A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to PC Gamer that Halo's franchise director, Frank O'Connor, has left Microsoft, telling us, "We thank Frank for his numerous contributions to the Halo franchise and wish him well going forward." O'Connor's departure was first reported over the weekend by Windows Central, who noticed that his LinkedIn had been updated to show him leaving Microsoft for a new role at an unspecified company.
O'Connor began working on Halo at Bungie in 2004, where he wrote the "Bungie Weekly Update," a predecessor to the still-running Destiny bulletin "This Week at Bungie." O'Connor left the company for Microsoft proper in 2008, after the release of Halo 3, where he held the senior role of franchise creative director, overseeing 343 Industries as well as other studios working on various multimedia projects in the setting. O'Connor is also credited as an executive producer for the Halo TV series.
O'Connor is the latest in a stream of senior developers and executives working on Halo to leave Microsoft and 343. Just two weeks ago, Halo creative lead and fellow Bungie vet Joseph Staten left Microsoft after nine years with the company. 343's founder, Bonnie Ross, stepped down from her position as head of the developer in September, while 2022 also saw the departure of Halo Infinite's lead multiplayer designer, lead narrative designer, and multiplayer creative director.
Additionally, the game's creative and project directors left 343 during Infinite's development, which by all accounts was a taxing process even before the game was delayed an extra year following a poorly-received first showing in 2020. Worse still, a significant number of salaried and contracted developers at 343 seem to have been included in the wave of 10,000 employees laid off by Microsoft in January.
One of the last big names at 343 through late 2022, Kiki Wolfkill, is also no longer part of the Halo braintrust. Wolfkill left the studio for a role as "head of Xbox IP expansion and entertainment" in November. The big meetings with Pierre Hientz, who took over for Bonnie Ross as studio head, must look almost completely different than they did a year ago. Though O'Connor's replacement, Corrinne Robinson, has been working on Halo since 2009, and served as a "franchise manager" for the last nine years.
Things seemed to be looking up for Infinite immediately after launch, but its first year live was rough, marred by delays of new multiplayer content and expected features like campaign co-op and no word of further single player additions. With the studio hit by all these layoffs and senior-level departures, I find myself wondering who's even going to be left to work on Halo. Infinite was supposed to be a fresh beginning for Halo, but it seems like whatever comes next will really be the start of a new era.