In 2017, the Microsoft-owned development team behind all things Halo began playing catch-up to the series’ worst reviews and reactions in years. Halo 5: Guardians landed with a thud, and high on its list of issues was a complete lack of split-screen multiplayer modes—especially for a linear campaign that revolved around four-player fireteams. If you couldn’t play that mode online, you were stuck with three dull, computer-controlled squadmates.
The critical and consumer backlash was bad enough to lead to a notable moment of damage control for the series’ devs at 343 Industries. At the annual DICE gaming summit, an event centered around developers, 343 chief Bonnie Ross made a pledge: Halo first-person games “will always have split-screen support going forward,” she told the crowd.
Today, after months of delays and optimistic suggestions, Microsoft and 343 Industries have walked back that pledge. The game’s campaign is no longer slated to ever receive a split-screen mode for friends to share on the same couch.
“Taking the resources” elsewhere
The news came as part of a 30-minute Thursday presentation about upcoming Halo Infinite updates, which further confirmed that online campaign co-op is now scheduled to debut on November 8 alongside the highly requested “Forge” editing suite (used by fans to create and share new maps, custom gameplay modes, and other community content). The news about split-screen does not appear as text in any 343 Industries communications this week.
Instead, creative lead Joseph Staten confirms the news at the 11:50 mark in today’s video:
“We have had to make the difficult decision to not ship split-screen campaign co-op,” Staten says, then confirms this is a deliberate decision to “take the resources we would use on that” to instead tackle other development priorities. Worse, the studio has further delayed its “season three” of multiplayer content, choosing instead to push that content to March 2023 to make room for Forge and online co-op launches.
When the oft-delayed sequel Halo Infinite finally materialized in 2021, it arrived without any form of campaign co-op functionality. Staten warned fans about the bad news months in advance, promising that online and split-screen versions of the mode would arrive in a 2022 “season two” update. Staten returned with more bad news in a March 2022 update, saying that all co-op was delayed further while assuring fans that his team was working hard on both possible modes. At the time, he suggested that local co-op would be limited to two players, compared to a four-player maximum in the online version. “The non-linear, wide-open sections of the campaign present some big challenges for split-screen that have taken us more time to solve,” Staten said at the time.
Today’s quote about resource allocation brings to mind at least one outstanding issue with Halo Infinite‘s free-to-play online versus modes: “melee desync,” which causes players to see and experience different collisions and impacts than what registers on a live game’s servers. After players clearly documented the issue, a 343 Industries staffer responded to a Reddit thread in June to say the issue would persist because “devs that would work on these fixes have been allocated to other Infinity work.”