For as long as 343 Industries has existed, Bonnie Ross has been in charge of it. No longer. The Microsoft veteran announced on Monday that she would leave the studio in charge of Halo Infinite to deal with a family medical issue. It’s the latest high-profile departure on a pivotal Xbox game that continues to face big challenges as it nears its one-year anniversary.
“While I had hoped to stay with Halo until we released the Winter Update, I am letting you know I will be leaving 343 and attending to a family medical issue,” Ross tweeted today. She said she was incredibly proud of all the work 343 Industries had done on the Halo franchise, and called its future “bright.”
Microsoft revealed to Windows Central that Ross will be replaced by three people instead of one. Partner head of production, Pierre Hintze, will become the new studio head, head of Halo marketing, Bryan Koski, will become franchise general manager, and current head of Halo operations, Elizabeth Van Wyck, will continue to oversee the business side. While some fans interpreted Ross’ departure as a temporary move, Microsoft confirmed she was permanently leaving the company.
Ross has been at Microsoft since 2005, and spent 15 of those years running 343 Industries, a studio the tech giant created to takeover Halo after series creator Bungie left to become an independent studio again. 343 Industries has since shipped Halo 4, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, and Halo 5: Guardians, in addition to several spin-offs and even a TV show.
Currently, however, the series faces an uphill climb as the latest release, 2021’s Halo Infinite, continues to struggle during its post-launch phase as a live service game. Recently, 343 Industries announced that a long-awaited feature promised at launch, split-screen local co-op, was cancelled, and that season three of the game’s multiplayer would be delayed until 2023.
These setbacks come as big names continue to trickle out of 343 Industries. In March, lead multiplayer designer Andrew Witts departed. In May, Halo Infinite head of design, Jerry Hook, who had been working at Microsoft and on Halo for nearly two decades, left to form a new studio with funding from NetEase.
While Halo Infinite’s main campaign was praised by critics at launch, it faced its own delay, and the lead-up to it was racked with departures as well. Creative director Tim Longo and executive producer Mary Olson both left the project in August 2019. In October 2020, then-Halo Infinite director Chris Lee announced he was leaving 343 Industries as well after Bloomberg reported he’d previously been sidelined in the game’s development.
Now out in the wild, players are putting all of their hopes for the game’s future into Forge, its content-creator mode. Initially slated to arrive earlier this year, it was delayed to August and then again until November. Even so, players who already have access to testing for it are creating some really cool-looking stuff.
Update: 2:59 p.m. ET, 9/12/2022: Added comment from Microsoft about how 343 Industries will be restructured in Ross’ absence.