Today marks one week since the launch of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, and I don’t know that they could have envisioned a rockier launch week. While the content of the game is there, and there’s plenty of stuff to be excited about, the fact that online matchmaking is essentially unplayable right now is inexcusable. It’s a major part of the Halo experience, and it’s been rendered useless by the server issues. I appreciate that 343 is dealing with it, but I could go with more transparency on their end. As of today, all we know is that the new patch that was supposed to drop tomorrow has been pushed back to “later this week.” That’s about the extent of what we know – the latest post in the support thread just says that patch will include “a variety of fixes across the title, including Matchmaking performance issues, general UI and game stability improvements, as well as fixes for game-specific issues in Halo: CE, Halo 2, and Halo 2: Anniversary, and more.” The full patch notes will be posted in advance of it actually launching, but I would still have liked to see a few more specifics as to what issues for Matchmaking are being fixed.
Compare that with the launch of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare – which also didn’t have a smooth launch. Sledgehammer and Activision within that launch week took a proactive approach to dealing with it, and had an initial patch out within a week, complete with patch notes. It’s still not quite up to snuff, but it’s getting closer. Now, I don’t know exactly how much of a direct comparison we can make, since the Master Chief Collection does have four different games in it, at least as it extends to the nuts and bolts of the servers; but where we can look at the two situations is how the studios have handled their issues. Both have been up front acknowledging their issues, which they really needed to. I think Sledgehammer may have been more prepared for issues though – it’s important to remember that this is really only 343 Industries’ second go around with Halo. I think the hype for this game was way higher than it was for Halo 4, just because of the nostalgia factor – as well as the value of four games for $60.
I don’t think it’s particularly outside the realm of possibility to think that they underestimated just how many people would be playing at launch – which seems to be a pretty standard problem these days. Looking back – Battlefield 4 had a similar launch, Destiny wasn’t perfectly stable at launch and now we get to Master Chief Collection and Advanced Warfare. Two of those games even had pre-launch betas. Granted Destiny‘s launch was by far the smoothest of them, but still – I’m continually surprised when Call of Duty doesn’t have a beta. Halo had one for Halo 3, Reach and I believe Halo 4, but nothing for the Collection – I’m not totally sure exactly how they could have had a beta for the Collection, but there must be some way to test the servers pre-launch.
Ultimately, I don’t know exactly what impact this rough launch will have on the Halo series moving forward. It’s still a great game – the nice thing is that the campaigns of the four games are all really strong, so there’s still plenty to do; the Halo community is so strong that it hasn’t been hard to find people to load up lobbies for Custom Games to pass the time. My biggest concern is that because of the issues, people are leaving the game behind – there are tons of awesome games out right now after all. As such, I worry that Halo 5: Guardians might suffer – the beta that comes with the Master Chief Collection needs to be really strong now to help cover the problems. I honestly want to see 343 own up to it and maybe offer some more of the Anniversary maps updates as free DLC down the road – there are plenty of awesome Halo 2 maps that deserve updated takes. At the end of the day, the Master Chief Collection will have to deal with this rocky launch, and I think it serves as notice to developers to always err on the side of more servers needed – but then, this isn’t a new issue. I think a game to look to is Evolve as for how to approach a launch – they’ve already had two Alphas, they have a planned Beta after the Holidays in advance of a February launch. If it has a smooth launch, I think that those pre-launch events can easily be seen as the reason for it.