Halo’s leadership exodus continues as franchise director leaves Microsoft after 2 decades
It’s been a troubled past year for Halo Infinite and developer 343 Industries, plagued by mass layoffs and a production cycle that has delayed the rollout of Infinite’s planned live service update cadence. Most notable of all has been an exodus of the franchise’s leadership figures, which have further clouded Halo’s future with uncertainty.
Those woes continued last night when it was confirmed in a statement by Microsoft that Frank O’Connor, the franchise development director, has also quietly left the company this month. Frank O’Connor had been working with Microsoft on Halo for almost 20 years.
“We thank Frank for his numerous contributions to the Halo franchise,” Microsoft’s brief statement to Axios read, wishing him well “going forward” to whatever new project he has landed since updating his LinkedIn to reflect his change in career path.
343’s troubles started long before the developer was hit by the Microsoft layoffs back in January, first losing founder and studio head Bonnie Ross back in September last year. She had already planned to leave the company after Halo Infinite’s Winter Update but departed earlier than expected due to a family medical issue. She was replaced by Pierre Hintz, who was given stewardship of Halo after his credited successes with reviving the Halo Master Chief Collection.
What followed was a slow bleed of many other leads, such as Halo Infinite’s multiplayer creative director in December and Joseph Staten this week, despite studio head Hintz’s affirmation that Halo is “here to stay” and that 343 would continue to develop Halo “now and in the future.”
The number of departures is less concerning when factoring in the words of Matt Booty, the head of Xbox Game Studios, in November who said Microsoft had “really retrenched” when it came to Halo Infinite and 343 Industries after a failure to retain the game’s launch success.
“We’ve got some changes in how the team is set up, we’ve got some changes in leadership and we’ve got to really get re-focused around that sustained content plan and making sure we’re bringing regular updates to the players,” he said in a conversation with the Friends Per Second podcast and undoubtedly O’Connor’s departure could be part of that wider effort of restructuring. Halo Infinite’s troubled production has had long-term ramifications for its content model post-launch, with rumors circulating that the developers might even transition into the Unreal Engine after their own Slipspace Engine failed to deliver.
While rebuilding from scratch could have promising implications for Halo’s future, the regular feed of news concerning only departures from 343 and Microsoft doesn’t provide players with a lot of confidence in the here and now. Halo Infinite’s seasonal model is gradually approaching a more regular cadence after lengthy delays plagued both its second and third season’s launch dates, but time will tell if new leadership at 343 will be able to turn around the game’s dwindling engagement numbers in the year to come.