It’s quite possible that this comes as a direct answer, of sorts, to Microsoft’s recent mega-acquisition of Activision Blizzard, but chances are that it was in discussion way earlier: in any case, Sony is acquiring Bungie for $3.6 billion – the most expensive publicly announced deal of this kind in the modern PlayStation era – but, notably, the Japanese will not be adding the company to its current roster of PlayStation Studios as it has done with Guerilla, Naughty Dog, Insomniac and others in the past. Bungie will be “an independent subsidiary” of Sony Interactive Entertainment instead, run by a board of directors consisting of current CEO and chairman Pete Parsons as well as the rest of the studio’s current management team.
In stark contrast to what Microsoft seemingly has in mind for its own acquired development studios, Sony has stated that Bungie will remain a multi-platform studio with the option “to self-publish and reach players wherever they choose to play”. This was apparently important to Bungie in order to close the deal: Peter Parsons mentioned that Sony supports the studio’s dual goals of making generation-spanning entertainment, while at the same time staying creatively independent. How this will play out in the future is anyone’s guess but, for the time being, it seems to be a future path both companies are happy with.
As many will surely point out, this is actually the second time Bungie has been brought into the fold of a gaming platform holder: Microsoft had also acquired the development studio back in 2000 so as to have the first Halo as an exclusive launch title for the original Xbox. Bungie inevitably became “the Halo machine” during the years that followed, a situation which neither management or employees of the company were happy with. This led to Bungie regaining its independence shortly after the launch of Halo 3 in 2007, through a special deal with Microsoft that included the development of two more exclusive Halo games (Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach). After that, Bungie signed a 10-year deal with Activision that led to the creation of the Destiny franchise.
Speaking of Destiny, Bungie confirmed that it will still be maintaining Destiny 2 and expanding the Destiny franchise as planned (as well as working on an unknown new IP). This deal will not impact the path Destiny will be following through the end of its current saga (due in 2024). The upcoming Witch Queen expansion will not contain any platform-exclusive content either, while Destiny 2 features such as cross-save, cross-play and companion apps are also unaffected.
It has to be said that Sony acquiring Bungie is nowhere near as impactful an acquisition as Microsoft acquiring Activision Blizzard a couple of weeks ago or even Microsoft acquiring Zenimax in September 2020. Not only is the cost of Bungie’s acquisition dwarfed by the costs of Microsoft’s acquisitions in comparison, but the implications of the former deal for the gaming market in general are nowhere near that great. Bungie’s relative independence and multi-platform approach paint this deal in a different light, as Sony is keen on expanding beyond PlayStation anyway – so it makes sense that some of its franchises also appear on PC or even on Xbox. Again, this is the intent both companies expressed today and there is no guarantee that things will not take a different turn in the future. Sony did invest a quite respectable amount of money in Bungie after all.
Whether this consolidation happening in the gaming industry as of late proves to be a positive development for consumers in the future is an entirely different discussion. Platform holders and big publishers acquiring so many third-party studios might make for sensational headlines and be pleasing to platform fanboys, but a lot of creative talent being controlled by fewer and fewer gaming companies (companies led by bonus-driven management boards answering to investors) may very well hinder competition and the medium’s progress in the long term.
Sony and Microsoft have not followed the same approach in their acquisition strategy up until now, but the pace and size of these acquisitions is starting to become a concern. Here’s hope that the financial stability these companies offer to development studios proves to be more important than the arms race for entertainment content going on. Cross fingers?