Halo developer 343 Industries has announced a studio-wide switch to Unreal Engine, but what does that mean for the players?
After a complicated launch and just over a year of back and forth on future plans, Halo developer 343 Industries is slated to make some big changes. Moving away from the proprietary Slipspace Engine used in Halo Infinite, the studio will now adopt the Unreal Engine. With this move, 343 is now the latest in a long line of developers programming on Epic’s platform. Though development on Infinite will continue on its current path, future Halo titles are all likely to go with Unreal, for better or for worse.
Why did 343 Industries change to Unreal Engine?
While multiple factors are at play for 343 switching to Unreal, it comes down to the established engine’s perks and the in-house method’s challenges.
The most straightforward explanation is that developing gaming engines and platforms is a difficult and expensive process. Though companies with proprietary engines have the most flexibility, reaching this point is not easy. With each new generation, keeping up with the big engine names like Unreal and Unity becomes more challenging. It now requires an ever-growing amount of time and money. This isn’t just for the initial release, as the same applies to new content releases and multiplayer seasons.
In an age where technological sophistication continues to grow, turning to the solutions of dedicated providers is now the status quo. This isn’t just in gaming either, as many other software platforms have seen similar homogenization. The online casino world is the easiest example, where a new software development company for iGaming and crypto that keeps the needs of other businesses in mind can see major success. A service like Moonrocket provides tools for operational efficiency, optimal performance and new gaming solutions for online casinos to build on. This split approach is cheaper than one company going it all alone, and thanks to concentrated pools of talent, the results are better for it.
As for 343 Industries, it has been affected by layoffs at parent company Microsoft, which have affected around 10,000 employees. 343 Industries lost at least 95 people in these layoffs, which will prove problematic to a developer who is already struggling to deliver content on time. Though Halo Infinite support will likely continue until the announcement of a sequel, an investment in Unreal Engine will eventually pay off with more reliable updates and a greater pool of talent to draw from.
How Unreal Engine took over the gaming industry
The Unreal Engine debuted in 1998 with its namesake, an FPS game also titled Unreal. The shooter was a hit around the times of Quake 2 and Half-Life, with the future Unreal Tournament games arguably kickstarting western esports. Epic Games eventually began selling the engine powering the game in addition to developing first-party titles.
Now in its fifth iteration, Unreal Engine has essentially become the default platform for AAA development. With previous versions being used for series like Borderlands, Street Fighter, Gears, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and much more. With nearly all studios using the system in some form, Unreal has rapidly become the new standard in top-level video game development. It’s also the platform on which Fortnite is built, so there’s never any risk of Epic running out of funding to keep the engine active.
While it could be years before we see the effect of the Unreal engine on the Halo series, the hope is that it could lead to a new game that measures up where the last one fell short. Better support, more features, cutting-edge gameplay, and visuals are all anticipated, but only time will tell how well 343 Industries follows through. Until then, we still have Infinite to get back into.