343 Industries head Bonnie Ross has apologized for the release of a Halo Infinite cosmetic intended to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States that included a color scheme with an "offensive and hurtful" name.
The epic nameplate is called Juneteenth, named after a US holiday which commemorates the end of slavery. But a playerplayers quickly noticed that a secondary color palette was available for the nameplate, named "Bonobo." The bonobo is a type of great ape, which has an obviously racist connotation when used in reference to Juneteenth.
343 quickly renamed the palette to "Freedom"—YouTuber Sean W said it was "the fastest fix" he'd ever seen—and Ross issued a brief but unreserved apology on Twitter.
"We were made aware of a palette option for our Juneteenth emblem that contained a term that was offensive and hurtful. The team immediately addressed this issue via an update," she tweeted.
"We are a studio and franchise that is committed to inclusivity where everyone is welcome and supported to be their true self. On behalf of 343, I apologize for making a celebrated moment a hurtful moment."
We are a studio and franchise that is committed to inclusivity where everyone is welcome and supported to be their true self. On behalf of 343, I apologize for making a celebrated moment a hurtful moment. (2/2)June 15, 2022
Ross didn't comment on how the name ended up attached to the cosmetic in the first place, but 343 senior community manager John Junyszek said it was a reference to an "internal toolset." An image of the software was posted by streamer Mint Blitz, while Kotaku said that it's an "asset-editing program" in use at 343; the program was apparently not used for Halo Infinite development but is widely-known and popular among employees at the studio.
The possibility that the name was used as an unthinking placeholder doesn't seem unreasonable, but the explanation didn't hold water with everyone. OpTic Gaming player Brad "aPG" Laws, for instance, pointed out that the name presumably had to pass through multiple layers of approval at the studio, none of which flagged it as offensive.
The fact this went through and made it this far is appalling. Are they just making racist jokes over there and thought this would be funny? Now I gotta continue to play this game/support them but any chance I get I will be talking shit on 343. Please try and fine meJune 14, 2022
Some fans in the Halo subreddit expressed similar skepticism, and shared theories about the origin of the name that ranged from an organized conspiracy to simple neglect.
Whatever the reason, Halo Infinite creative head Joseph Staten also apologized for the use of the name, calling it "inexcusable."
I’m sorry as well. Our mistake today was inexcusable, and I’m ashamed we allowed it to happen. https://t.co/cOeg63t0ivJune 15, 2022
I've reached out to Microsoft for more information on how the palette got its name, and will update if I receive a reply.