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Sorry, Halo 5 is still not coming to Windows PCs

Analysis: It's time for Master Chief to return to Windows, but it sounds like Halo 5 won't be first out of the gate.

halo-5-guardians-pc-rumor
Juxtaposition by Sean Hollister/CNET

Notice anything different about these two game boxes? No, I'm not talking about the fact one of them is set at a jaunty angle.

The box on the right says Halo 5: Guardians is an "Xbox One Exclusive" -- meaning a game you can only play on the Xbox One game console.

But the newer box on the left, as revealed on Amazon.com, suggests that Halo 5 is about to become an "Xbox One Console Exclusive" instead -- which is Microsoft's long-standing code for games that come out on Windows PCs instead of just consoles. Now that's an exciting thought, eh?

Unfortunately, it sounds like it's just a thought. "As we've shared previously, we do not have plans to launch Halo 5: Guardians on Windows 10 PC," a Microsoft spokesperson told CNET Monday.

That's a shame, because it'd make a lot of sense, if you consider that Microsoft is bringing the next flagship game in the series -- Halo Infinite -- to Windows PCs as well.

PC gamers may want an opportunity to binge the rest of the series before they play Infinite, since its developers have revealed that Infinite is basically just Halo 6. It would definitely help gamers catch up if Microsoft brought its previous games to PC -- something Xbox boss Phil Spencer said was technically possible last fall, and again supported in a tweet this spring.

That said, Microsoft would also need to bring Halo: The Master Chief Collection to Windows PCs to accomplish that goal, which contains Halo 1 to 4, but there's no leaked box art for The Master Chief Collection on Amazon quite yet. (I checked.)

A previous report that Halo 5 was coming to PC, based on a Microsoft store page, also turned out to be inaccurate. "It's not being worked on at this time," Halo franchise director Frank O'Connor said at gaming forum ResetEra in June.

It's never been quite clear how committed Microsoft is to PC gaming, even if the company has admitted it needs to do better. In 2016, Microsoft walked back its promise to bring every in-house Xbox game to Windows PCs and let you pay for a single copy that works on both platforms. And while that so-called Xbox Play Anywhere initiative still exists, it was discovered in July that Microsoft isn't advertising Halo Infinite as an Xbox Play Anywhere title, either -- and still isn't, two months later.

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When we asked about Halo Infinite a couple months back, the company wouldn't say one way or the other whether Xbox Play Anywhere was still on the cards.

"The studio is taking the time needed to make the best Halo game possible and we will share more information about the game once we're ready," a spokesperson said, adding only that the game was still confirmed to be in development for both Xbox and Windows 10.

That said, the new Microsoft is pushing harder to bring its ideas to more and more platforms that it doesn't entirely control. You might want to read our interview with Xbox boss Phil Spencer and these intriguing rumors about how a Microsoft cloud gaming service might work.

Ars Technica reported the Halo 5 box art earlier.

First published Sept. 10, 2:49 p.m. PT.

Update, 5:12 p.m. PT: Adds statement from Microsoft spokesperson that Halo 5 sadly still isn't coming to PC.