The History of Halo Esports and Infinite Pro Players

Key Points

  • Halo Infinite pro players have arguably the greatest mechanical talent in the sport.

  • Halo built the foundation for console esports.

  • Viewership in the competitive scene has fluctuated but is experiencing a revival.

  • HaloHype provides insight into the best players ever and players to watch in 2023.

  • Halo Infinite pro players have their work cut out to place themselves on the Mount Rushmore of Halo esports.

Season 3: Echoes Within is officially live, bringing a flood of content that Halo Infinite pro players and casual fans alike have been clamoring for: new weapons and equipment, new maps, new modes, and fresh cosmetics. There are also some flashy Halo Championship Series (HCS) partner bundles with some incredible looks for fans to rock while grinding the latest battle pass.

If you’re returning to the game after a long break, checking it out for the first time to understand the hype, or are consistently grinding for Onyx 1500, it’s worth your time to consider what Halo Infinite pro players have had the most influence on the game. While Halo was initially conceptualized as a couch party game, a vibrant competitive scene emerged into life with the franchise’s unique movement, shields, and weapon mechanics. In 2023, the competitive scene remains an essential pillar for Halo’s success, no matter how you play. 

This is a comprehensive guide to the professional Halo scene. Keep reading for an overview of the franchise’s history in competitive play, the best players and teams in 2023, and what competitions look like in Halo Infinite.   

“I Think We’re Just Getting Started": A Timeline of Competitive Halo 

Halo’s competitive scene began with the first game, Halo: Combat Evolved. What began as local friendlies in the homies’ basements turned into hourly rented, tiny venues and comic shops for forum lurkers, introverts, and your pal Ricky who loves spawn farming to buy in and compete.

As the internet changed how humanity builds community, Halo brought the first-person shooter offline (LAN) tournament to consoles.

As any esports historian will tell you, Halo’s early competitive history is difficult to quantify outside of “official” circuits like Major League Gaming (MLG) and HCS circuits. What is available is a lot of hearsay and earning numbers that are difficult to corroborate. What everyone can agree on are the names of the early game titans that set the foundation for Halo esports.

Names like Zyos, Walshy, the OGREs, and Gspot take the lion's share of top earnings. The formats in 2001 changed in later entries, so team rankings are difficult to quantify. Team names like Shoot to Kill, Team 3D, and Str8 Rippin first came to fruition in Combat Evolved but experienced their peaks much later.

Above all, players drive Halo’s competition, not organizations (orgs). In retrospect, Matthew “Zyos” Leto is the highest-paid Combat Evolved pro, taking home $55,675, $40,000 more than the next player, according to Esports Earnings. Retired from play in 2006, he remains a Goliath of the early competitive scene.

Halo 2’s scene saw tremendous growth in player base and prize pools. This growth was due in part to Xbox Live being the first viable online gaming network for consoles. Sega tried it with the Dreamcast in 1999, but everyone knows how that console faired. The PlayStation 2 took time to officially implement networking capabilities. The Xbox got there first in November 2002, and by the time the sequel to the hottest Xbox original released in November 2004, Halo 2’s competitive scene was ready to rumble.

And rumble they did. Official prize pools over Halo 2’s lifecycle experienced an increase of 443 percent, per Esports Earnings. Halo 2’s scene saw the true emergence of Combat Evolved players like Walshy and brothers OGRE1 and OGRE2 as titans of the franchise’s professional circuit. New names emerged, like Karma, ShockWav3, Elamite, Strongside, and GH057ayame.

What matters most about Halo 2’s scene, however, is the creation — and dominance — of the team Final Boss, often called “FB.” 

Halo main character looks out over horizonPhoto source:

Major League Gaming

Halo 3 is the peak of competitive play by most standards, even though 343 Industries’ titles like Halo 5: Guardians and Infinite show tremendous growth and talent. In March 2008, Halo 3’s Team Hardcore matchmaking playlist brought MLG, one of the biggest esports orgs in the world, and competitive settings to every player. From there, the stakes amped up to a whole new level. 

In all Halo 3 MLG gametypes, players started with a Battle Rifle (BR) and two frag grenades. Movement speed increases to 110 percent and inflicts 110 percent damage. Tourney organizers slash shield recharge rates to 90 percent, and motion trackers are completely disabled. Halo plays slowly in a social format. MLG settings turn up the heat to hone the best of the best.

