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  • Daniel James

Bungie CEO Says New Franchises are Coming, Sans Activision

Bungie, the creators of Halo and Destiny, just sold a minority share of its ownership to Chinese company, NetEase. CEO Pete Parsons claims that the company will look at self-publishing outside of their relationship with Activision and turn Bungie into a "multi-franchise" studio.

For Destiny players and fans of the studio, this could mark the next era of Bungie.

In a blog post, Bungie explained their newest partnership.

"At Bungie, our purpose is to build worlds that inspire friendship. For over twenty-five years, through Marathon, Myth, Halo, and Destiny, we’ve created fantastic places where players have gathered to become heroes. Now, our long-term goal is to become an entertainment company that sustains many worlds simultaneously – Destiny and new worlds to come.

"Today, we’re excited to announce that we’ve entered into a new partnership with NetEase to help us explore new directions. With their industry expertise, they’ll empower us to build new worlds and invite players, new and old, to join us there. They’ll help us support separate teams inside Bungie to bring our newest ambitions to life.

What do those new directions look like? Self-publishing games without Activision, and new franchises beyond Destiny.

Marathon | Bungie

Brendan Sinclair of reports comments from Bungie CEO Pete Parsons.

"'In announcing the deal, NetEase noted that Bungie founder and chief creative officer Jason Jones 'will begin the creation of new worlds.' Parsons confirmed the tense of that phrase, saying the studio has been 'almost entirely focused on building Destiny.'

"'It's not that we don't have new ideas, things we want to do and concepts we'd like to test out," Parsons said. 'But ultimately, we want to be a global game and entertainment company. We want to be able to build games that are inspiring people from around the world, and this partnership in part will allow us to do that, to begin that incubation and development process in a real way.'

"'It's really about who are the teams we want to build with and what are the games we want to make. That's a big part of the incubation and exploration process, and that includes everything from 'what are the ideas' to 'what are the business models? What are the markets?' And ultimately, who are--or do we need--partners in those individual markets? As an independent company, we look at everything from what are we going to make, but ultimately how are we going to bring that to market, and that also includes self-publishing.'"

Halo 3 | Microsoft

The Future of Bungie

What could these new franchises look like? Well, we have a few guesses. In their deal signed with Activision for the Destiny franchise, Bungie retains the right to work on a sequel to another franchise: Marathon. The contract stipulated that after Destiny passed $1bn in sales, Bungie would be free to begin work on other projects alongside their work on Destiny. That figure was easily cleared by Destiny 1, meaning it's possible (albeit unlikely) that Marathon 4 could already be in development.

Markus Lehto, known to Bungie fans as 'Father of the Master Chief' also worked on a medieval game parallel to the Destiny 1's development. While the project was iced as Destiny's development became increasingly demanding, Lehto describes the game as having gone fairly far in pre-production. Since the game had the blessing of Bungie management at one point, it could have been revived once Destiny found its own feet.

As for the company itself, it seems Bungie is following a route many studios have taken. In recent years, Chinese companies such as Tencent and NetEase have bought shares of American game studios. Most notably, the creators of Gears of War were muscled out of Epic Games after the acquisition of a majority of the publisher's shares by Tencent. It's worth noting that Bungie has no such deal, retaining majority control.

All things considered, the financing raised by selling a minority stake (not even counting the advantages to be found in the Asian market) is a significantly more lucrative deal than a traditional publishing arrangement. Barring any unknown agreements, Bungie would have far more freedom over their development and franchises than they currently have under Activision.

The next stage of Bungie's evolution as a game studio seems to be here. They went from a small Mac game studio, to the behemoth behind Halo, to the innovators behind Destiny. What will this next era look like? We won't know for a while, but I'm excited to find out.