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The Real Reason Why Halo Online Was Canceled

The "Halo" franchise is inextricably linked to the Xbox family of consoles. The first game in the series, "Halo: Combat Evolved," helped establish the Xbox as a legitimate competitor to the PlayStation, and the franchise has been a flagship for Microsoft ever since.

However, when Bungie first started working on what would become one of the most iconic shooters of all time, a console release was the furthest thing from their minds. Bungie had made its name developing games for PCs and, interestingly enough, Macs in the '90s. In fact, Steve Jobs was the first person to publicly display "Halo" at MacWorld 1999, using it as an example of the bright future of gaming on Apple's technology.

Obviously, that didn't happen, and the "Halo" series became an Xbox-exclusive product, with ports of "Halo: Combat Evolved" and "Halo 2" limping to PC years later. After "Halo 2," Microsoft would make no further effort to send "Halo" titles to the PC for the better part of the decade. So when "Halo Online" was announced as a free-to-play, PC-only experience, fans got excited — until the game abruptly disappeared without much explanation. Here is the real reason that "Halo Online" was canceled.

Halo Online was a short-lived experiment that Microsoft pulled the plug on

"Halo Online" was the "Halo" title that few fans heard of and even fewer had a chance to try — unless they lived in Russia. Development of the game was overseen by 343 Industries, who took over the "Halo" franchise after Bungie split with Microsoft, and completed mainly by Saber Interactive and Russian publisher Innova Systems.

343 Industries' first official announcement that "Halo Online" was in development and would be a free, PC-exclusive product came on March 25, 2015. That announcement was accompanied by the news that the game would launch almost immediately, albeit as a closed beta available in Russia only. Testing on the game continued throughout 2015, and from the outside, fans weren't given much of a reason to think they wouldn't have a free "Halo" experience to look forward to sometime in 2016.

However, fans would get essentially no news until August, when a post went up on the Russian social media platform VK. As translated by Google, that post stated, "But over the past six months, colleagues from Microsoft have not been able to make decisions about the future of the project. Now only one thing is known – the game will not be released in its current form." Microsoft never responded to the allegations of indecisiveness on its part. However, Saber Interactive told PCGamesN that "'serious problems' during the game's development resulted in the studio having to 'send the game for a serious revision' for several months."

Modders gave Halo Online an extended life that may have impacted the Master Chief Collection

From the very little information offered by either side, it's hard to tell what went wrong with "Halo Online." Considering that "Halo" was synonymous with Microsoft's gaming platform, the company may have simply felt that the risks of releasing a free-to-play game outside of its traditional platform didn't outweigh the benefits.

However, "Halo" fans are nothing if not persistent, and the modding community couldn't resist the opportunity to bring "Halo Online" to fans worldwide. As reported by Polygon, as soon the game started its first open beta in April 2015, modders began making changes to the code to make it available to a broader audience, despite shutdown attempts by Microsoft. Once "Halo Online" went down for good, modders who had simply been trying to gain access shifted their focus to rebuilding the experience. This ultimately resulted in ElDewrito, a revival of the game that Microsoft surprisingly neglected to shut down for two entire years.

343 Industries did issue a formal statement about a forthcoming legal action against ElDewrito on April 24, 2018, followed the next day by a tweet from Xbox head Phil Spencer teasing future PC experiences and plans to partner with modders. ElDewrito wrote on their blog that the developers told them their work keeping "Halo Online" alive had given them a "kick in the pants" to bring the "Halo: Master Chief Collection" to the PC. So while "Halo Online" never came to be, it helped deliver what PC "Halo" fans wanted all along.