Halo switching to Unreal Engine as studio weathers major layoffs, report says

Halo spartan posing moodily.
(Image credit: 343 Industries)

Halo's future is Unreal, according to Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier. In an article published Tuesday, Schreier wrote that "late last year, when previous studio head Bonnie Ross and engine lead David Berger departed and Pierre Hintze took over, [developer 343 Industries] finally decided to pivot to Unreal." The change is just one detail in a report that outlines the challenges 343 faced while developing Halo Infinite and the impact of Microsoft's recent layoffs.

According to Schreier, at least 95 employees were laid off at 343, a number that Microsoft had not disclosed. The layoffs hit "dozens of veterans including top directors and contractors, upon which the studio heavily relies," the report says. "Those temporary employees were given just a few days’ warning before their contracts came to an end, according to people familiar with the process."

343 remains the primary developer behind Halo Infinite and future Halo games, but the report makes it clear just how unclear the path to that future currently looks. It describes Halo's existing Slipspace engine as "based largely on old code from the 1990s and early 2000s" and says it was "the source of headaches" for some of Infinite's development. Unreal development will reportedly start with a new project, codenamed Tatanka, which is being co-developed with longtime Halo contributors Certain Affinity.

Our colleagues at Windows Central reported on Tatanka last year, calling it a battle royale mode that would be compatible with Halo Infinite's Forge tools. Windows Central corroborated the detail that 343 Industries plans to move development to Unreal, writing "internally, there was a fierce tug-of-war over the change, with one camp of developers desiring the switch and another arguing that Halo should remain on Slipspace." According to Windows Central, there was also a version of Tatanka built on Halo's existing Slipspace engine; it may be quite some time before we see the results of Halo running on Unreal Engine.

After 343 Industries' leaders have repeatedly called Halo Infinite a platform for the "next 10 years of Halo," the most surprising detail in Bloomberg's report is that there are no new campaign missions or expansions in development. According to Bloomberg's sources, "Developers were making prototypes in the Unreal Engine and pitching ideas for new Halo games rather than working on new missions for Halo Infinite." The report adds that many of those developers were laid off in the recent cuts, and for now, only work on Infinite's multiplayer continues.

As of press time, Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment.

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).