In 2015, Microsoft worked with Saber Interactive on a free-to-play Halo game for Russia called Halo Online. It was short-lived, however, as Microsoft canceled it before it even left beta.
The game may get a new lease on life, as Microsoft has teased that maps from Halo Online could be incorporated into Halo: The Master Chief Collection in the future.
Design director Max Szlagor said in a blog post that included among the many, many other new features that are being discussed for MCC are Halo Online maps. “Is there an opportunity to bring over some of the Halo Online maps? There’s a lot of options out there and it’s all dependent on what’s feasible and everything takes time and has to be measured against the bug list, backlog, and feature priorities,” Szlagor said. “All in all, we are definitely looking towards more goodness and continuing with more seasons.”
The original Halo Online ran on a “highly modified” version of the Halo 3 engine, and Microsoft says it was “optimized for smooth performance” on lower-end computers. Its announcement in 2015 was a big deal given that Microsoft hadn’t released a Halo game on PC in years before then. The game was only ever officially released in Russia, where it was published by Innova Systems, but now it appears people around the world may have a chance at experiencing it.
Given that Halo Online ran on a modified version of the Halo 3 engine, it’s not immediately clear how it might be incorporated into MCC. It’s still early days, of course, and Microsoft is only talking about Halo Online maps in an exploratory means for now.
Microsoft might have canceled Halo Online, but the company believes in the free-to-play model, as it’s been announced that Halo Infinite’s multiplayer will be free.