At Gamescom 2015, Microsoft announced the inaugural Halo World Championship, which will see competitors playing Halo 5: Guardians' new 4 on 4 Arena mode – designed specifically with competitive gaming in mind.
Halo has long been a popular multiplayer game but this is the first time the company has made a conscious effort to woo the ever-growing eSports market. Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft's Xbox division, was asked about it during an interview with Eurogamer, and he admitted developers 343 Industries could have done more with Halo 4's multiplayer.
"We knew with Halo 4, which sold really well and we were proud of 343's work, that we could have done better with multiplayer," he said. "When you think of multiplayer on console, eSports isn't the only proving ground, but it's great to bring eSports professionals in to play our game to get their feedback on what these arena-based eSports like games, whether it's for eSport or perfecting the multiplayer in the game, it's been incredibly valuable and we've had a lot of success with eSports in Halo – to continue to push that is a great way to continue to make the brand relevant.
"The same time we're doing things like Warzone, which isn't really an eSports mode – it's a large-scale, you and I with mates hanging out, and I'm not saying there wouldn't be eSports in it, but there's a different focus for us. We knew we wanted to focus on multiplayer as well as the single-player campaign. We knew we had some improvements to make to Halo 4 – if you're relevant in that space you're probably doing something right."
Spencer was also asked about the big shooter in eSports – Counter Strike – and what they can do to take on Valve's PC behemoth. He said: "I don't really think about taking it down – you have eSports professionals that decide that Counter-Strike's more their game than Call of Duty or Halo. People move around. As we think about Xbox Live, and our capability as a service and a first-party to make the viewing of the eSport as compelling as playing, we're learning a lot of Halo 5.
"It's also with Minecraft – the viewing of Minecraft in some ways is as big as the people playing. Making sure we have the best service for people to view eSports will benefit Halo, and it'll benefit Xbox Live and it'll benefit all of the other games that want to be eSport on Xbox. It's a real symbiotic relationship between the first-party studio 343 and Live, and making eSports something more relevant on Live." Halo 5: Guardians will be released on 27 October.