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343 Apologizes For Highly Offensive Halo Infinite Cosmetic

To say that "Halo Infinite" has been the subject of significant backlash over the last couple of years would be an understatement. From the very first gameplay reveal, fans have taken issue with multiple aspects of the title. It's not often that fans are happy when a game gets delayed, but the extra time in the development oven allowed 343 Industries to turn out a single-player campaign that was well-received by most critics. Even so, the game has continued to frustrate players in other areas, from weak events to out-of-control Subreddit arguments. The latest controversy to hit "Halo Infinite," however, may be the most upsetting yet.

In observance of Juneteeth — the day marking the 1865 freeing of enslaved people in Texas — 343 Industries released a new nameplate customization palette for the game. The nameplate sports the colors green, black, and red, and was meant to show the company's support for the nationally recognized holiday and its historical importance. However, fans were shocked and appalled to discover that the nameplate palette had been named "Bonobo" — the name of a great ape. 

The "Bonobo" title was immediately decried as racist by a number of fans, who demanded 343 change it out immediately and be held accountable for the mistake. Some players even threatened to boycott the game until the fix could be made. One of the more high-profile responses came from OpTic "Halo" pro player aPG, who expressed his disgust with the palette name and his reluctance to continue supporting the company through his esports career.

343 quickly responded to fans and made a few changes in rapid succession, but the question still remains: How did this happen? And what did 343 Industries have to say about it in the aftermath?

Halo Infinite's fans demand answers

Since the controversy arose, 343 Industries has changed the title of the nameplate palette twice: from "Bonobo" to "Freedom," then to the much more straightforward "Juneteenth" (per Windows Central). While many fans were pleased to see the title change happen so quickly, others still couldn't believe the mistake could have happened at all. Some people questioned how such a thing got through quality assurance testers, while some fans pointed out how weird it was that the quickly the team cycled through two different replacement names.

So how did this even happen? According to 343 Industries, "Bonobo" is actually the name of a program used by the development team. 343 Senior Community Manager John Junyszek explained, "While the original name refers to an internal toolset, it was not intended to be applied to this content and we recognize the harm it may have caused." YouTuber Mint Blitz dug into this and confirmed that 343 (and Bungie before that) indeed uses a toolset called "Bonobo" in development, which may have ultimately resulted in the offensive palette name. 

How these two things could have been transposed is still unclear — and it doesn't change the fact that the mistake greatly upset the fanbase — but Mint Blitz and others who have taken a look at the toolset are confident that this was a genuine accident on the part of 343. It's been enough of an explanation that some "Halo" fans have been able to accept it, while still arguing that the mistake should never have happened in the first place. Others are suspicious of the fact that this kind of mistake has seemingly never happened before in the history of "Halo." And a number of fans are flat-out not buying the excuse, with some saying this whole incident was enough to put them off of playing "Halo Infinite" ever again. 

343's boss offers an apology

Needless to say, 343 Industries has been in a state of damage control in the hours since the "Bonobo" controversy kicked off. 343 Industries founder Bonnie Ross took to Twitter to issue a statement to fans: "We were made aware of a palette option for our Juneteenth emblem that contained a term that was offensive and hurtful. The team immediately addressed this issue via an update." Ross continued, "We are a studio and franchise that is committed to inclusivity where everyone is welcome and supported to be their true self. On behalf of 343, I apologize for making a celebrated moment a hurtful moment."

Fans in the replies to Ross' tweet were not entirely forgiving, however, with many of the responses continuing to express skepticism towards the company's explanations and apologies. It's unclear how much lasting damage this controversy could do to 343's reputation, but the debate surrounding this nameplate palette will likely continue for quite some time.