Bungie takes back its Destiny and departs from Activision

Bungie, creator of the popular Halo and Destiny franchises, is splitting from publisher Activision and will go its own way, the company announced today. It’s almost certainly good news for gamers and the company itself, but it also won’t fix the problems that plagued Destiny and its sequel since their launches.

In a blog post, the company explained that the partnership had run its course:

We have enjoyed a successful eight-year run and would like to thank Activision for their partnership on Destiny. Looking ahead, we’re excited to announce plans for Activision to transfer publishing rights for Destiny to Bungie. With our remarkable Destiny community, we are ready to publish on our own, while Activision will increase their focus on owned IP projects.

The planned transition process is already underway in its early stages, with Bungie and Activision both committed to making sure the handoff is as seamless as possible

Bungie and Activision teamed up all those years ago essentially because the former needed a jump-start to develop Destiny, and the latter was of course always looking for big titles to produce and milk for cash.

The deal was, briefly stated, $500 million for four games over 10 years — which sounds reasonable on its face, but the first Destiny had a troubled development and took years to become the game people expected; the sequel infamously was rumored to have been rebooted less than a year and a half before release. Meanwhile, both games needed a steady drip of new content to keep players online.

Pressure from Activision meant Bungie had to focus on meeting deadlines rather than pursue the “it’s ready when it’s ready” philosophy that companies like Rockstar have the luxury of. This may have contributed to the widely berated microtransaction store built into Destiny 2 and the half-baked nature of its early content releases, like the much-maligned Curse of Osiris.

But ultimately these choices have been shown to be Bungie’s, and the responsibility rests on them as the developer. Delivering for both gamers and shareholders is tough, but that’s the deal they struck, and it seems as if they simply weren’t able to do it.

Getting the rights to Destiny back must have been like pulling teeth, but it may also be that Activision would rather cut Bungie loose while it’s ahead rather than attempt to rush the third entry in the series. Although both companies are being very polite about it right now, chances are the inside story will emerge soon; Kotaku’s Jason Schreier, who has followed the game and company closely for years, reported that champagne corks were flying at Bungie headquarters, so clearly some tension has been relieved.

History repeats, it seems: Bungie was originally an independent developer (and creator of the beloved Marathon games) and was acquired by Microsoft during the development of its breakout hit Halo. It later negotiated its independence from Microsoft, only to apparently walk into the same trap again a few years afterward.

What this means for Destiny players is unclear, but the trend away from yearly installments and toward longer development times and bigger payoffs has generally been a good one for players. If Bungie leans that way and Destiny 3 ends up coming out a year after it might have under Activision, it will almost certainly be better for it.