Something must be in the air - hot on the heels of news that Microsoft reached a deal to acquire Activision Blizzard, Sony revealed today that they are buying Bungie for $3.6 Billion. The creators of the Halo and Destiny franchises will be allowed to retain creative freedoms and Sony has committed to keeping the studio's games multiplatform.
This move coming so quickly after the high-profile and much talked about Microsoft acquisition of Activision Blizzard seems like a deliberate response of sorts, even though in reality these acquisition deals are handled confidentially and negotiated for long spans of time - so we're actually dealing with a rather scary coincidence.
As is always the case with these announcements, the companies in question are very happy with the deal and their top executives like publishing flowery letters about opportunity and potential and looking forward to the future and so forth. So what are the important facts here for fans?
It seems that, in practicality, very little will change. Unlike in the case of Microsoft, which committed only to honoring existing contracts with anything beyond those likely becoming exclusives and perhaps going on GamePass, Sony has given a long-term commitment to keeping titles multiplatform:
We want the worlds we are creating to extend to anywhere people play games. We will continue to be self-published, creatively independent, and we will continue to drive one, unified Bungie community.
Not only are Bungie titles, such as Destiny 2 and whatever else they have cooking behind close doors, staying multiplatform, the studio will also retain much of the freedom it possessed when it was a solo act. After its years-long association with Microsoft during the initial Halo years, this is definitely an interesting development - Bungie really gets around.
Bungie has limitless potential to unite friends around the world.
We have found a partner in PlayStation that shares our dream and is committed to accelerating our creative vision of building generation-spanning entertainment.
— Bungie (@Bungie) January 31, 2022
So, if the games aren't exclusives and Sony won't exercise executive power to meddle, why did they buy Bungie at all, and why does any of this matter? In terms of entertainment content, the business case is clear - Bungie doesn't just bring with it Destiny 2, but a crop of IP and a huge amount of talent and brand recognition.
As the industry increasingly pivots towards a streaming economy and one of live service games, having a first party studio on hand with experience in managing a huge online experience like D2 is more or less essential. Sony also has a number of non-game holdings that could exploit Bungie IP in new ways, producing tie-in media.
There is, however, also a bigger picture that should be scaring gamers everywhere - or at the very least make them weary of the industry's AAA sector if they aren't already. Sony is pulling punches in much smaller leagues - some have styled the Bungie acquisition as a whisper following Microsoft's 'shout' - but has stepped in line with the likes of Microsoft and Tencent. When already-huge companies are playing the game of rampant corporate acquisitions, everyone loses.
The last thing the AAA industry needs, laden with ethical issues as it currently is, is massive leaps towards monopolization, with these inescapable monolithic entities holding all the cards in some shape or form.
But hey! Destiny movie anyone?