Final Boss is often regarded as one of, if not the undisputed, greatest teams of all time. In 2007, they were the professional gaming equivalent of the ‘95-’96 Chicago Bulls. The first team to break a $1 million contract in Halo with Major League Gaming, they dominated Halo 2 and Halo 3.

Final Boss’ success is due to the core three of OGRE1, OGRE2, and Walshy. Other Halo legends transitioned in and out of the organization including Strongside, Snip3down, and Pistola.

The team started to show cracks in late 2008, however. Walshy and the team parted ways, and eventually, OGRE2 stood as the lone survivor of the greatest team ever assembled.

Final Boss did achieve success in the end, however. OGRE2 led a revamped roster to a title in 2010’s Halo 3 MLG National Championship. This tournament closed out Halo 3’s official competitive circuit (though a grassroots scene remains) and serves as a breaking point for Halo’s competitive players.  

The Lull: Halo: Reach, Halo 4, and Halo 2: Anniversary

Halo: Reach’s competitions didn’t bring on the viewership that MLG hoped for. Halo 2 and Halo 3 brought in the hype like no other games had, but enthusiasm dipped as Bungie prepared to leave Microsoft and Halo development for good. The new dev kid on the block, 343 Industries, had their work cut out for them. 

It didn’t help when the GOAT (“greatest of all time,” for the newly initiated), OGRE2, decided to take a hiatus from Halo after attending literally one Halo 4 event in 2012. After a very brief stint with Call of Duty: Ghosts, he returned to a struggling Halo 2: Anniversary that likewise didn’t pop off in viewership the way 343 intended.   

Major League Gaming replaced Halo with Call of Duty because the former just couldn’t bring in the money anymore. The loss of the MLG Pro Circuit and Final Boss officially closed the door on Halo’s competitive golden era.  

Competitive Halo gameplayPhoto source:

The Halo Championship Series  

Partnerships with large esports orgs like MLG starting going belly-up, so Microsoft and 343 Industries decided to take matters into their own hands and design the official competitive structure. For all its faults, Halo 5: Guardians’ reputation among competitive players remains largely positive, citing deep gameplay mechanics, speed, and skill expression. 

The 2016 Halo World Championship’s prize pool of $2.5 million reflects this. 2016’s championship became the first Halo tournament to surpass $1 million, all due to the crowdfunding of the game’s Requisition pack cosmetic system. Crowdfunding hasn't continued into Infinite as of this writing in March 2023 — the 2022 World Championship prize pool only stood at $1 million, just under half 2016’s size.

However, new talent is still arriving. All-time greats emerged with Halo 5, including back-to-back championships by Counter Logic Gaming (now absorbed by OpTic Gaming) with a roster chockful of Halo legends: Frosty, LethuL, Royal2, and SnakeBite are easy shoo-ins for the best at Halo 5: Guardians. Other top talents still playing in 2023 in HCS Halo Infinite are Eco, Penguin, Renegade, StelluR, bubu dubu, and APG.

The Greatest Halo Players Ever

Before breaking down the competitive Halo scene in 2023, it’s important to remember the legends that came before. Competition brings the best out of the best, and it’s no different in Halo. The following two lists are the names of the greatest players Halo has ever seen and the top active players in Halo Infinite

The 10 greatest players, as voted on by a panel of Halo esports experts, are:  

1.      OGRE2. It’s best to get this out of the way first: OGRE2 is the GOAT. A man who, alongside his brother OGRE1, put the early esports scene on his back and built MLG’s dominance of the late 2000s, Tom “OGRE2” Ryan is not only the best Halo player ever but the greatest console esports player ever, across any game. He is the winningest player in Halo with five championships, 40 LAN victories, multiple MVPs, and a legacy that sets him shoulders above the next.  

2.      LethuL*. LethuL is the closest any player, past or current, has gotten to OGRE2’s legacy. He remains a contender, top three threat, and two-time World Champion in 2016 and 2017 with Counter Logic Gaming/OpTic Gaming. LethuL’s legacy is one of top-level skill in Halo title after Halo title. LethuL is the undisputed King of post-Bungie Halo.  

