Back in the day, Halo was the top dog in the console shooter space. Halo 2 helped propel the Xbox Live service into what we see today. Sure, there were other fantastic games to play during Xbox Live’s infancy (Rainbow Six, MechAssault, Ghost Recon, etc.) – but it was the Halo franchise that cemented multiplayer shooters on consoles.

Games like Goldeneye 007 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare bring their own legacies to console shooters. But without the insane popularity of Halo, what would the multiplayer side of console shooters look like today?

With Halo 3’s huge success, it seemed the Halo brand could do no wrong. But three missteps and the meteoric rise of Call of Duty’s popularity would knock the Halo brand off its pedestal.

Halo Reach altered the franchise’s mechanics too much (and for the worse). What Halo fan will ever forget Armor Lock? Armor abilities sucked. There’s no other way to put it. It turned a game where the skill gap revolved around map knowledge, power weapons and individual skill into one where Armor Abilities completely disrupted the gameplay flow.

armor lock Halo Reach

The Halo mantle was passed from Bungie to 343 Industries with Halo 4. But the problems from Halo Reach remained. Armor Abilities still broke the core combat loop Halo was known for.

As 343 continued to work on Halo 5, they released the Halo: Master Chief Collection. Out of all the remastered on Xbox One and PS4, this was the one I couldn’t wait to play. Then it came out. And it was a disaster. It was a product of too many developers working on too many different things.

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Halo 5 was seen as make or break by many, including me. 343 Industries knew they had to nail the core combat loop. To make sure they did, 343 released an open beta 10 months before the game’s release. Which is a rarity in the console space. Usually, betas tend to be glorified demos. That wasn’t the case with Halo 5. 343 Industries needed to know they were going in the right direction.

The result? It was a little rough around the edges (understandable for a beta), but it was a helluva a lot of fun.

On October 27, Halo 5: Guardians officially launched. The campaign was awful, but the multiplayer was the best it’s been in years. We can argue where it ranks in the Halo franchise. The important part is, it sits above Halo Reach and Halo 4.

Combine great gameplay with free DLC, and 343 Industries won back much of the goodwill they lost since Halo 4.

The crazy part? Nine months later and Halo 5’s player base has actually been growing over the past few months. A constant stream of DLC, the launch of Warzone Firefight and a free week is helping drive players at levels not seen since Halo 3.

343’s Andy Dudynsky (aka Bravo) jumped on Reddit yesterday to reveal how well Halo 5 is doing. Here’s part of what he had to say about Halo 5’s current population.

I do believe you’d be very pleasantly surprised with not only the number of players who jumped on during the free play period (holy moly lots! by golly it worked!), but also the amount of Halo 5 players each day and month – this isn’t something we’ve talked about yet, but I am rather happy to share that even before the free play period, Halo 5 has had the highest monthly active players for a Halo title since Halo 3.

Also exciting (and not yet discussed, either) is the increase that H5 has seen in players each month over the past few months (we just got done looking at June numbers, which are once again higher than the previous month).

Nice job 343! Unfortunately, we don’t have specific numbers. And, we’ll probably never get them. Damn, I miss Major Nelson’s top 10 games for each week he did during the Xbox 360 days.

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You nailed the multiplayer and post-launch support, 343. All I want now is a fantastic campaign in Halo 6. With Master Chief. A lot more Master Chief.

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