The troubled development process on Halo Infinite took another hit today with the announced departure of Chris Lee from 343 Industries.
In a report on Bloomberg, Lee told tech/games correspondent Jason Schreier, "I have stepped back from Infinite and I am looking at future opportunities. I believe in the team and am confident they will deliver a great game and now is a good time for me to step away." Lee has been with 343 Industries since 2008, and has been studio head since 2016.
Lee's departure appears to be voluntary. Microsoft confirmed to Bloomberg in a written statement, "Chris Lee remains a Microsoft employee and while he has stepped back from Halo Infinite right now, we appreciate all he has done for the project to date." However, Lee's authority over the project was apparently diminished after the release of a gameplay demo in August, with former Halo developer Joe Staten coming in to handle the single player campaign and Pierre Hintze taking over multiplayer development.
This is not the first major departure from the project. In August 2019, creative director Tim Longo left under vaguely defined "leadership changes." Halo Infinite is slated to be released sometime in 2021 for Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC.
Food For Thought
It's curious that Lee is still a Microsoft employee, or considered as such, despite leaving 343 Industries. Had he left entirely, it would still be surprising, but would likely be chalked up as another casualty in the ongoing saga of a rocky development cycle. This situation, however, suggests somebody has at least consulted with Lee about staying on in some capacity (perhaps with Microsoft Game Studios or on the Xbox team) after sufficient time has passed. Given the state of Halo Infinite's development, it's not unreasonable to think Lee might be taking some downtime before starting a new position within Microsoft somewhere.