343 Industries releases Halo 4 DLC for free, claims it’s a promo [UPDATE]

Halo 4 -- Crimson Map Pack -- Harvest

After finishing up my work for Digital Trends on Monday evening, I decided to unwind by playing a few multiplayer matches in 343 Industries’ recently-released blockbuster shooter Halo 4. Noticing that the game’s first DLC map pack had just appeared on the Xbox Live Marketplace, I thought to myself that the $10 price point it featured was a perfectly reasonable amount of cash to spend on three new multiplayer arenas. Thus, I clicked through to the Xbox Live Marketplace option at the bottom of Halo 4’s main menu, pulled up the Crimson Map Pack listing and instructed my Xbox 360 to download the 500MB-plus addition.

That’s when things got a bit strange. My console responded to my command immediately and started pulling down the data that would eventually make up the Crimson Map Pack. That’s pretty typical, but what’s odd here is that the Xbox Live Marketplace never actually deducted the 800 Microsoft Points (read: $10USD) from my Xbox Live account. Realizing that I needed to explore this anomaly further, I started looking into the issue, but the Internet had surprisingly little to tell me about what was going on.

At the time, the best I could find were a handful of comments on this Joystiq article detailing the issues 343 Industries was having in making the DLC available to owners of the Halo 4 Limited Edition bundle (which is supposed to offer players early access to the game’s DLC offerings). The very first comment on that piece echoes my confusing issue. “For some reason when I clicked Xbox Live Marketplace on the main menu it let me download the Crimson Map Pack for free,” writes Dylan Chatland, seemingly as bewildered by this turn of events as I was.

At this point I realized I was getting nowhere and instead decided to contact Microsoft directly to ask the publisher what exactly was going on. A few hours later we received a reply from Microsoft representatives. “We are aware of the situation. I’m working on getting more details,” they told us.

Roughly 12 hours after our initial email we received a substantial response from Microsoft. It reads as follows:

As an additional reward to those customers that participated in our “14 Day, Buy and Play” program (which ran from Nov. 6 – Nov. 20), we are providing complimentary access to the Crimson Map Pack for a limited time, through Tuesday, December 18 at 9am UTC/GMT.

You’ll notice that this is the first we’ve heard of this promotional effort. Assuming Microsoft or 343 Industries had planned a stealthy release of the Crimson Map Pack specifically for a select group of players, wouldn’t one of the companies have mentioned all of this prior to its debut? The only other alternative we can imagine is that somebody at either of the aforementioned firms made a glaring mistake and in an effort to minimize public damage the companies have decided to simply leave well enough alone. Those who picked up the Crimson Map Pack for free will get to keep their DLC, at least for a limited time.

So does this mean that come December 18 those free Map Packs will no longer function? We asked Microsoft, and have yet to hear back. Further, we also asked the company if this newly-revealed scheme was an effort to cover up an internal error. We’ve yet to receive a response to that inquiry as well. If Microsoft offers us a reply we’ll be sure to bring it to you, but for now we should probably assume that the gratis Crimson Map Pack is a time sensitive offer.

With that in mind, is anyone up for a bit of Infinity Slayer on Harvest? We may not have access to the map for long, so we may as well make good use of it, huh?

Update: Microsoft just sent over a reply to our final questions. It seems that those who acquired the Crimson Map Pack for free will find it non-functional once December 18 rolls around (unless, of course, they pony up $10 to buy the thing). Those who picked it up legitimately will not be impacted.

As to why neither Microsoft nor 343 Industries outlined this promotional plan prior to our discovery, it seems that there were internal “complications” with rolling out the program. “In terms of your second question about why this wasn’t announced in advance, there were some initial complications with the distribution of the ’14 day, Buy and Play’ reward tokens, and so we decided to provide the additional reward of complimentary access to the Crimson Map Pack, for a limited time, as a ‘thank you’ to our customers that contributed to the success of the Halo 4 launch,” Microsoft told us.