Bungie, the studio responsible for the creation of Halo and Destiny, two of the gaming world’s biggest franchises, has been acquired by Sony. It’s part of a consolidation and turf war being waged as the next generation of gaming (and the metaverse, whatever that is) builds up steam.
The news was announced by both companies Monday morning (with industry sleuth Jason Schreier reporting early) and the deal valued at $3.6 billion. That may be just a fraction of Microsoft’s recent $60 billion Activision Blizzard acquisition, but Bungie is no less a legend in gaming.
Beginning as a Mac-focused studio in the ’90s with forgotten classic FPS Pathways Into Darkness and the influential Marathon, Bungie threatened to change the balance in power in the gaming world with Halo, which was intended to serve as the moment Apple took gaming seriously. Even Steve Jobs got in on the hype.
But then Microsoft announced it was buying Bungie and making Halo an exclusive to its new Xbox console — seemingly disappointing Apple so hard the company gave up on gaming entirely until it struck gold with the App Store.
Halo grew to become one of the Xbox’s flagship franchises, but after a few sequels Bungie was spun out into an independent company, to pursue original IPs while Microsoft retained the Halo brand. In 2013 the independent Bungie revealed Destiny, which became a huge hit, and in 2017 its sequel made its debut and is still active.
Bungie continued to be associated with its longtime publisher Activision back in 2019, even further freeing up the company to… be acquired. Seems it was going to happen either way, so might as well do it on your own terms.
The acquisition is a clear land grab by Sony as the rival console gaming companies warm up for the next round of battle. Games-as-a-service, or so-called live service games, have become one of the most lucrative new models for the industry, and Destiny 2 is one of the most successful examples. By selling a game and then further monetizing it with regular “seasons” of content, new aesthetic updates and other items, the GaaS model takes a page from MMOs.
With Destiny 2 likely on its last legs, one presumes that Destiny 3 is right around the corner, making this acquisition quite timely. To own one of the biggest GaaS franchises, and to invest in related multimedia as well (a Netflix show seems inevitable now), positions Sony well for next-generation gaming income. And while it seems probable that Destiny 3 will be cross-platform as its predecessor has been, nothing is stopping Sony from sweetening the deal for subscribers to its subscription service, rumored to be receiving a big refresh to compete with Microsoft’s Game Pass.
“Today, Bungie begins our journey to become a global multi-media entertainment company,” wrote CEO Pete Parsons in a blog post announcing the deal. “We remain in charge of our destiny. We will continue to independently publish and creatively develop our games. With SIE’s support, the most immediate change you will see is an acceleration in hiring talent across the entire studio to support our ambitious vision.”
Hopefully that means continuing to address culture issues at the company recently profiled in an IGN report. The company is reportedly working on a new IP as well as the expected sequel… and perhaps their independence and new resources will lead to a revival of cult hit Marathon — if there’s anyone left at the company who remembers it.