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Report: Halo Infinite’s director ‘stepped back’ after disappointing showcase

Former director Chris Lee is still at Microsoft

Master Chief and a non-armored NPC talking in the cargo bay of some kind of ship
A still frame from the July 23, 2020 Xbox Games Showcase of Halo Infinite’s first level
Image: 343 Industries/Xbox Game Studios via YouTube
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Halo Infinite’s director was removed from the project in August, Bloomberg reports, shortly after an Xbox Games Showcase aired a disappointing gameplay demonstration that brought ridicule from fans on social media.

In a statement to Bloomberg, Chris Lee confirmed he had “stepped back from Infinite,” and was “looking at future opportunities.” Microsoft, in a statement, said Lee was still a Microsoft employee, although “he has stepped back from Halo Infinite right now.”

He’s the third senior development figure to leave the Xbox tentpole series in a little more than a year. In August 2019, creative director Tim Longo was reassigned, and executive producer Mary Olson was put in charge of Infinite’s campaign development. Lee, as the Halo Infinite studio head, was still responsible for Infinite’s “overall creative vision and production.” Olson then left 343 Industries in October 2019.

In July, newly-released footage of Halo Infinite looked visually dull and underwhelming, drawing jeers, memes, and insults on Twitter. Three weeks later, Lee announced that Halo Infinite would be delayed until 2021; it had been planned to launch alongside the Xbox Series X and Series S this holiday season. Bloomberg said Lee left his role a few weeks after the delay was announced.

Polygon has reached out to a Microsoft representative for additional comment about Lee’s reassignment and its timing.

Lee’s statement at the time didn’t acknowledge the reaction to the July gameplay demonstration, but he reasoned that “it is not sustainable for the well-being of our team or the overall success of the game to ship it this holiday.” He mentioned that the COVID-19 global pandemic had been among the development challenges the game faced.

Bloomberg said that Joe Staten, who rejoined Microsoft from original developer Bungie in 2014, was placed in charge of Halo Infinite’s single-player campaign, while Pierre Hintze is now leading multiplayer development.

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