Bonnie Ross, head of 343 Industries, apologized for the release of a Infinite Halo (opens in new tab) cosmetic intended to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States that included a color scheme with an “offensive and painful” name.
The epic nameplate is called Juneteenth, named after an American holiday that commemorates the end of slavery. But players quickly realized that a secondary color palette was available for the nameplate, called “Bonobo”. The bonobo is a type of great ape, which has an obviously racist connotation when used in reference to Juneteenth.
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343 quickly renamed the palette to “Freedom”—YouTuber Sean W (opens in new tab) said it was “the quickest fix” he’s ever seen – and Ross issued a brief but unreserved apology on Twitter.
“We became aware of a palette option for our Juneteenth emblem that contained a term that was both offensive and harmful. The team immediately addressed this issue via an update,” she tweeted.
“We are a studio and franchise committed to inclusivity, where everyone is welcomed and supported to be their true selves. On behalf of 343, I apologize for making a celebrated moment a painful moment.”
We are a studio and franchise committed to inclusivity, where everyone is welcomed and supported to be their true selves. On behalf of 343, I apologize for making a celebrated moment a painful moment. (2/2)June 15, 2022
Ross did not comment on how the name ended up linked to the cosmetic, but 343 senior community manager John Junyszek said it was a reference to a “built-in toolkit (opens in new tab).” An image of the software was posted by the streamer Mint Blitz (opens in new tab)While kotaku (opens in new tab) said it is an “asset editing program” in use at 343; the program was apparently not used for the development of Halo Infinite, but is widely known and popular among studio employees.
The possibility that the name was used as a thoughtless substitute doesn’t seem unreasonable, but the explanation didn’t sit well with everyone. OpTic Gaming player Brad “aPG” Laws, for example, pointed out that the name likely had to go through several layers of approval at the studio, none of which flagged it as offensive.
The fact that this has passed and come this far is terrible. Are they just making racist jokes over there and thought that would be funny? Now I have to keep playing this game/support them but any chance I get I’ll be talking shit on 343. Please try to fine meJune 14, 2022
some fans of halo subreddit (opens in new tab) expressed similar skepticism and shared theories about the origin of the name that ranged from organized conspiracy to simple neglect.
Whatever the reason, Halo Infinite chief creative officer Joseph Staten also apologized for the use of the name, calling it “inexcusable”.
I’m sorry too. Our mistake today was unforgivable, and I am ashamed that we allowed this to happen. https://t.co/cOeg63t0ivJune 15, 2022
I contacted Microsoft for more information on how the palette got its name and will update if I get a response.