[Edit: Frank O’ Connor stated that they were not targetting a T rating, that a shift in our cultural standards is probably what happened.]
[original article below]
Take a look at the latest batch of Halo 5 trailers for a moment and notice the ratings at the beginning of each of them. Halo 5: Guardians appears to be rated T for teen. In the past, the Halo series (disregarding Halo Wars and the “Spartan” series) has always been rated M. For all the non-U.S. readers out there, an M rating from the ESRB means 18+ and a T rating means 13+. What could be the ramifications of such a change?
1. The Flood definitely isn’t showing up this time.
One of the biggest reasons classic Halo titles were rated M was because of the presence of the Flood, a sentient alien virus which consumes all organic matter for its own purposes. The quickest way that the Flood does this is by having an infection form eat into a creature’s chest and reforming its body into a weapon. The Flood likes to decorate the walls with the flesh and bones of its victims, and players are able to dismember any combat forms they encounter. This means gore and in the case of Halo 3, gruesome transformations. Needless to say, if Halo 5 is rated T, the Flood won’t be showing up in any but the smallest capacity.
2. There is going to be less blood
If you take a gander over the ratings of Halo: Reach and Halo 4, you’ll see two reasons for why they’re rated M, blood and violence. I imagine that it would be quite difficult to create a Halo game that doesn’t include a whole heap of violence, so even though blood still describes Halo 5’s rating, that is the only other thing they could really cut back on. Whether they managed this by focusing more on the Promethean threat or by actually reducing the amount of blood the Covenant spill is a mystery to me (apparently no one killed any Covies in their time with Warzone), but considering that mild language made it onto Halo 5’s rating description, something else had to have budged.
3. Halo and Destiny are now directly competing.
While Destiny isn’t a PlayStation exclusive title, Sony is basically doing everything in their power to make sure that when the average consumer hears the title of that game, they think Sony. It’s working too. I personally know a few people who thought that the title was exclusive to the PS4, and I’m sure some of you do too. Unfortunately, in the eyes of an ill-informed customer, Halo 5: Guardians and Destiny look like nearly identical titles. More parents will buy their children a game that is appropriately rated for them instead of a game that is rated above their age, so if a marketing executive wanted to position Halo against Destiny, one of the most crucial moves would be to get it rated T.
Will this make the game less enjoyable? I doubt it. The reality is that if you took out the Flood from the games that included it, Halo would already almost be a T rated game. 343 Industries probably didn’t have to try very hard to squeeze the hit franchise into a T rating, so I’d be dubious of anyone claiming that Halo 5 is being harmed by this. In any case, Halo 5 looks to be turning into a fine game. Halo 5: Guardians launches on October 27, this holiday.