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Gameverse | June 18, 2019

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Should Bungie Go Back to Microsoft?

Matthew Byrd

Destiny 2 Microsoft Bungie

The gaming world was rocked recently by the news that developer Bungie is splitting from publisher Activision and taking the Destiny franchise with them.

This has led to many questions. What happens to Destiny now that Bungie has complete control over it? What does this mean for the future of Bungie? What does this say about Activision’s questionable business practices? What will happen to Destiny 2 on PC which relies on Activision’s Battle.net launcher?

We’d like to add another question to that pile:  Should Bungie go back to Microsoft?

As some of you may remember, Microsoft acquired Bungie in 2000 largely so that Halo could be an Xbox exclusive. As some of you may also remember, that plan worked out for Microsoft quite well. Halo was an Xbox exclusive and arguably one of the best system sellers ever.

After that, the Microsoft/Bungie relationship started to slowly sour. While Halo 2 and 3 (and spin-offs ODST and Reach) were huge hits for both parties, the problem was that Microsoft supposedly wanted Bungie to make Halo games until further notice. They also reportedly demanded quite a bit of control over how Bungie operated. These conditions eventually led to Bungie leaving for Activision and developing the Destiny franchise.

Now, we know what you’re thinking. Why would Bungie ever leave one demanding publisher for another? Well, the situation isn’t quite that simple.

Bungie and Microsoft are both at different points than they were when the initial split happened. At that time, Microsoft was flying high with the success of the Xbox 360 and saw Halo as an important piece of the Xbox name. We won’t justify how they treated Bungie, but they had their reasons.

Bungie, meanwhile, was a relatively young and proud studio who wanted to spread their wings and see what else was out there. While they got to make their next dream project (Destiny), they also found out that there’s a price that comes with partnering with a major publisher like Activision. Namely, you become part of a very elaborate money machine.

Now, Bungie may wish to stay independent, but can they really keep Destiny running on their own? Given that they’ve indicated they’d like to release less (but more elaborate) content for the game now that Activision doesn’t have them on a schedule, we tend to think they’re going to struggle to keep such a massive “service’ game going.

This is why Microsoft is such an interesting partner. Microsoft has indicated they’re more interested in getting everyone to play their games rather than getting everyone to buy an Xbox. They’re a major possible partner who would probably have no problem letting Destiny live on multiple platforms. They’re probably especially excited about adding the PC version of the game to the Microsoft store.

Outside of that, you have to believe that Microsoft is probably still so eager to add one more big name to their developer war chest that they’d be willing to let Bungie have the kind of freedom they might not have otherwise enjoyed. We don’t know if they’d pressure them to return to Halo, but even the possibility and association would generate quite a bit of buzz for Microsoft as they head into the next generation of console gaming.

It’s an exciting possibility, but we tend to think that the bad blood between the two parties will ultimately keep it from happening. Regardless, we don’t think it’s nearly as bad as a move as it might seem on paper.