343 Industries has apologized for, and hastily renamed, a Halo Juneteenth nameplate. The plate was originally released in order to commemorate the federal holiday, but was swiftly changed after it was pointed out that its palette could be construed as a racial slur.
What was offensive about the Halo Juneteenth nameplate?
Since its launch, Halo Infinite has been the subject of what can best be described as "mixed" community feedback. Whether it's the game's controversial Battle Pass or problems with its matchmaking, it has sometimes seemed like 343 Industries can't get anything right, and now, the studio has blundered again. A nameplate intended to celebrate Juneteenth, the federal holiday commemorating the day on which Black slaves were emancipated in 1865, was added to Halo Infinite, but community members quickly spotted a problem. The nameplate's palette was called "Bonobo", which could be construed as a racial slur against Black folks.
After this issue was pointed out by several Halo Infinite players and community members, the nameplate's palette was quickly changed to "Freedom" by 343. After that, the nameplate was once again changed, this time simply to "Juneteenth". 343 community manager John Junyszek clarified that "Bonobo" is the name of an internal tool used by the studio, and that its inclusion in a Juneteenth nameplate was entirely accidental. 343 head Bonnie Ross also issued a statement via Twitter. Here's that statement in full.
We were made aware of a palette option for our Juneteenth emblem that contained a term that was offensive and hurtful. The team immediately addressed this issue via an update. We are a studio and franchise that is committed to inclusivity where everyone is welcome and supported to be their true self. On behalf of 343, I apologize for making a celebrated moment a hurtful moment.
Mistakes happen, but it's hard not to see a lack of care in 343 allowing this plate to go out, with this palette name, on such an important date for Black folks. At best, this is a show of staggeringly bad timing, and at worst, it's potentially a demonstration of a certain level of negligence within the studio.
What's going on in the world of Halo Infinite?
343 Industries can be said to have something of a fractious relationship with its community. While the studio is usually quick to address criticism and negative feedback surrounding the game (as demonstrated by the swift response to the above issue), the decisions made in Halo Infinite on a game design level have also been the subject of controversy. Some gamers argue that 343 isn't adding content and features to the game fast enough, and Halo Infinite has also been hit by a number of technical issues and bugs since its launch late last year. In April, it was announced that development studio Certain Affinity had been brought in to help with Halo Infinite's development. Let's hope that decision leads to a more favorable reception for Halo Infinite's multiplayer going forward.
You can grab Halo Infinite right now on PC and Xbox consoles. It's available on Steam or via the Microsoft Store. Here's hoping that 343 Industries learns from the Juneteenth incident and checks any future attempts to show solidarity with causes more thoroughly.