Bungie and how they left MS

Microsoft’s choice was either keep the Bungie name and every employee left to a new studio or they let Bungie go for two contracted games (3 and Reach, people tend to forget Bungie was officially separated from MS before 3’s release).

You don’t have to go to business college to figure out which one was better for both sides of it.

Also, MS kept killing off their non Halo projects.

Marty says a lot of things.

That wasn’t the reason, and Destiny didn’t start as a sci fi first person shooter anyway. It was a medieval fantasy game, hence all the you know… medieval fantasy naming scheme for things that carried over to final release.

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There was never any threat of everyone walking out because they didn’t want to do Halo anymore. That is just thrown around in my eyes to give MS an out for letting them go.

Bungie would have been worth say 200-400 million at that point. How do you let a company that you bought and own just walk away. Hell, it appears they didn’t even pay for their computers or office furniture. They got it all given to them for free. Not only that, but MS didn’t even tie them up as a second party studio as payment for letting them walk. To add insult to injury, they went exclusive with Xboxs main competitor with their next game.

To then hear rumours that MS were looking at rebuying a company they owned, who they let go for basically nothing, for a couple of billion is insane.

Bungie had to leave their offices as part of the deal, not that they would have been able to keep their Kirkland office as they needed to expand to support Destiny anyway. 343 took over Bungie’s old offices until they were eventually moved onto the MS campus proper.

Office furniture is relatively worthless in the sum total of a company’s assets and is often just mass dumped or auctioned when a company moves. Additionally, Bungie didn’t get anything for “free”, they had to lose the Halo IP to leave, and even ended up having to give MS some IP they were going to keep. MS also got to keep the Blam! engine up to the Reach version. (It’s not secret that part of the reason 343 was able to get out Halo 4 on the 360 was because they already had the Reach Blam! ready to go for use) Bungie also lost the ability to update Halo: Reach after a while, and all their plans for post-launch Reach support were cancelled or scuttled by MS. They were very good and forward-thinking plans.

I’m gonna be honest, you honest treat MS like a friend of yours that is jilted by an ex-partner, and that’s honestly a lil’ bit weird. They are corporations, ascribing human emotions to business transactions is a path into “getting a lil bit wrapped up about this”.


It is funny how that worked.

What is also funny is the deal that they signed with Activision that required them to make X amount of games within a time frame…

Yeah it was funny though. They wanted to make a 3rd person fantasy game and ended up making a first person shooters sci-fi game that really, really looks like Halo minus any charm.

In retrospect…it all worked out. Bungle burned bridges with MS and Activision, so we know who’s the problem in that relationship.

Poor Marty got fired because they already had his music for all the games and wanted to divide his 7th of the company up.

Creativity? Yeah…the same genre in the same setting.

Sadly as we all learned Bungle isn’t the magic.

The magic is Halo.

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No. Its always been Fable. I called it the moment the 2nd studio was announced.

Those rumours were made up by others to disparage Microsoft’s first party getting a little bigger/ make it seem like they were going multiplatform.

Correct. Jason Jones couldn’t stand they sold the company and what became a multi billion dollar IP for peanuts.

No, you can’t say it was about disparaging first party, because they weren’t owned at the time. The rumors were in 2017 when they announced they were expanding, and they weren’t purchased until summer 2018 so it wasn’t first party at the time.

They may have had in mind Fable as a concept, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t explore the option of a fantasy game / other similar but not IP branded concepts and talking to other publishers. Honestly, you’d almost expect them to talk to a few just to make sure they couldn’t get a better deal for something and to have a backup in case Fable fell through.

Fable is a Microsoft IP and was the first thing I thought of when they said they were making an open world RPG. Its implied the game would be exclusive and published by Microsoft.

Didn’t help that some press were reporting it was a new IP, when Playground never said that.

Im fairly sure Microsoft…perhaps Phil himself broached it to them.

I heard they wanted a change of pace, to work on a third person open world destruction shooter game like Riot Act…

Is your theory is they just did it arbitrarily, for no particular reason? If not the looming threat of talent exodus, I don’t think there’s any particular way to make sense of it.

It’s certainly true that there was never much of a chance of everyone leaving, but if a substantial chunk of the high level talent plan to take their ball and go home, that’s quite detrimental to the overall studio.

We’ve seen stuff like this happen before, and sometimes the effects are managable, while other times the effects are quite devestating. The founders left Infinity Ward, but the studio was largely in-tact, and they did ok after a while. OTOH, when Starbreeze veterans started leaving to form MachineGames, that wound up causing a substantial brain-drain and impacted the morale and productivity of the remaining company as staff were continuously bled to MachineGames over time.

