If you want to play 343 Industries’ upcoming Halo 5: Guardians with your friends, they’re going to need their own copy. After first confirming that there would be no local cooperative play in the campaign, 343 and Microsoft have now made official that the game will not support split-screen multiplayer or LAN play of any kind in any of its modes. 343 studio head Josh Holmes dashed fans’ hopes for local multiplayer in response to a question on Twitter:
— Josh Holmes (@JoshingtonState) June 28, 2015
Microsoft subsequently confirmed in a statement to Ars Technica that the “extremely difficult [decision]” to remove all split-screen modes was in order “to ensure that fans get the best Halo experience yet, and the team felt a split-screen experience would compromise the gameplay design and the visual bar they’ve set.” At least in part that means maintaining animation at 60 frames per second. The complete removal of local multiplayer contradicts another Tweet from Holmes in January, which indicated that two-player split-screen would be supported:
@jmartyn00 We plan to support 2-player split screen play for both MP and Campaign co-op.
— Josh Holmes (@JoshingtonState) January 5, 2015
The “dedicated servers” part of Holmes’ tweet also seems to sign a death warrant for LAN support as another way to play in the same physical location as your friends. Halo: The Master Chief Collection also did not officially support LAN parties, though Ars Technica points out that “LAN connectivity can be used in that game so long as all connected Xbox One consoles are also connected to Xbox Live via Wi-Fi,” so there may be a similar workaround for Halo 5.
Every previous first-person shooter in the Halo series, from 2001’s Halo: Combat Evolved to last year’s Halo: The Master Chief Collection, has supported local, split-screen multiplayer. Before Internet-connected consoles were the norm, local multiplayer was instrumental in developing the Halo community. As the comments on our previous story about the lack of split-screen campaign support indicate, playing live with friends is the core of the Halo experience for many players.
Halo sits roughly dead center in mainstream gaming, and so this decision to focus on graphics over such a major component of gameplay is somewhat indicative of the AAA industry’s priorities in general right now. Local multiplayer is being phased out in favor of online play. The business logic of requiring every player to purchase the game is anti-consumer and underestimates the value of playing together in the same place. While indie projects such as Starwhal, Gang Beasts, and Monaco have responded by modernizing couch multiplayer, and board games are better than ever, fans of conventional shooters are largely out of luck if they want to play the latest games locally.
Halo 5: Guardians comes exclusively to Xbox One on October 27, 2015.