Well, it''s been about a year since Halo 4 released.
Halo 4 was 343's first full go at their own Halo title since Bungie left the Microsoft umbrella to go work on Destiny.
The reception of Halo 4 was thus. A graph of Halo 4's peak population, every day, for the last year:
(all graphs in this post provided by www.halocharts.com , by the way )
Let's go over the major events in Halo 4's run. Here's the big overview:
The First Two Weeks
In the run up to Halo 4's release, Microsoft seemed interested in getting as many people to play the game as possible. So they took the early perk unlocks from the LE and told people that everyone that played within the first two weeks would get the perk unlocks too. This sets the stage for a fairly big blow to this game, but it's not the first one.
A week into Halo 4's life span, Black Ops 2 releases. And half of Halo 4's population vanishes, never to return. November 12th - a whole six days after the game releases - is the last day Halo 4 will see more than 300k peak population. It won't take much longer - ten days after release - for Halo 4 to see the last time it goes above 200k, on November 16th.
14 Day Buy and Play
Everyone who has gotten their codes for the first two weeks either redeems them or hands them out. People that wants the perks use the code for themselves. A lot of people, including many GAFers, HBOers, and other Halo communities toss the codes to people that want them, since they're not too interested in the perk system. The population continues downward.
And then.. the Crimson Map Pack release happens. And something hilarious happens: everyone with the specializations code can download Crimson as if they have the map pack. For free. What? WHAT? Yep. Seems in their rush to get the specializations code out, Microsoft forgot that the software key that unlocked the specializations was the same one that unlocked the map packs for free download. Awwwkward. Okay, it's a fuck up though, they'll just fix it right?
Well, they did. But they did it in the worst way possible. Absolutely the WORST handling of a mistake I have seen, and destroyed absolutely any pretension in my mind (and other's minds) that 343 had any autonomy from Microsoft. So what did they do?
Lie through their fucking teeth.
They goofed. We understand humans develop games, so whatever. Patch it up. In less than 24 hours, we went from 343 employees, Microsoft employees, and Xbox Support acknowledging it was a fuckup to Microsoft outright pretending it was not actually a mistake at ALL. They invented a fake program called "14 Day Buy and Play" that supposedly ran at Halo 4's release (the term didn't even exist until that day), sent it out as a press release, and Kotaku and most other gaming sites happily regurgitated it as legitimate. So not only had Microsoft fucked up, they then proceeded to tell us no, they didn't screw up, they meant to do it all along.
They then issued a patch a week later that fixed the bug and took the free Crimson map pack away from the people that redeemed it. Hrmm, for something intended, strange they had to patch the game to end the trial period.
To make it even worse, 343 could have at least poked fun at the whole thing, or acknowledged the screw up was a screw up and they were letting people play it for a bit before taking it away. Instead, they posted the 14 Day Buy and Play press release directly on their website. With a straight face.
343 lost a lot of good will on that day, with a lot of people. It definitively set the tone people treated 343 with after that.
Boltshots R Us
Halo 4 trucked along. At this point, players were getting frustrated. Big, annoying balance issues were identified, such as the DMR being overpowered and the go-to weapon for ranged kills, and the Boltshot being the CQB weapon above all others.. Content share was completely broken; you couldn't search for files nor could you initiate a download from the website. The game had menus and UI for it, but none of it worked. Along with a lack of campaign films and Forge features being dropped from Reach, this kneecapped the content creation arm of the community.
They would finally fix file search and tagging in late January, 3 months after release. These features worked day 1 in Reach.
Finally, 343 addressed the Boltshot with a title update on Feb 21, a couple of days before the Majestic map pack:
The title update + Majestic caused a minor uptick in Halo 4's population (the missing days were due to issues recording the numbers). Between the announcement of Majestic and the week after Majestic's release, Halo 4 would lose another 20,000 peak players.
Tune It Up
In late March/early April, 343 issued another title update. This title update implemented support for death indicators in game (previously relegated to a perk) and the ability for 343 to deploy weapon tuning via embedding the weapon data inside gametypes, allowing them to rebalance guns without a title update. And thus began what was a critical mistake by 343: sticking to the script and not acting like they were bleeding out players.
No, you're not reading that wrong. It took 343 two months to actually deploy a weapon tune update from the moment it became possible, when the original point of the update was that they could make changes instantly. They would lose 20,000 people in this time period. What did they spend it doing? Hyping up a Community day where they flew out people from the community so they could 'reveal' the weapon tune update on a big, advertised stream. Even though the update was in gametypes and could be shared with the community immediately, we had to wait for MS's marketing department to get their rocks off before we could feel like 343 was actually trying to salvage the sandbox. In a sensible world, the weapon updates would have been thrown in a beta playlist and updated weekly, with the community day just being a nice thing to celebrate the final version. 343 seemed to be intentionally ignoring their dire situation and did not act like they needed to address huge problems immediately. Because..
The weapon tune update actually did legitimately address a lot of issues with the game. Halo 4's weapon tune update actually stopped the bleeding, and stabilized Halo 4's population.
A whole six months after the game came out. Six months of people showing 343 what was wrong with the game, that they could have all identified within the first two months. Unfortunately, 343 never seemed willing to deviate from their marketing and support script. People were walking out the door as 343 said "Trust Us", and didn't come back.
Soon after this, 343 would release the Bullseye Map Pack, which was 2 maps. One was a remake of The Pit from Halo 3! Yay! The population didn't get boosted at all. It also introduced armor that could be bought with Real Money Only and they dug in even more on perks, after backlash from the community over them. Then promised those perks would become available to everyone else, which still hasn't happened.
The Game of the Year Edition, which released at a reduced price point and includes all of the game's DLC, came out somewhere in the chart. See if you can find it.
It's in the second population valley from the left
Some points I didn't have a good way to write up or didn't care to:
* Halo 4 lasted a whole two entire months in the Top 3 of the Xbox Live activity chart. Halo 3 didn't fall out of the Top 3 until Halo Reach released - 3 years after it's release. Halo Reach didn't fall out of the Top 3 until 343's title update for the game after they took over the game, 12 months after release.
* Roughly a year after release, Halo 3 had a 1.1 million peak population day. Reach had a 900,000 peak population day after the same amount of time. Halo 4 clocks in at 20,000 peak for it's annual checkup.
* 343 attempted to require the Majestic DLC for Team Slayer. The DLC requirement took the playlist from the top 2 in population to almost the bottom. They removed the DLC requirement afterwards and removed the DLC requirements from their weekly playlists after the first weekly playlist struggled to maintain over 150 players in it. Keep in mind the Majestic map pack was included in the map pass...
I imagine a lot of people have a lot to say about Halo 4, I'll follow up later with my breakdown of gameplay and breakdown of campaign. Thought I'd start the thread off with an overall recap. The storm approaches. I'm talking about HaloGAF