There are other considerations - Bungie stayed whole for the meantime and produced several more games (as opposed to immediately needing to find new leadership and restaff the organization), Microsoft maintained an unknown stake in Bungie as part of the severance, and there is an intangible sense that it’s better to part on good terms than bad terms if you plan to maintain a relationship with the company over time.

It does seem wild looking from the outside, I’ll agree there.


Hopefully Microsoft has learned from the Bungie fiasco. Let your talent have their side projects to keep them happy. Thus, Bleeding Edge from Ninja Theory. However it’s worse if that studio desires to break off for the reasons they want to build their own IP and be independent.

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Studios are just people. And owning studios is about relationships between people. It’s not some arbitrary we own you so that’s it. People leave, talent leaves. There comes a point where you have to do stuff to manage relationships. Even let studios go their own way. That’s business. Don’t forget that relationships are key not contracts.


They didn’t say it was an RPG at first either, just that it was a new open-world game. Saying that it was Fable all along is just guessing, as I don’t believe we’ve ever gotten either a positive or a negative confirmation.

Anyway, I don’t see much that’s puzzling about the Bungie situation. It’s likely that MS wanted them to keep making Halo, and they wanted to branch out. As to why they didn’t just keep Bungie AND establish 343i to take over Halo, it’s hard to say. Perhaps Bungie wanted to leave no matter what. Perhaps by the time MS agreed on letting them do other things, their minds had already been set. Perhaps the Xbox leadership at the time saw more value in the Halo IP than the studio making it. Perhaps it’s a combination of those things or something else entirely. What ever the case, I think the way that it was handled in the end was pretty reasonable.

Bungie was not the last studio that MS allowed to go independent. Twisted Pixel did the same thing several years later, and MS let them acquire their own IP. Even when they closed Press Play, at the same time they closed Lionhead, MS allowed the new studios formed by the ex-Press Play people to acquire their old IP. The new Microsoft/Xbox are more flexible and dev-friendly like that, and I’m sure that played a large part in negotiations with their newly acquired studios. I don’t believe that there’s a one-size-fits-all solution, so if one of their current studios wanted to leave, they would have to negotiate the terms (or perhaps they already specified those terms in the acquisition contracts, there’s no way for us to know unless they or MS disclose those details).


OP just wants Microsoft to act like Activision, beeing evil and hostile to their own employees and partner devs. I like Microsofts path way better, it got me Reach and ODST and in the future Alan Wake 2 :+1:

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I don’t remember the interview now, but either Phil or Booty or Sarah Bond said they signed Fable first as a Global Publishing project. They were likely already pursuing an acquisition, but they started off the project with another external contract and helped PG grow before agreeing to acquire.


In retrospect…it all worked out. Bungle burned bridges with MS and Activision, so we know who’s the problem in that relationship.

They burned so many bridges that MS and Bungie signed an agreement where all the Destiny DLC is on GamePass now… what?

Also, they pretty much bought themselves out of the contract with Activision early with help from the Netease investment money. Don’t read too much into it.

Marty got fired for not getting work done on time (by his own admission), yelling at his fellow employees and making them miserable (not by his own admission), and other stuff. You may note that none of the audio team followed him out the door in protest, including his former business partner of almost 30 years in Michael Salvatori. Of course Marty’s gonna make himself look the saint in that whole thing, but frankly, he’s a bit of a jerkass and Microsoft themselves even banned Sabre from letting him come around when they were working on Halo Anniversary and H2A’s soundtrack.

Bungie did weird shit like sit on Music of the Spheres for way too long but this whole idea that he was suddenly kicked out for no reason is just silly. Never involve money in your friendships…

Sadly as we all learned Bungle isn’t the magic.

The magic is Halo.

Halo 4 had one of the fastest population drop offs of any of the games where it tanked down to <30% of it’s launch day population in mere months, and I know because I was involved with Halo 4 matchmaking. Halo Reach had 3x the amount of people playing Halo 4 a year after Halo 4’s release. 343 absolutely emptied the goodwill cupboard with Halo 4, and they’ve slowly been rebuilding it since with MCC and H5, but man, I’m not sure anyone would try to say that Bungie’s only good output was Halo with a straight face.

