Progression in Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a Golden Opportunity for Change

From the very beginning, Halo: The Master Chief Collection was meant to be a reminder to fans of the series’ glory days. Despite suffering from a bevy of issues starting at launch and lasting for several months, the compilation grew to be exactly that. Every game contained within was carefully polished to its utmost and then presented to players in its best possible form. This truly was the Halo’s shining past, made even shinier by the fairly lackluster Halo 5: Guardians. Over the last few years though, Halo: The Master Chief Collection has taken on a somewhat greater significance. As popular multiplayer games became infected with evermore aggressive monetization practices, Halo: The Master Chief Collection stood as a reminder of the past: simple, clean multiplayer gaming with few unlocks and no modern monetization practices. With the imminent arrival of Halo: Reach to the collection, though, Microsoft has a golden opportunity to present us all with a better vision for multiplayer gaming’s future.

Accompanying Halo: Reach to Halo: The Master Chief Collection (aka “the MCC”), is a brand-new progression system. This system follows the model of the battle passes seen in the likes of Call of Duty and Fortnite, but with the distinction of being purely a gameplay feature. Like the credit system in classic Halo: Reach, this new system of tiers and “season points” appears to exist for the sole purpose of rewarding play time rather than “encouraging” players to open their wallets. Seriously, it really looks like all one has to do to get what they want is play the game; 343 Industries is even balancing it so that players can get everything even faster than they could in the original Halo: Reach. This could easily change in the future of course, but there has so far been no indication from the developer that this system will become monetized. If this is true, and the system does indeed remain entirely free, then the MCC will be playing host to a very significant development indeed.

Halo Reach - Progression
So much has happened over the past five years that it’s easy to forget how online multiplayer used to be handled. Instead of using it as a vehicle for continuous revenue, publishers and developers treated it as a manner similar to single-player campaigns. It was a feature meant to deliver the best possible experience for one’s players, something meant to be enjoyable in and of itself. In the days of Halo: Reach and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, progression was more of a bonus implemented on top of already fun gameplay. It was still important to players and offered a reason to keep playing, but “progressing” was not itself the primary reason to play and was not pushed all that much.

Compare that to something like modern Call of Duty, whose last entry very aggressively pushed a monetized (and timed) battle pass system. One could still say the core gameplay was enjoyable, but it was incredible how much more emphasis both developer and publisher placed on “progression.” Really, this sort of thing has more or less become an industry standard; player progression is now much more of a business feature than it is a fun game mechanic. This is what older gamers have had to become used to over these past several years and it’s all many younger gamers have ever known. It’s sad, but it might not be too late to turn it all around.

Halo: Reach - Multiplayer
Should Microsoft and 343 Industries choose to keep the new Halo MCC progression system free, it’ll be the first step in reclaiming multiplayer progression for gamers. It’ll serve as a reminder to older gamers that things weren’t always the way they are now and it will show younger gamers that there was and is a better way; instead of exerting pressure and causing anxiety via “fear of missing out,” progressing in one’s favorite multiplayer game can be a purely fun exercise that enhances the gameplay one already enjoys. That realization will (hopefully) cause players to expect better in other games, thereby putting pressure on the likes of EA and Activision to stop designing their games to squeeze money out their players. After all, such tactics don’t work as well when players can go find a better experience elsewhere.

With the implementation of Halo: Reach and a new progression system into Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Microsoft has an opportunity to make their Halo compilation into more than a callback to Halo’s glory days. If they keep this new system free and fun, then The MCC will be able to serve as a full and true reminder of online multiplayer in its player-centered prime. It can even shine as an example to everyone of what multiplayer progression should be as me move into the future: a player-focused feature aimed at enhancing fun rather than a business feature meant to pressure players into spending. The potential for greatness is there; all Microsoft and 343 Industries have to do is implement it.