3.      SnakeBite*. A Halo vet with pro experience in every title back to Halo 2, SnakeBite is considered one of the best in-game leaders and locker-room guys that esports has ever seen. Back-to-back championships in 2016 and 2017 solidify his legacy in the GOAT debate.  

4.      Pistola. A Halo 3 legend with 19 major event wins and two MLG National Championships, Pistola is a wizard of movement and 1v1 duels across multiple Halo titles. It’s hard to find another player with more “What just happened!?” moments than Pistola. He played well into the beginning of Infinite’s HCS inaugural season for OpTic Gaming before being suddenly waived in August 2022. The game will never have another player like Pistola. 

First player view of Halo gameplayPhoto source:

5.      Royal2*. A two-time Halo World Champion in 2016 and 2017 and an absolute menace of the kill-to-death ratio, Royal2 started showing out early and often since. He’s often compared to the NBA’s Steph Curry for his laser accuracy, whether it’s with the sniper rifle or the pistol. He’s flashy, he’s dominant, a power chip for any all-time team composition, and the greatest player Canada has produced.  

6.      Snip3down. A power weapon savant with a long and storied career, Snip3down is one of the game's old guns back to Halo 3. Snip3down won 20 major events, including the 2008 MLG National Championship and Fall 2016 HCS Pro League Finals before retiring following the 2022 Halo World Championships. 

7.      Roy. The best burst-fire on this side of the galaxy, Roy is highly regarded when it comes to Battle Rifle play. His laser accuracy with the weapon earned him the nickname RoyBorg. He remained one of the most skilled (and feared) players in MLG and HCS before retiring in 2019.  

8.      Walshy. If OGRE1 and OGRE2 are the greatest known two-punch in the universe, Walshy is the third hit rounding up to finish you off. Few players ushered in mental composure, celebrity, and showmanship into esports like Walshy. The first Red Bull-sponsored eAthlete, Walshy still holds the record for most consecutive tourney victories with nine and boasts three MLG Championships.

9.      Lunchbox. A dedicated strategist, locker-room guy, and consummate team player, Lunchbox’s reputation comes from his ability to lock in and show out to win. One of the greatest teammates the game has ever seen, he is calculated and methodical. He is also the only person on this list to win both an MLG Championship and an X Games Gold Medal.  

10.  Frosty*. Frosty remains in the running for the greatest player in the 2023 game, but his flash, style, and aggressive play helped him burst onto the scene early in his career and solidify him. Commentator Wes "Clutch" Price regards him as a “Human highlight reel” because of his "aggressive" playstyle. This belies his cool demeanor (pun very much intended), frustrating opponents after he continually sends them back to the death screen. His efficiency earned him Halo 5: Guardians’ Overall Most Valuable Player and Best Sniper, and he won back-to-back championships for Counter Logic Gaming/OpTic Gaming in 2016 and 2017. 

* = Playing in HCS Halo Infinite as of March 2023

The five greatest players (not including Frosty, SnakeBite, and Royal2) in Halo Infinite’s HCS 2023, in no particular order, are:

  • Tommy “Lucid” Wilson. Lucid, formerly known as Saiyan in Halo 5, racked up some major hardware in HCS 2022 with League MVP and 2022 World Champion. Regarded for his statistical splendor and heralded as the greatest in the game, Lucid holds one of the highest skill ceilings in Halo. Keep an eye on this guy because the potential here is staggering — perhaps one day, he’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with players like LethuL, Pistola, and maybe even OGRE2. Lucid is with team OpTic Gaming. 

  • Jonathan “Renegade” Willette. Renegade is a contender for the biggest attitude in Halo Infinite, but it’s difficult to argue his results: His squads have landed outside of a top-three placement only five times in 28 tourneys, and before that, a 2018 World Championship in Halo 5: Guardians. Next on his list is an Infinite World Championship with a stacked FaZe Clan squad out for revenge. Renegade plays for team FaZe Clan.

  • Braedon “StelluR” Boettcher. Placing in the top four consistently for over six years, StelluR is a mythic player known for grounded and stoic play and even more mythical hair. The Man-Bunned Menace, then with Cloud9, took second place at the 2022 World Championship against OpTic Gaming. After a reshuffle and some recruiting, StelluR’s Cloud9 roster joined Spacestation Gaming to run it back in 2023. StelluR plays for team Spacestation Gaming. 

