Microsoft’s emphasis on Forza raises questions about Halo Infinite’s launch date

Microsoft’s Xbox-Bethesda Showcase event was its strongest E3 presence in years, with a string of exciting titles that underscored the value of Game Pass like never before and positioned the console for what appears to be two solid years of gameplay. But there was one curious part of the 90-minute presentation that left some viewers confused.

Halo Infinite, arguably the most anticipated game for the Xbox Series X and Series S, got its update in the middle of the event – a curious placement, but one could argue it was positioned so the reveal of Redfall wasn’t upstaged. Overall, Microsoft spend about seven minutes talking about and showing the game.

Forza Horizon 5, on the other hand, received 9 minutes of attention, including “live” gameplay (though, of course, the event was taped beforehand). It was also positioned much later in the show, closer to the grand finale.

The extended length of the Forza Horizon demonstration, its placement toward the end of the showcase, and the fact that it was given a hard release date (November 9) versus Halo Infinite’s vague one (“holiday 2021”) is stoking fears that the flagship Halo game might see future delays to its release.

Halo Infinite, of course, already has a rocky history. Originally promised as a launch title the for Series X, the game was delayed last August after a disappointing premiere and a subsequent display of real-time gameplay that harked back to the first game in the series, but didn’t showcase a lot of new features.

Today’s showcase offered a look at a game that was certainly visually improved and a story that seems more fleshed out, but E3 conferences have a magic that makes even the most incomplete games seem imminent (something the developers of The Outer Worlds 2 spoofed perfectly in a reveal trailer Sunday.)

But the lack of a specific release date was notable – especially with an obvious one like November 15, the 20-year anniversary of Xbox’s launch and less than two weeks before Black Friday, falling in that “holiday” range. By emphasizing other games more than its flagship and leaving itself wiggle room, Microsoft allowed the seeds of doubt to be planted about the game’s status, a shame given how masterfully it handled the rest of the conference.

Let’s be clear: Microsoft has not signaled any sort of delay – and it wouldn’t have announced holiday 2021 if it didn’t plan on meeting that date. We could very well see a hard date and a more extensive demo, loaded with in-game footage (or even a closed beta), later this summer as the second part of a coordinated one-two punch.

The expectations for Halo: Infinite are extraordinarily high. And even a slip of a few months (sa y… into spring 2022) wouldn’t be terrible (though a Halo game launching in a non-holiday time period would be shocking). A second substantial delay, though, could cause a crisis of confidence among players and investors.

Forza Horizon 5 is an important franchise in its own right – one that appeals to both fans of racing games and a more casual audience. And the game looked spectacular in its premiere Sunday. Is it, however, a game that should have been such a huge focus during an E3 event? That’s debatable.

There was plenty to show off about the game. And no one was expecting a Forza-like take on Trackmania, I suspect. But racing titles haven’t been the type of games that sell systems for a few generations. Halo is, and that makes Microsoft’s ever-so-slight hedge about Infinite ever-so-slightly concerning.

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