5 Things Halo Online Must Do To Succeed
The recently announced Halo Online, which will be coming soon to Russian PCs only, has received a lot of press. Partly because the Halo franchise is finally coming back to PCs, and partly because those PCs have to be in Russia.
Regardless of whether or not Halo Online ever comes to the EU or North America, or anywhere else, it will be treading on thin ice in Russia with its free-to-play model. The game will have to do these five things in order to find success. If it goes well, maybe we can get an EU and NA release.
1. Stay True to the Franchise
I'm not saying that this has to be an exact copy of Halo 2 or Halo 3, but if Microsoft wants their free-to-play venture to be successful, they need to carry over at least most of the popular game modes and weapons into Halo Online.
If Slayer is absent, or there's no Needler or sword to be found in Halo Online, you can expect some very angry Halo fans.
To be fair, Saber Interactive has already worked on things like The Master Chief Collection with 343 Industries, so a complete deviation should not be expected.
2. Bring Something New to the Franchise
This might sound like it contradicts the first point, but it will hopefully go hand-in-hand with it instead. There needs to be something new, something fresh in Halo Online that wasn't there in previous games, but that meshes well with the old in terms of gameplay balance. This could be the toughest thing for the developers to get right, but evolution is imperative so they can avoid a flop.
Completely new maps, thanks to the new setting, have been confirmed, but there needs to be more.
Shotty/snipers is fun, don't get me wrong, but what about a Needler/SMG showdown in slayer? Different maps will help freshen up the experience somewhat, but new modes or at least variations of the existing ones would help even more.
3. Have a Fair Microtransaction Rate
Locking items necessary to winning in the game behind a paywall will be a mistake, but it is a mistake that other developers have made in the past. The markets for Valve's games: DotA 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive have been successful because the games can be played and won without spending any money. The visual upgrades are the "gotchas" in that equation.
Halo Online should emulate that sort of pricing scheme if they hope to make more money in the long run, and not just cash in on the big franchise name quickly.
4. Have Minimal Downtime
Server downtime can effect a free-to-play game much more than its paid counterparts. Many potential players will just spend their time elsewhere and not feel as committed to trying out the game again if there is extended downtime for Halo Online.
If they had bought the game, this would be a totally different situation, but the servers are going to have to handle the load of not just the Russian gaming scene, but players from other countries trying to use VPNs to spoof their locations and get a piece of the PC Halo action as well.
5. Support Lobbies and Clans
Some free-to-play first-person shooters seem to make groups of people playing together and clans an afterthought. If Halo Online really wants to storm out of the gate, the game should support these groups with lobbies and permanent clan tags from the get go.
Clan and pre-made group support can drive the play time of a game up (just look at SWAT 4) because everyone wants to play with their friends easily. Making it too hard might drive people away.
Finish the Fight
The public hasn't even played it yet, but Halo Online will be in beta in Russia very soon, and will come under more scrutiny as people choose their loadouts and do battle on the UNSC space station, Anvil.