Recently I bought the #67 GameInformer as it had a huge cover issue on Halo 5. I and my wife have been waiting for that game (and to buy the special edition Xbox console) since… well, basically since Halo 4.
After reading the article for a while, a sentence caught my eye: “split-screen option is not supported”. What, really? Did I read it right? Then I saw the post on IGN, which basically had 343 Industries explaining why more processing power of Xbox One means less fun (or that’s how I and 3000 commenters seemed to read it).
I am truly shocked and amazed. Isn’t the whole point of creating more powerful technology to better support our social nature of play? There’s nothing to say that “increased visual and gameplay fidelity”, elusive concepts in the first place, are the most important things in gaming. If it was, Halo Combat Evolved would’ve never been as successful as it was (nor currently Minecraft, for that matter). Many of the PC FPS games were much better looking than the first Halo, but still it made a huge impact. It was the interaction and the sense of being part of a universe that mattered, and how the social aspect of gaming was perfectly mediated by a technology that was basically less powerful than PCs of that time. If Bungie was able to do split-screen with the first Xbox, how is it possible 343 isn’t able to achieve it with Xbox One with that much more horsepower?
I used to spend hours with my friend, playing the first Halo through from the lowest difficulty to the Legendary. I and my wife have played different Halos almost annually, because of the split-screen option: it has been part of our relationship since we started going out with each other. We even ended up having Arbiter and Master Chief on our wedding cake (if you can forgive what big nerds we are). And now this, a day after I spotted the ad of the new and long-awaited Halo 5 Xbox One special edition console. And now, we are not buying it all. This might be the death of my wife’s Xbox gamertag, which has ‘Arbiter’ in it. For us, it might be the end of being in the (future versions of) Halo universe.
This decision by the developer to leave the split-screen option out will change our whole perspective to gaming. It will also make redundant the fact that we need to buy an Xbox anymore. Perhaps this sort of closes the circle for me. I used to have the first Playstation and I wasn’t too keen about Xbox when it came out. Then, I went to visit some of my friends who insisted that I was wrong, that now, there was a new king in the console (and other) FPS gaming. That day changed my mind, and I went to buy an Xbox and Halo the next week. Since then, I have always had a new Halo, and a new Xbox. All because of the split-screen, and the game level called The Silent Cartographer.
I don’t usually write such sad gamer nerd posts, but such news reveal how intricate and fragile ecosystem gaming can be, and how it is part of your personal history. It almost feels like an end of the era. This is worse than hearing that “this was the final Halo”. 343, you guys just truly blew one of your “customer segments”. No split-screen has led to “split” of many other things.