Next-gen consoles have brought increased visual fidelity and a litany of new features not possible on older hardware, but apparently they’re not powerful enough to keep features that have been standard for almost two decades now.
Halo has always offered one of the richest and entertaining split-screen multiplayer experiences in all of gaming, but the upcoming Xbox One sequel, Halo 5: Guardians, is removing it. In a blog post on the game’s official site, Josh Homme, studio head of Halo 5 development team 343 Industries, explained the motivation behind removing the up-to-now standard feature, citing the team’s commitment to making Halo 5 a “true next-gen experience” as the primary reason for not including split-screen:
The decision to remove split-screen support from Halo 5: Guardians was one of the most difficult ones we’ve ever had to make as a studio. We know that for many of our fans, Halo has meant playing together with friends in the same room. We all have great memories of past Halo split-screen multiplayer matches. To move Halo’s gameplay forward and deliver a true next-gen experience, tough choices had to be made. Our decision was driven by a desire for scale, fidelity and focus to ensure that we would deliver the best quality experience possible. With Halo 5 we are delivering massive scale environments, improved AI behavior, increased visual and gameplay fidelity… something that truly takes advantage of a new platform. Many of our ambitious goals for Halo 5 would be compromised in a split-screen setting and the time spent optimizing and addressing split-screen-specific issues would take focus from building other parts of the game.
While it’s difficult to say whether 343’s decision to remove split-screen will have a sizable impact on the game’s sales or not, there is no doubt that many Halo fans will be very disappointed by the news. Ben Kuchera wrote an excellent editorial on Polygon criticizing 343 and Microsoft for the decision, arguing that split-screen is a “pillar of Halo” and its removal makes Halo 5 a less appealing game overall.
Halo 5 will of course still allow players to play together online, but the game’s lack of split-screen comes as yet another blow to local multiplayer, which seems to be dying out more and more everyday.