Halo Infinite SBMM and the HCS 2023 Season

Key Points

  • Skill-based matchmaking (SBMM) is commonplace in multiplayer games.

  • SBMM is a recurring complaint in Halo Infinite multiplayer reviews.

  • The Halo Championship Series second-year schedule is now public. 

  • This is what to expect from Halo Infinite multiplayer reviews in 2023.

Whether you’ve been playing since launch, have stayed away from the game until they add classic game modes like split-screen co-op and Infection, or are just curious about the state of the game going into Season 3, Halo Infinite multiplayer reviews say similar things: It’s getting better, but is it worth playing? That depends on who you’re asking.

Person playing video game

This is not to say that those who enjoy Infinite are slogging through a horrible experience, but it’s worth pointing out that the game has a substantial list of improvements that feel a year late and a dollar short. Unfortunately, it has had a rocky first year and a lack of developer support. This Spring 2023 Halo Infinite multiplayer review covers the game’s skill-based matchmaking (SBMM), the Halo Championship Series (HCS) Season 2 schedule, and what to expect in Spring 2023. 

Time to get into it. 

SBMM Keeps Things Competitive

On paper, SBMM is a great way to keep things fair and balanced for any given player base. In its implementation, skill-based matchmaking becomes a frustrating barrier to enjoying a casual experience and alienates those who don’t play the game regularly.

To understand the frustration with SBMM, a definition and explanation will help. SBMM refers to how a multiplayer game determines game lobbies and who is on what team. It’s an algorithm referred to as “matchmaking.” 

But it’s not just skill level that determines team rosters. Factors like connection, internet speed, and location play into that algorithm too. The difference with skill-based matchmaking is individual player’s skills and online statistics (kill-to-death ratio, or “K/D”) are weighted much higher than location or connectivity.

In a perfect world, SBMM means that lower-talent players go up against lower-talent players. Higher-ranked players who stream for a living are playing other players who spend similar amounts of time playing and achieving similar results. Apex Legends, Fortnite, and recent Call of Duty games use this system as it’s a simple solution for popular games. The exact workings of these systems are unknown as developers are very tight-lipped – for understandable reasons.

However, the refusal by devs to elaborate on how their SBMM works fuels speculation on their systems; it’s even present in this review (to an extent). A lack of clarity leads to frustration which leads to drawn conclusions – clearly more so than a thoughtful explanation for the systems they’ve put into place would.

Skill-based matchmaking will always be in ranked PVP video games. If you’re going to test yourself and perhaps try to become one of the best in the world, there must be a balanced and fairly weighted ranking system. The best Halo players in the world are in Onyx and players who take the game seriously want to achieve that too. In theory and mostly in practice this works in Halo Infinite.  

However, where skill-based matching starts to steer games’ player bases off a cliff is when it amps up the pressure to perform in casual modes. It discourages both high-level and low-level players from not being “sweaty.” Instead, players are required to make the best decision at all times using the best weapons possible whether they like using them or not.

If you don’t play the meta, you risk “throwing” a round of Fiesta King of the Hill, a mode with random weapon spawns and equipment. There is no way to make this tactical. Why is there such an insistence on upping the stakes? 

Perhaps to Halo players’ comfort, 2022’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II is the latest game in the skill-based matchmaking hot seat. CoD has been like this since the beginning, according to devs, matching up your K/D ratio to players with similar statistics to ensure competitive parity. 

Halo Infinite multiple players Photo source: Google.com

How Halo Infinite uses skill-based matchmaking is likewise a hot topic. Halo Infinite multiplayer feels difficult at points because the skill parity is very strict. r/Halo is a gold mine of SBMM complaints (yes, yes, this is Halo on Reddit, but hear this out) where u/jaaaabog brings up some good points: 

“I want to play [Quick Play] sometimes and not sweat like it’s a pro match. [E]veryone is crouch strafing, pistol spamming, and I can do that too but I don’t want to. I want to relax. I think the idea of not matching noobies against veterans is good but this is too much. Every game is too sweaty and I don’t want to play like that. It’s gotten to the point my friends don’t want to play with me since my lobbies are too sweaty. 

“We need to give our feedback to 343. [C]asual modes should never have SBMM this strict.”

As stated before, in theory, this works. Skill-based matchmaking provides a certain level of protection for lower-skill players from ever getting absolutely steamrolled by players who play more. Another positive is they’re not likely to get walloped by the likes of Mr. ShottySnip3rZILLA to a live audience of several hundred on Twitch. 

However, SBMM also dooms Common Joe down the street from the chance at a relaxing Big Team Battle match. Instead, he has to go 12-7 for a remote chance of having a good time. If Joe is working full-time, he’s likely not batting a 2.0 K/D ratio often, and as a result, Joe is not having a good time with that game. If Joe doesn’t like playing that game, he’ll go play a different game.

Multiplayer Halo Infinite Photo source: Google.com

Casual players are willing to risk being occasionally pummeled by a higher-skill player in a mode that doesn’t have stakes over making that same casual mode ultra-competitive. If any player wants to play against others locked to their skill level, they’ll fit in a ranked playlist. It’s just that simple.

A looser SBMM system will benefit Halo Infinite, guaranteed. Time will tell what this looks like in Season 3.  

