As an incredible bit of early evening news – or late afternoon depending on where you are – Sony has opened their wallet and picked up Destiny and Halo creator Bungie for a tidy $3.6 billion. This comes mere weeks after Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard, which left us all wondered if the result would be a spending spree from the Japanese developer in response. This is our answer.
First things first. We have assurances that Bungie is going to stay as a multiplatform studio. That’s important since Destiny 2 is basically on everything at this point – even Stadia – and the biggest concern everyone has with these deals is that future games are going to move to being platform exclusives. This was specifically addressed in the announcement and an FAQ:
Q. Bungie has future games in development, will they now become PlayStation exclusives?
No. We want the worlds we are creating to extend to anywhere people play games. We will continue to be self-published, creatively independent, and we will continue to drive one, unified Bungie community.
This seems to say that PlayStation exclusivity is off the table, though I’m sure we’ll all harbour doubts about that fact for years to come. Bungie has specifically committed to the already-announced Destiny 2 roadmap to remain cross-platform through 2024, but we know that the company has other projects in the works, and there’s always the possibility of them announcing Destiny 3 at some point. While Microsoft’s deals so far have allowed existing games and contracts to play out with an eye to future exclusivity, this seems to be a very different approach from Sony with Bungie retaining full autonomy. This could have been a key part of why Bungie agreed to a deal with Sony and not with Microsoft.
So what does Sony get out of it? Well, with reports that Sony are set to relaunch PlayStation Plus to be a direct competitor to Xbox Game Pass, they will obviously need marquee titles that can offer benefits within that service or, at the very least, some exclusive perks and content for subscribing. Bungie’s monetisation of DLC and content drew criticism at the end of last year with confusing tiers and dungeons behind secondary paywalls… wouldn’t it be something if all that was bundled together for PlayStation subscribers?
Jim Ryan spoke on the acquisition, saying “We’ve had a strong partnership with Bungie since the inception of the Destiny franchise, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to officially welcome the studio to the PlayStation family”.
This is an important step in our strategy to expand the reach of PlayStation to a much wider audience. We understand how vital Bungie’s community is to the studio and look forward to supporting them as they remain independent and continue to grow. Like Bungie, our community is core to PlayStation’s DNA, and our shared passion for the gamer and building the best place to play will now evolve even further.
Bungie was of course previously owned to Microsoft, creating the Halo series that would define the Xbox brand. They then became an independent company, signing a publishing deal with Activision in 2010 for the Destiny franchise, before once again setting out on their own in 2019.
This is another that the console manufacturers arms race is hotting up. After Microsoft picked up a number of studios including Bethesda they then went after the huge Activision Blizzard for an equally huge $68.7 billion. Sony’s acquisitions, by contrast, have been more considered and leant towards existing partners. The past 12 months has seen them buy up Firesprite, Bluepoint Games, Returnal developer Housemarque and PC porting experts Nixxes.
Neither side is done with acquisitions yet. Both Microsoft and Sony have plenty more in the bank, and make money hand over fist, both from gaming and their other ventures. Sony’s certainly under pressure to counter Microsoft’s aggressive acquisitions though, so could they be eyeing up some other developers and publishers? What about regular partners like Square Enix, Capcom or Take Two?