This article is about the game development company. For other uses of the term, see 343.
343 Industries is a subsidiary of Xbox Game Studios located in Kirkland, Washington. It is tasked with overseeing the Halo franchise and creating new properties for the series. The team's name is a reference to 343 Guilty Spark, the monitor of Installation 04.
Before the formation of 343 Industries in 2007, the Microsoft Game Studios Franchise Development Group (MGSFDG) was responsible for expanding Microsoft's video game franchises. A prominent example of their contribution to the Halo franchise would be their arrangement with publishers Ballantine Books and Tor Books to publish a number of Halo novels over the years.
Following the end of partnership between Bungie and Microsoft in 2007, Microsoft sought to form a first-party studio from its internal development group to oversee the future development of the Halo franchise; thus, 343 Industries was established. A small number of Bungie employees transferred to 343, notably Frank O'Connor and Chad Armstrong. In addition, several members of the new studio were hired from the Halo fan community, including Jeremy Patenaude and Jacob Benton of Ascendant Justice and later Jeff "GrimBrotherOne" Easterling.
Projects and partnerships
343's first project was Halo Waypoint, a downloadable Xbox LIVE application developed in conjunction with Certain Affinity and released in 2009. Waypoint is also accessible via the official Halo website. Certain Affinity also created the maps in the Defiant Map Pack, the first map pack to be released by 343, and has since worked with 343 Industries on several projects.
In 2010, 343 released the first episode of their official podcast. After Bungie announced they would discontinue Halo-related Bungie Weekly Updates on July 7, 2011, 343 Industries started publishing the Halo Bulletin, a weekly writeup of Halo news.
343 Industries often works with outside companies to produce content; these include ONE and MoreFrames, who created several motion comics based on Halo: Evolutions stories, as well as Sequence, who have worked on the terminal videos in 343's game releases as well as Halo: The Fall of Reach - The Animated Series. 343 Industries' first game release, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, was developed in conjunction with Saber Interactive and released in 2011. Saber Interactive also worked on Halo 2: Anniversary, a similar remastering of Halo 2 released as part of Halo: The Master Chief Collection in 2014. The top-down shooters Halo: Spartan Assault and Halo: Spartan Strike were co-developed with Vanguard Games, while Halo Wars 2 was co-developed with Creative Assembly. Blur Studio created the CGI cinematics for Halo 2 Anniversary and Halo Wars 2, while Axis Animation produced those for Spartan Ops and Halo 5: Guardians. The tabletop games Halo: Fleet Battles and Halo: Ground Command were co-developed with Spartan Games.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection was the first Halo release on the Xbox One console, marking the onset of a phase of the series known as "The Journey". This multimedia project would encompass a number of works, including the digital series Halo: Nightfall, which would tie into the next major game in the series, Halo 5: Guardians. The Halo Channel was introduced as a next-generation replacement for Halo Waypoint on the Xbox One, while Halo: The Television Series remains in development hell.
Universe development and storytelling
Although Halo "expanded universe" fiction has always shared the same continuity as the games, under Bungie's watch material from outside the games was generally regarded as ancillary and was rarely intertwined with the games in a significant way; references to the novels, for instance, rarely amounted to more than throwaway lines. This was in part due to a disconnect between Bungie and Microsoft's Franchise Development Group, who were largely responsible for the creation of secondary media at the time. An effort was made to keep different pieces of media as their own, self-contained "bubbles," so that they would not have a significant impact on other stories. For example, Frank O'Connor stated that the story of Halo Wars effectively exists in a bubble, having little bearing on the Halo story at large. According to O'Connor, this approach was "safer" from a development perspective, but it made many pieces of fiction seem extraneous or "disposable," as they had no crucial impact on one another.
Circa 2008, however, 343 Industries decided that all future media they released would be more heavily interconnected. This included further integrating the fiction of the games and the novels into a seamless whole, with different pieces of media complementing one another in meaningful ways. Even though the main game series is still the primary focus of the studio, all other fiction has been stated to have a resonant impact on the games' stories in a way unlike before. For example, the novels of the Kilo-Five Trilogy and The Forerunner Saga have direct connections to the story of Halo 4. 343i also sought to establish more characters to tell stories with in different parts of the Halo universe, with studio head Bonnie Ross stating that the previous approach of killing characters at the end of games made it more difficult to tell connected stories.
By 2016, 343 Industries had come to deem the stories of their past games overly complex and decided that in the future, the Halo games would have "simpler" narratives while secondary media would be used to tell deeper stories, with individual narratives being kept in their own "swimlanes". According to Bonnie Ross, "while we love our transmedia, sometimes I do think we do tell a little bit too much story in our games; you know when you have a gun and then you have aliens shooting at you, it is kind of hard to digest a lot of story." Ross cited Halo Wars 2 as an example of a game story that followed the studio's new approach.
343 Industries has built up a mythos of in-jokes related to Unicorns, which is referenced in the background of the FOTUS armor permutation. There is also a tongue-in-cheek in-universe counterpart of the studio itself, named the "434 Combat Readiness Lab". 343 Industries also has a in-universe company with the same name.
Upcoming and ongoing