Both companies got what they wanted. Bungie got their own project, Microsoft got total control over Halo (including no restrictions on merchandise since Bungie had veto powers), they’re working together with Gamepass… not sure I see an issue here.

edit: i have no idea why it’s impossible to get quotes to behave in this post, so apologies for my mix of quote tags and blockquotes because trying to use quote tags just… stops working?


I was only talking speculatively about Playground as an example of what could have happened as a scenario where the studio might have been in the same dilemma, not that that was what actually happened. I hadn’t researched on how they got to make the game so thanks for the info there!

I was just speaking on how current MS is different from the MS of those days where if a studio wants to make something other than the one they’ve been doing for a while, it’s entirely possible to do it without the studio needing to leave Xbox. This was also simply cuz Halo was the only thing they had back then and that created an overreliance on it to keep needing to get made, but now it’s no longer the only franchise carrying Xbox. Sure it still represents it on a grand level, but Xbox is so much more now. The most successful IP last gen were Forza and SoT, while Gears and Halo had been left in the dust for a while now. Halo has a chance to get back to that glory now and I hope they do.

And the funny thing being Xbox is gonna be so much more than just Forza and SoT too. Doom, Fallout, TOW, TES, Starfield, Dishonored, Prey, Fable, Avowed, SoD3, Everwild, Perfect Dark, AOE4, and all the new IP, like holy shit what the hell lol

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That’s a harsh change from “Microsoft forced them into an uncreative situation so they left” when they had complete freedom under Activision and basically just made even more Halo, without the charm. And then broke themselves away from another large publisher for the second time in a decade with the same “meddling” excuse.

Bungie is badly managed.

Jason Jones is a terrible leader. Made worse by greed.

Pretty much the case since Halo 2…you could say pre-Halo CE since they were effectively saved from bankruptcy by selling to Microsoft.

Destiny the game wasn’t done on time.

How many of them were shareholders? Missing milestones by a year is a costly issue for an independent company, especially with Activision (remember X-Men and Silicon Knights?)

They screwed over the one guy they felt they didn’t need because he’d already written the music for all the games. Took it to court about wrongful termination and won I believe.

Halo 4 had one of the fastest population drop offs of any of the games where it tanked down to <30% of it’s launch day population in mere months, and I know because I was involved with Halo 4 matchmaking.

It’s also the best selling Halo and probably the best looking 360 game, but lets ignore that. Only a million+ people were playing it regularly…and Halo 5 has something like the best retention of any game since 3…so I guess we’re back to normal then. Only at 60fps.

343 absolutely emptied the goodwill cupboard with Halo 4, and they’ve slowly been rebuilding it since with MCC and H5

And what did Destiny do?

“Leave us alone and let us make something great”

Yeah, Destiny 1 was awful. Destiny 2 was an improvement, but still only passable and now the IP has apparently been shelved with no further releases planned while Bungie moves onto something else.

but man, I’m not sure anyone would try to say that Bungie’s only good output was Halo with a straight face.

It’s safe to say Halo was their peak. Maybe that will change. I think 10 years is long enough to cast a verdict.

You should listen to Marty O’donnell’s interview by HiddenXperia. He pretty much says he regrets having been one of the leaders of the movement within Bungie that wanted to leave.

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I thought Destiny made that obvious. I don’t really have time to wait another 10 years for their next rebuttal to that hypothesis.

If your response to every criticism possible is “And what did Destiny do?” then it does seem just extreme fanboyism.

Eh its kind of funny to see argument like 343 ruined Halo when the alternative result was Destiny or that tired player graph when more gamers played Halo 4 then any other.

Fuck me if Destiny had been a Halo game it would have killed the IP. No fanboyism. Just my thoughts on viewing things in retrospect.

“How many of them were shareholders?” How many of the audio team were shareholders? Because that’s what the other guy was talking about.

Its not particularly relevant. So was the whole audio team supposed to vacate their jobs as he’s implying or that they didn’t proves Destiny was all Marty’s fault.

My point is pertinant as Marty owned one 7th of the company and was a scapegoat for extracting profit (by removing a shareholder) something we know Bungie does with great relish like when they got caught manipulating RNG values to encourage MTX uptake.

Yeah, because what makes a game good is the gameplay and in the case of Halo its community, not how pretty the game is or how much it sold (unless you are, you know, a shareholder).

Production values as well. And nothing promotes community like more copies in gamers hands. Halo 4 wasn’t hard up for community. Neither is 5. Even after 5 and a half years.

You know The Witch Queen is still coming next year right? And Lightfall after that.

And when is Destiny 3 and 4 releasing? Never from the sounds of it. I’d rather that not be Halos fate.