Don’t blame zoomers for the Halo Infinite battle pass backlash
Don’t be so quick to point fingers.
Gamers have a reputation for being tough to please. And the recent sorta-scandal surrounding Halo Infinite’s free multiplayer is a case in point. While the game has drawn near-universal acclaim since its surprise November 15 launch, some players are cheesed off that it takes forever to gain levels and experience through the game’s current battle pass setup. It’s a fair quibble with an otherwise great game, but a lot of the frustration online is getting directed at the wrong people. Here’s why.
Halo’s big problem — Previous Halo games weren’t focused on cosmetic unlocks through multiplayer progression. Halo Infinite features a battle pass similar to games like Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone. Players have to complete challenges to earn XP, but the rewards for each challenge are skimpy.
This issue is even worse if you don’t pay, as many of the free rewards (including 2 of the first 4) give you challenge skips...to change the annoying challenge you’ll have to complete. It’s frustrating to be railroaded into specific modes or use certain weapons because you have challenges to complete and this system hurts what’s otherwise one of the most simplistically refreshing multiplayer shooters since Titanfall 2.
Since November 15, the discourse surrounding the battle pass has moved in an odd direction. The most prominent example is an editorial from Gene Park of The Washington Post, which claims that Halo Infinite has a generational divide problem.
“Halo is also returning to a market with a diminished mindshare, especially with a younger audience primed on Fortnite and Call of Duty, and it’s clear that moving to a free-to-play model could help the series once again command a large, modern audience,” Park argues.
But Halo Infinite never needed to include free-to-play systems like a battle pass to be relevant to younger players. While being annoyed by an exploitative trend is understandable, as a Gen Z player of Halo Infinite, this frustration is misplaced.
The Zoomer factor — Many Gen Z gamers like myself are old enough to have fond memories of titles like Halo 3, ODST, and Reach at launch, or at least through the Master Chief Collection. We know what good, battle pass-free Halo multiplayer looks like. Halo Infinite would’ve attracted a sizeable younger audience regardless of its multiplayer progression systems.
Guess what — we don’t like the Halo Infinite battle pass either! I’ve had hours of fun with Halo Infinite. But I have only leveled up a couple of times because some objectives conveniently lined up with how I played. It’s a flawed system that encourages players to spend money to skip the terrible grind. I continue to play Halo Infinite despite the battle pass, not because of it. And I’m certainly not alone in that.
Just because younger players are accustomed to battle passes doesn’t mean they’re to blame for the progression system’s inclusion. You wouldn’t blame a lab rat for going through the maze a scientist set up for it, so you shouldn’t be angry at passionate players just trying to engage with their favorite games through exploitative systems.
The root cause — The real responsibility for these issues falls on 343 Industries and Microsoft. While 343 has promised to improve the battle pass system time and time again, it still chose to launch the battle pass in poor form.
343 and Microsoft decided to make the game free-to-play, include a battle pass, and make it challenge-based. They’re made these challenges slow to complete, encouraging players to spend money to circumvent the grind. They’re the ones who chased a trend and messed up.
It’s misguided to blame those who engage with these systems rather than those in power who keep implementing them. Players have every right to engage with the battle pass, be frustrated by it, and voice their concerns. We should just make sure that those complaints are about the right things, targeted at the right people, and civil.
Instead of thinking about the good ol’ days and blaming the youngsters for messing things up, like Ridley Scott blaming millennials for The Last Duel flopping. We should provide thoughtful feedback to the developers on how to make the battle pass more satisfying, while still allowing the game to be successful.
Halo Infinite is available now for PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.