Halo Championship Series 2023 Roadmap

Halo Infinite’s inaugural HCS season in 2022 saw OpTic Gaming win its first championship over Cloud9. As the next season ramps up, the newly announced roadmap for 2023 indicates an important year for Halo esports.

Events, Majors, and World Championships

First off, there will be eight official HCS Major events for the Championship Series including two online events hosted by Quadrant and Faze Clan. These events and their calendar dates are: 

  • Major Charlotte, NC: Feb. 24-26.

  • Quadrant Online: Apr. 22-23.

  • Faze Clan Online: May 12-13.

  • DreamHack Global Invitational: Dallas TX, Jun 2-4. 

  • Major Hosted by OpTic Gaming: Arlington TX, Jun 30-Jul 2.

  • Spacestation Global Invitational: Salt Lake City UT, Aug 4-6.

  • Major Fort Worth: Fort Worth TX, Sep 1-3. 

  • Halo World Championships 2023: Seattle WA, Oct 12-15. 

HCS Halo Championship Series Photo source: Google.com

Some big standouts are the three events in Texas, one of the highest-requested event locations for HCS last season. As OpTic and others are integral partnerships for the Halo Championship Series, Texas becomes a large market for Halo esports and a source of sizable income for the league. 

The newest event type is the Global Invitational of which there are two in the official roadmap — the DreamHack invitational in Dallas and the Space Station Gaming Global Invitational in Salt Lake City, UT. These events will see 16 of the best teams in the world compete for prize pools of $125,000. While technically not a “major,” these events are expected to be big draws for Halo’s international scene. 

HCS breaks down each invitational into 16 teams like so:  

“[T]his format ensures that there are more events for all teams to gather instead of just Majors and Halo [World Championships],” the official statement reads. “and thus increases the number of events attended from 5 to 6 total across the year. Finally, it makes it very clear to all fans in the ecosystem that this is the event that you should be following and watching as it brings it all under one roof.” 

People playing video games

The 2023 season also sees the inclusion of Weekly Online Events which, in partnership with FACEIT, help teams qualify for upcoming events with the stable and regular competition they need to make it into the big leagues. LAN events (in-person competition with dedicated private networks) are reserved for the game’s elite, and these online events are a way for the ambitious to crack through.   

Prize Pools

When it comes to official partnerships with game developers, prize pools expect to be sizable. Each Major sees a prize pool of $250,000 for 4v4 team brackets. The World Championships offer a pool of $1 million.

While there won’t be supported weekly online tournaments, Free-For-All (FFA) remains a regular part of the HCS roadmap with each Major seeing a pool prize of $5,000 for the open entry bracket. The World Championship FFA prize pool increases to $25,000.

The HCS team drew some heavy criticism around prize pools at the end of last season when they reversed their decision to use a crowdfunded prize pool just a week before Championship Weekend. As you’d expect, it did not go over well with their top players. 2023 will likewise again not receive crowdfunding.

“For us to bring it back, there’s some feature work in the game/web that we want to ensure is in place first before we bring crowdfunding back again in a big way,” the team writes in their official blog. “We want to make this a fully-fledged feature that players and fans have a great time engaging with and supporting.”

Speculation also ties 343 Industries’ and the HCS team’s rationale to the rough year that Halo Infinite had in 2022. Fans everywhere hope for a great season, improved competitive parity, official transparency, and enthralling Halo action. If bets are down on who is likely to win it all, it’s a repeat title for OpTic Gaming.

Halo Infinite in 2023

You recall the January 2023 layoffs at 343 Industries, controversy around the Season 3 Roadmap in September 2022, and no clear signs on what’s next for the game — there’s plenty of bad news for Halo at the moment, but there’s always a silver lining.

That silver lining is the number “561,887.”  

While a rough estimate and smaller compared to other free-to-play games, over 550,000 players logged into Halo Infinite in January 2023. Players are still active in Infinite multiplayer despite the game’s general chaos. 550,000 people believe Halo Infinite is worth playing right now and with strides like in the Winter Update, the additions of Forge, and the surprise launch of the Custom Games Browser, Infinite has a healthy dose of classic gameplay for fans and newcomers alike. 

Skill-based matchmaking feels pretty strict in Halo Infinite, but this hasn’t deterred newer players entirely. With the right tuning, casual modes can feel more welcoming and a place for Halo bros, gals, and everyone in between to have the rip-roarin’ times they’re looking for. Game modes like Kong Slayer and Rock ’n’ Repulsors weren’t made to be experienced alone.

Halo Infinite characters Photo source: Google.com

If you’re looking for more people to play with, try some of the following options: 

  • Join dedicated Discord servers. Content creators like FootedGhost and Mint Blitz have active and lively communities who play Halo 24/7 from around the globe. 

  • Use the Looking for Group feature if you’re on Xbox. This feature is designed to help you find other players like you to play the games you want to play and is not limited to just Infinite

  • Open the Custom Games Browser in Infinite, find a game or map that seems appealing, and join. You might find some lifelong friends as is Halo tradition.

As Halo Infinite enters its second year, you can expect HaloHype to cover everything revolving around the game. Lore, HCS, guides on how you can improve, and gear are all covered here. Subscribe to the mailing list, so you don’t miss a thing!

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