The video games industry has seen quite the rocky start to 2019. The biggest news of 2019, yet, is Bungie and Activision separating their ties in a very public divorce. Both organizations reached a pretty amicable outcome on pen and paper, yet there are cracks and crevices that are starting to show. While people could care less about Activision Blizzard’s future, almost everyone is happy about Bungie’s release from the clutches of the corporate overlord.
Bungie and Activision tied their proverbial knot back in April of 2010. The agreement was more business-oriented than a developmental decision for Activision. For Bungie, this deal meant financial security for the next 10 years. With the promise of a new IP spanning a decade of developmental cycle, under Bungie-Activision conglomerate, the promises were high and the stakes had just became higher.
Yet, when Bungie is splitting from Activision just 8 years into their decade-long deal, the move is all but anticipated. According to Jason Schreier, the news editor for Kotaku and the go-to person for everything Destiny, Bungie had been preparing for the split for some time. In fact, Bungie employees celebrated with opening bottles of Champagne. It’s not uncommon for developers and publishers to have creative differences over a common IP but none have been so public as Bungie-Activision.
Tensions had been brewing before Destiny 1 even released as the project had been rebooted once already. The launch of the final product wasn’t promising either and it was quite evident that Activision and Blizzard’s strife had affected the game quite severely. It was only after the release of The Taken King that Bungie regained footing and continued onwards with their goal. However, the final straw came with the launch of Destiny 2 and Destiny 2: Forsaken.
Destiny 2 was an even greater disaster than Destiny 1 at launch. Greedy monetization, lackluster Year 1 season pass content, shady progression blocks to encourage micro-transactions were few of the plethora of factors plaguing the game. While Bungie reported that they were happy with the development of Forsaken; Activision alongside their investors with their singular monetary focus deemed Forsaken as a failure and wanted to implement more micro-transactions as recompense.
The feedback from the Destiny community reflected Bungie’s response with players welcoming Forsaken with open arms and critical acclaim.
Now, for all good intents and purposes, let’s assume that this divorce works out in favor of Bungie. With the overwhelming support from their loyal fanbase and an equally loyal developer team, the Destiny franchise will continue to develop. Destiny 3 is already rumored to be in the pre-developmental stages. And let’s be honest, with what we know about the story, Destiny 3 will be a treat for seasoned veterans and new players alike. With no constraints of a deadline, Bungie can actually take their time to develop a quality experience worthy of AAA standards rather than mediocre annualized content release. Maybe what Bungie needs is time. Time to recover and regain its honor, materialize their goals and make their original dream of a wonderful universe come true. And with a generous 100mn $ investment from the Chinese gaming conglomerate NetEase to develop Non-Destiny IPs, Bungie stands on solid footings, for now.
On the other side of the coin lies another facet of reality. Without the sturdy financial backbone of Activision, development cycles will be slower. Content droughts will be frequent without an annualized release pipeline. The lack of a publisher manifests in problems such as PR, marketing, sales and business nightmares as a self-published developer has to micro-manage every aspect of a title release. In fact, if things do end up getting dire, Destiny might see it’s death in 2020 with Bungie itself pulling the trigger.
Yet things don’t have to be all that black and white for Bungie LLC. Sure, the path ahead for them is perilous. However, this is not their first rodeo as a self-published developer. Back in 2007, Bungie went through a similar ordeal although they came out slightly rougher than this time. In their split with Microsoft, Bungie got the short end of the stick with developing their last two Halo games, ODST and Reach before the franchise was taken away from them.
In an age of crowdfunding, getting money to develop a good game is easier than making a deal with the devil. Self-published acts in video gaming industry are a ticking time bomb waiting to go wrong. Yet there are so many people who have done it right. Digital Extremes have made a fortune with their self-published title Warframe, which has been long considered a rival to Destiny. CD Projekt Red is still winning both hearts and awards for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Cloud Emporium keeps crowdfunding their developmental stage of Star Citizen and people have already crowdfunded billions of dollars for a game that is still in Alpha stages.
It is too early to say confidently about the eventual outcome of this merger split with equally significant pros and cons. Only time will tell us what is written in Bungie’s ‘Destiny’.
I spend my waking hours mostly playing games and grinding for gear while blasting music on max volume. In my off time, I can be found browsing reddit or the internet in general in search of obscure knowledge about said games.