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Let’s Clear Up Those Halo Battle Royale Rumors

Over the January 13-15 holiday weekend, a rumor spread about the cancellation of an untitled and unannounced Halo battle royale, codenamed Project Tatanka. It all started with a few off-hand comments on a January 13 stream of the XboxEra podcast, in which the three hosts (Jon Clarke, Nick Baker, and Jesse Norris) discussed speculation that the project was canceled. The story spread like wildfire, with multiple outlets pointing to Baker as a source, prompting XboxEra to publish an article clarifying the situation and reiterating that this is little more than a rumor.

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So what’s actually going on? Is a Halo battle royale in development? Is it canceled? Do we even need such a thing? Let’s get into it.

Is Project Tatanka a Halo battle royale?

The existence and development of this mysterious Halo battle royale is itself a rumor—back in April 2022, Halo support studio Certain Affinity (which has built maps for both the Call of Duty and Halo franchises, among other things) announced it was “deepening” its relationship with Halo Infinite developer 343 Industries. Certain Affinity did not announce exactly what that “deepening” entailed, but did say that the studio was “entrusted with further evolving Halo Infinite in some new and exciting ways.”

In a September 2022 interview with VentureBeat, Certain Affinity’s chief operating officer Paul Sams doubled down on the tease, saying “The biggest thing we’re doing that’s public right now, for more than two years now we’ve been working on Halo Infinite doing something that—they’re very prescriptive about what we can say. But we’re doing something unannounced, and we’re doing lead development on that unannounced thing, from conception and design.”

In January of last year, Bloomberg reported that the unknown project was code-named Tatanka and “started off as a battle royale but may evolve in different directions.”

Despite all of this, there has not been an official announcement regarding what Certain Affinity is working on, and no confirmation that Tatanka is a Halo battle royale. Xbox Era’s Clarke told Kotaku via email that the publication was “stunned it’s a story at all really. Kotaku reached out to Certain Affinity for a comment; they declined to supply one.

Some may wonder: Can you cancel a game that was never announced? But I’m wondering: Does anyone want a Halo battle royale?

Is a Halo battle royale a good idea? 

There are already two Halo Infinite game modes that are reminiscent of a traditional battle royale: the now-defunct Last Spartan Standing, a free-for-all elimination mode featuring 12 players battling it out on Big Team Battle maps; and the latest game’s version of Big Team Battle, which ups the player count from 8v8 to 12v12. Last Spartan Standing gave players five lives before permanently eliminating them from the game, but it always felt too small for the larger Big Team maps, and the playlist was replaced with Team Doubles four months after its debut. It hasn’t been back since. And the Big Team Battle mode isn’t anything like a battle royale save for its size.

The features that make Halo games special are exactly what make them the anti-BR: incredibly strong weapons and subsequently strong player-characters, an impressive, bombastic sandbox with limitless potential, and absurd vehicles that can make or break a match. None of that is poised to translate well into a battle royale mode, which drops a hundred or so players into a massive map (far bigger than anything we’ve ever seen in Halo Infinite), with either their bare hands or a shitty pistol, and demands they scurry about like rats until they find any weapon to sustain them in the warzone. Imagine you drop into a Halo battle royale and immediately find the rocket launcher? It’s game over for everyone else.

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