Sony fires back in video game war with Microsoft
Sony has plans to acquire Bungie, the studio behind the hit sci-fi MMO Destiny, in a deal worth $3.6 billion. Bungie will join the Sony Interactive Entertainment family, which includes Insomniac Games, Naughty Dog, Guerrilla Games, Sucker Punch Productions, Bluepoint Games and a handful of other prominent studios.
Bungie is positioning the acquisition as the start of a new era for the company — one focused on global multimedia entertainment, not just games. Bungie will retain creative control over its franchises and continue to develop for multiple platforms, not just PlayStation, according to a blog post by CEO Pete Parsons.
“We will continue to independently publish and creatively develop our games,” he wrote. “We will continue to drive one, unified Bungie community. Our games will continue to be where our community is, wherever they choose to play.”
The deal follows news on January 18th that Microsoft is buying Activision Blizzard for $69 billion, and it’s the latest sign that the video game industry has entered the consolidation stage. Massive companies including Microsoft, Sony and Tencent are in the process of sweeping up as many studios as they can in a battle for exclusive experiences. As console makers, Sony and Microsoft hold particular power in these negotiations, with built-in audiences of millions on the PlayStation and Xbox platforms.
These deals give the acquired studios financial stability, production support and wide-reaching marketing plans, though they’ll have to operate within a corporate ecosystem and potentially tie their games to specific platforms. Bungie, it seems, has plans to publish outside of Sony’s PlayStation universe, though time will tell what that looks like in practice.
Sony’s purchase of Bungie is surprising, given where the studio started. Bungie is the original home of the Halo franchise, and it was part of the Microsoft family from 2000 to 2007. Halo was (and is) a pivotal series for Xbox consoles, and Bungie was its arbiter for nearly a decade under Microsoft. The studios split in 2007 and Bungie went private, and in 2010 it signed a publishing agreement with Activision for the Destiny franchise. That deal lasted through 2019, when Bungie moved its publishing process in-house.
Just two weeks ago, Microsoft announced it was acquiring Activision Blizzard, bringing the two former Bungie publishers under one roof. And now, Bungie has Microsoft’s biggest rival, Sony, in its back pocket. These relationships are only going to get more complicated as the consolidation era runs its course through the video game industry, so buckle up for more multibillion-dollar deals and exclusivity clauses over the coming years.
Update 5:01PM ET: Well, that didn’t take long. Shortly after news of the Bungie acquisition went wide, SIE CEO Jim Ryan told GamesIndustry.biz that there are definitely more acquisitions in the company’s future.
“We should absolutely expect more,” he told GI. “We are by no means done.”
Additionally, Ryan confirmed Destiny 2 and Bungie’s future games will continue to be published on platforms outside of the PlayStation brand. For Sony, the goal is to deliver more live, online, multi-platform experiences, Ryan said.
“Everybody wants the extremely large Destiny 2 community, whatever platform they’re on, to be able to continue to enjoy their Destiny 2 experiences,” he told GI. “And that approach will apply to future Bungie releases. That is unequivocal.”