  • Matt “FormaL” Piper. You know your team is stacked if you have two players vying for the best player in the world. OpTic Gaming, at the time of this writing, is fresh off of three straight LAN wins and looking to add more hardware to the trophy room, and FormaL is a huge part of that success. While Lucid produces the highlight clips that Twitch viewers love, FormaL provides a veteran steady trigger finger that Halo savants salivate over. He’s a top player to watch and integral to team OpTic’s success.

  • Kevin “Eco” Smith. One of the most consistent placers in the top four for close to a decade, Eco is the kind of player best compared to a rock: Build around him, and you’ll have a solid chance at greatness. He’s been a force to reckon with in the classic Halo 3 circuit, Infinite, and Halo 5: Guardians, the last of which got him a World Championship in 2018. He’s looking to add another title to his resume in 2023 for team Spacestation Gaming.

Halo vehicle moves through the universePhoto source:

HCS 2023 Season Changes, Schedule, and Partnered Teams

HCS’ 2023 Season started off with a bang in late February with the Charlotte Major, where Halo Infinite pro players showed out for dedicated fans and saw OpTic Gaming take home the Kickoff Major crown for their third consecutive LAN victory over FaZe Clan.

An exhilarating series between the game’s best teams that came down map seven in a best-of-seven series that came down to the last second — literally a last-kill difference in a game of Slayer on Streets. If you missed it, you missed out.  

Season 3: Echoes Within sandbox patches sees nerfs to the VK78 Commando (eight bullet kill changed to nine bullet kill), Plasma Pistol (charge time increased and tracking adjustments), and the addition of the M392 Bandit rifle and Shroud Screen equipment. The Bandit is an intriguing addition for a few reasons.

Choose Your Starter

Though it holds a visual resemblance to Reach’s fan-favorite Designated Marksman Rifle, the Bandit functions mechanically akin to the Halo 5 magnum pistol: five shots to kill, no scope, and a slower rate of fire. Competitive commentators, players, and fans speculate that the Bandit is the first contender to replace the Battle Rifle (BR) as the starting weapon for Halo Infinite ranked modes. 

With 15 rounds to a magazine, five shots to kill, best at mid-range, and a recoil that punishes spammy shooters, the Bandit is an attractive expression of skill for Halo Infinite pro players. Infinite’s iteration of the BR is the best the franchise knows, but some have characterized its range and accuracy in ranked play as overpowered and less skillful.

Converting the BR to a pickup weapon like the Commando Rifle offers interesting sandbox implications, creating more scavenging opportunities and potentially higher skill ceilings, especially in scenarios where a three-round burst bails out sloppy play often. As beloved as the BR75 is, its burst fire is easier to spam and hit at longer ranges. A BR that must be picked up instead of spawned with gives skilled players more room to shine.

However, Season 3 just launched, and the Bandit Rifle hasn’t had much time for players to become acquainted with it. Whether it does change the competitive balance or not, only player metrics determine. 

Halo gameplay snapshotPhoto source:

Schedule and Partnered Teams

The next HCS event is the Quadrant Online, which runs April 22-23. Find the full schedule for the Major Events here. The 2023 season also has weekly online events on FACEIT, an esports platform for tourney organizers that enables players to hone their skills in more official formats, meet players and coaches on and off the battlefield, and get their shot at the big leagues. If you’re looking to test yourself, these weeklies are for you. 

These are the partnered teams for Halo Infinite Year Two. Each team has a new bundle in the HCS shop on Halo Infinite with some sweet looks for the latest Mirage IIC armor cores too:

  • OpTic Gaming

  • Cloud9

  • FaZe Clan

  • Spacestation Gaming

  • Sentinels

  • Navi

  • Quadrant

  • Complexity Gaming

There’s been some turnover from year one, but that’s fair to expect since Halo Infinite’s first year was a bumpy ride. Eight partnered teams and new events mean that the Halo Championship Series is still drawing enough viewers to be viable, and that’s great news for the game.

Early rendering of Halo environmentPhoto source:

Gear Up, It’s Time

Halo’s esports impact is no small thing, and that legacy continues into Halo Infinite. Some of the greatest players still compete and have added accolades to their already considerable resumes. The Halo Championship Series allows the best professionals to show up and show out, and each event’s production quality, drama, and gameplay are exciting for any esports fan.

See you at the Quadrant Online in April 2023!  

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