343, the studio behind Halo Infinite, has also been hit by Microsoft’s layoffs, which could result in tens of thousands of people being laid off.
On the same day that Microsoft announced that it was laying off tens of thousands(!) of employees, including those at Bethesda and 343 Industries, the former lead multiplayer designer of Halo Infinite, Patrick Wren, had harsh words for 343’s management’s policy on the game.
“The layoffs shouldn’t have happened, and Halo Infinite should be in a better state,” Wren wrote on Twitter.
“The reason for both of those things is incompetent leadership up top during Halo Infinite development causing massive stress on those working hard to make Halo the best it can be.”
Clearly, Microsoft’s widespread layoffs can’t be blamed on 343. But Wren says the studio could have been spared. Or, at the very least, it could have mitigated the impact of the layoffs on its own team. Infinite has had a strange journey: the initial unveiling was met with scepticism, mocking memes and a year’s delay. Then, when it launched in the autumn of 2021, it was warmly received with a decently rated campaign and free-to-play multiplayer.
Since then, however, the game hasn’t been fully completed in a year. Fans were unhappy with the pace of multiplayer updates. Promised additions such as the Forge and campaign co-op only materialised a full year after launch. Shortly after Infinite’s delay, studio director Chris Lee left the project. 343 has also experienced a series of significant departures. Among them were the studio’s founder, lead multiplayer designer, lead narrative designer and director of engineering.
Wren and Nicholas Bird, who worked on Halo Infinite, have both criticised 343’s use of contract labour in development. “I would have loved to stay on the team if I could have and worked my way up,” Bird wrote in response to Wren. He complained about the time constraints imposed by Microsoft on contract workers. “So many amazing people and talent that just disappeared,” Wren agreed.
Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier wrote about Microsoft contract workers back in 2020. “At Microsoft, contractors can only work for 18 months max (they can come back after a six-month break),” Schreier tweeted at the time.
“Microsoft uses so many contractors that this limit leads to a lot of attrition – and for games that take four plus years to make, like Halo Infinite, it has been disruptive.”
Wren, however, was more optimistic about the management of Infinite’s multiplayer team. He wrote: “I do want to make sure that I call out how amazing the multiplayer team was during development.”
It is surprising and unusual that a developer still active in the industry would speak so openly and critically about a former employer. But it shows how deeply he feels his dissatisfaction with 343’s leadership during the development of Infinite runs deep.
343’s unpreparedness to launch a live-action game after a year-long delay was embarrassing from the outside. Disheartening for gamers who were initially excited by the excellent foundations laid with multiplayer. We can only imagine the frustration of the staff inside the studio. Meanwhile, layoffs are sweeping through one of the wealthiest companies in the world. Creating in this unpredictable environment can be difficult.
Don't forget the heavy reliance on contractors/vendors and that messed up system (though I know that's more MS). I would have loved to stay on the team if I could of and worked my way up. Still one of my favorite jobs I have been at.
— Nick | SIR IRON WOLF (@Nick_TheBirdMan) January 19, 2023