Halo: The Master Chief Collection was always going to be an immediate commercial success. The remastered collection, which was released on November 11 exclusively for Xbox One, sold over 1 million copies worldwide in its first week. The Master Chief Collection promised fans the chance to play the first four Halo titles in one convenient package. This was complete with both classic and revamped versions of the most popular aspect of the series: the multiplayer.
Even though the Halo single player campaigns have always been enjoyable, the franchise is defined by its competitive multiplayer. Halo 2's multiplayer was the standout deathmatch experience for the original Xbox, and arguably the game on which Microsoft cut its online gaming teeth. Released two years after the launch of Xbox Live, Halo 2 helped to nurture the online multiplayer behemoth, and the game proved to be so popular that the Halo 2 Xbox Live servers were only shut down in February of 2010. It took even longer on PC, with those servers only going offline in February 2013.
Unfortunately for Halo fans, The Master Chief Collection has proved to have some serious flaws. When the game was released, it was met with positive reviews. The single player gameplay was as solid as could be expected of the series, and the graphical improvements on show worked well, with all but the updated version of Halo 2 being brought to high definition. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the multiplayer.
At the time that reviews were written, the true problems facing the multiplayer aspects of the remastered collection were yet to be seen. However, it wasn't long before the online issues were made all too clear. The Master Chief Collection launched with some players suffering from severe server problems, with major lag and matchmaking trouble from the beginning. Below is a video example of the connectivity issues facing the collection from its release, and those problems are still being reported today.
Recently, VG247 gave a rundown of the problems still on show in The Master Chief Collection, detailing several examples of the wait times needed to join games. VG247 is not alone, either. A quick look at Reddit shows that even though there have been some improvements, players are still suffering with serious problems, with some saying that "matchmaking is still a broken joke." With over two months since the game's release, it is incredible that the multiplayer issues have still not been resolved entirely.
In fact, given the status of The Master Chief Collection, it should never have been released in such an incomplete way. Halo is one of the most well-known franchises in the video game industry, and given the size of Halo's fanbase it is no surprise that the community is disappointed. Even after multiple updates and fixes, there are still serious problems that have not been fully addressed. All in all, Microsoft and developer 343 Industries may have been lucky that The Master Chief Collection launched at the same time as a number of other high-profile, buggy games.
343 Industries has taken some action to appease buyers of The Master Chief Collection. The release of the game was met with an apology from the developer, who promised to fix the multitude of problems that were not addressed in a day one 15GB update. A substantial goodwill gesture was made by 343 Industries at the end of the year, as the developer gave 1 month's free Xbox Live Gold credit and the promise of a HD remake of Halo: ODST to any gamer who bought The Master Chief Collection before December 19. The latest game patch also appears to have helped some players, who claim that there have been some improvements to matchmaking.
However, a huge amount of damage had already been done to Microsoft and the Halo series. A much-promoted Master Chief Collection eSports league was forced to be delayed over the multiplayer problems, providing embarrassment for a franchise that was once seen by many as the king of multiplayer gaming. Twin-stick shooter Halo: Spartan Strike was also delayed by Microsoft, with the publisher stating that fixing The Master Chief Collection was more of a priority. Most importantly, the problems with the Halo collection has overshadowed the release of the latest game in the main series, Halo 5: Guardians.
Both Microsoft and 343 Industries have tried to keep a focus on Halo 5, even during the problems that the The Master Chief Collection has struggled with. A Halo 5 multiplayer beta started on December 29, and ended on January 18. Unfortunately, as the beta ended, 343 Industries again had to reiterate their return to work on The Master Chief Collection, rather than looking forward to further work on Halo 5. And within the gaming community, anticipation for Halo 5 has fallen.
The beta itself has met with positive feedback for many. Although 343 Industries has changed the Halo formula a little from previous iterations, the additions generally seem to have been well-received and enhance the gameplay. It's not exactly positive that some players seem to have been surprised by how fun they have found the beta, however: expectations had been set low for players burned by the disappointment surrounding both The Master Chief Collection and the multiplayer of Halo 4.
It looks even worse when compared to Destiny. The MMO shooter was created by Halo gurus Bungie, and it's fair to say that the developer's new IP has been a huge success. Even after the incredible $500 million cost of creating - and promoting - the shooter, it was still both a commercial and critical success. Destiny sits in the top 3 best-selling games of 2014, and was in our top 10 games of the year. Even though the game did not quite live up to the expectations set of it, it has still proved to be one of the most successful new-gen titles.
However, one of Destiny's key successes is the general anticipation that surrounded the title. Destiny was the third-highest searched-for video game of 2014, beaten only by mobile titles Angry Birds and 2048. Looking at the search figures for the game, even with the expected post-release drop-off, Destiny is still creating a huge amount of online buzz - something that will likely continue with the release of future DLC packs. When you compare the search data for both "Destiny" and "Halo 5," it looks even worse for Microsoft and 343 Industry's title. "Destiny" is blue in the graph below, with "Halo 5" in red. Further insight can be found over at Google Trends.
It's hard to see what steps Microsoft and 343 Industries can do to rival Destiny. Although Destiny's drop-off will continue, and Halo 5 will no doubt gain more anticipation and online buzz as its release this Fall grows closer, it's doubtful that Halo 5 will even get close to just how explosive Destiny's build-up and release was. Fans have been burned by previous Halo titles, with The Master Chief Collection proving to be a serious dent in Microsoft's reputation.
The best possible solution is to create a game worthy of the Halo name. 2014 saw the rebirth of two franchises seen by many as past their prime. Wolfenstein: The New Order was a surprise smash that managed a huge amount of critical acclaim after the mixed reception to 2009's Wolfenstein. Meanwhile, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare saw some new life breathed into the series that seemed stale based on previous title Call of Duty: Ghosts - even though the latest game sold less copies than its predecessor. Perhaps the answer is for Xbox to stop simply talking about their customers being "first-class," and instead create a product worthy of them.