstatic to see Master Chief doing what he does best, the quality of the graphics on display left others disappointed. To add insult to injury, the news broke that the Halo Infinite demo featured during the showcase was "captured from a PC that is representative of the experience that players will have on Xbox Series X." Though some prospective players proved more forgiving than others, it's clear this revelation left Microsoft and 343 Industries standing on less than solid ground.

According to today's update, several factors influenced 343 Industries' decision to push the Halo Infinite launch, including the ongoing impact of the coronavirus. Criticism spawned by the July demo likely also played a role, which the studio addressed in a July 30 Community Update. "We do have work to do to address some of these areas and raise the level of fidelity and overall presentation for the final game," reads the post. "While some of the feedback was expected and speaks to areas already in progress, other aspects of the feedback have brought new opportunities and considerations to light that the team is taking very seriously and working to assess."

Lee stated that the well-being of employees also contributed to the move, a comforting statement given the "crunch culture" that surrounds many AAA releases. Naughty Dog, Rockstar Games, and CD Projekt Red have all come under fire in recent years for requiring staffers to work extended periods of overtime, especially in the final months of a game's development cycle. While it's unclear if the team at 343 has had to endure similar expectations, the company has at least acknowledged that it's "not sustainable" to ship Halo Infinite by the Holiday 2020 season.

While the prospect of having to wait until next year to step back into Chief's shoes disappointed some Halo fans, others took comfort in the news. Many expressed their optimism that the extra time would allow the developers to address the perceived quality issues from the gameplay demo. Others directed their ire at Microsoft, complaining that the Series X would not include any meaningful titles at launch, which could prove a heavy blow in the ongoing console war.

"Well ... @Xbox thanks for participating and giving away another generation," wrote one commenter. "So what you're saying is that there is zero reason to buy an Xbox series x now, cool, saves me $500," quipped another.

The Xbox Series X may have lost its flagship launch title to a setback, but Microsoft seems determined to forge ahead with its next-generation system. Not long after 343 Industries revealed its decision to delay the Halo Infinite release to 2021, Xbox Wire Editor in Chief Will Tuttle narrowed the launch window for the Series X. It seems Xbox fans will be able to get their hands on the new system in November 2020, along with 50+ cross-generation games planned for 2020. Other titles developed specifically for the Series X, such as The Medium and Scorn, are also on the way.

Master Chief might arrive late to the party, but Microsoft wants you to know that it has plenty to keep you occupied in the meantime.