Bungie signs 10-year Activision deal

Former Microsoft studio hands publisher all rights to bring its games to market for a decade

Bungie, the former Microsoft development studio responsible for the Halo trilogy of games, has announced a decade-long deal with Activision, which will see the publisher take charge of bringing its games to market across multiple platforms.

The developer is working on new intellectual property, and will retain the rights to that IP under the terms of the deal - which was nine months in the making.

"We chose to partner with Activision on our next IP because of their global reach, multi-platform experience and marketing expertise," said Harold Ryan, president of Bungie. "From working together over the past nine months on this agreement, it is clear that Activision supports our commitment to giving our fans the best possible gaming experiences."

The move comes at an interesting time for the world's largest videogames publisher, which saw its president and CEO Mike Griffith resign last week amid the ongoing messy - and very public - implosion of its Infinity Ward studio.

The announcement of the deal with Bungie, however, couldn't have come at a better time for Activision, and will be seen by many as a direct reaction to the steady departure of many senior figures from the Call of Duty team - despite discussions having gone on for some time.

Bungie's games, including Halo, Myth and Marathon, have sold over 25 million units in their time, with the first of those franchises netting some $1.5 billion in revenues on the Xbox and Xbox 360 platforms.

"Bungie is one of the premier studios in our industry and we are extremely pleased to have the opportunity to work with their talented team over the next decade," added Thomas Tippl, COO of Activision Blizzard. "Bungie has developed some of the most compelling and successful games, multiplayer experiences and thriving fan communities, and this alliance underscores our long-standing commitment to foster the industry's best creative talent.

"Our unprecedented partnership with Bungie will enable us to broaden our pipeline of exciting new games as we continue to strengthen our industry position and pursue long-term growth opportunities."

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Latest comments (46)

Kane Caswell Community Manager, Crowdstar Games 12 years ago

Pity. Bungie have to be one of the most recognisable developers out there, maybe even the most (bar maybe Rockstar?) so I am not sure why they would need the 'reach' of Activision. Though it will be interesting to see where they are going with this.

At least they will have their IP though, thats a massive thing.

There wont be Halo though, unless a deal is struck, as Microsoft own the franchise.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Kane Caswell on 29th April 2010 1:56pm

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Aidan Minter Marketing Manager, Tradewest Games Ltd12 years ago
Oh Dear.
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Christopher McCraken CEO/Production Director, Double Cluepon Software12 years ago
I see this ending badly. I honestly thought Jason Jones was smarter than this.
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Show all comments (46)
Stephen Northcott Senior Consulting Engineer 12 years ago
Out of the frying pan...
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Sam Holguin Studying BSc Games Design, Leeds Metropolitan University12 years ago
Hopefully Activision will have learnt from the Infinity Ward goings on. I can't imagine Bungie will have signed their lives away
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Stephen McCarthy Studying Games Technology, Kingston University12 years ago
Is doom day this soon?
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Phil Elliott Project Lead, Collective; Head of Community (London), Square Enix12 years ago
As far as I can see, there's one very crucial lesson that *has* been learned from the IW stuff - Bungie get to keep the IP. That's a huge difference.
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Joe Bognar PR Specialist, Asus12 years ago
@Phil: Yes, that's for sure! Clever move from Bungie.

I thought the same thing that the article said. They made this public now only because of the IW issues...

Maybe to show that there are still big developers out there that want to work with Activision. (for 10 years!!!)
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Chris Sweetman Sound Designer/Audio Director 12 years ago
Miicrosoft still own the HALO franchise ASFAIK and 343 are doing the next Halo iterations.
So we won't have ACTI branded Halo.
The IP control is a huge deal.
It's perfect timing considering all the bad press from the Infinity ward breakup
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Stephen Northcott Senior Consulting Engineer 12 years ago
@Phil But do they get to keep all future IP?

Let's hope they were smart enough to lock that up too.
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Alex Wright-Manning Head of Recruitment, Splash Damage Ltd12 years ago
Well, if Activision wanted something to distract attention from the IW mess, they couldn't have asked for a better decoy. Quite what sort of distraction it proves to be is another thing entirely (see reactions above).
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Wow this is a surprise.

So IW going so Bungie take the Activision call! Can't wait to see how Bungie develop on the PS3.... if they can.
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Diarmuid Murphy Developer Marketing, Microsoft12 years ago
I agree with Phil, they own the IP now, they are in control. I am sure they had EA and Activision bidding against each other and they got the best deal they could. As Tomas Tippl said "Bungie is one of the premier studios in our industry" so I am sure Activision had to pay a premium which will go towards funding the dev costs that come with a AAA game.
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Joe Bognar PR Specialist, Asus12 years ago
@Diarmuid: ...which means that it really is the rare case when developers get paid for being creative instead of rushing for deadlines and doing what they'd been told by the publisher.

*Personal wish*(I hope they'll do a remake of Oni on the Xbox 360! :P

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Joe Bognar on 29th April 2010 1:58pm

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Barla Von Designer 12 years ago
Bungie for me have to be one of the most over rated studios out there. Personally, none of their games excite me, i hate the Halo franchise and any other Bungie games has been tripe i.e. Oni, etc.

It's a studio only liked by Halo fanboys.
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Joe Bognar PR Specialist, Asus12 years ago
Not true. You're saying, Oni was not perfect or even: not good. Do you know the reason for it? Because a company (I think Microsoft) told them to stop everything as they've got more important things to do, so it almost got cancelled. I'm a little fuzzy on the details because it was a long time ago but I think it was when Bungie joined Microsoft. That's why the levels look similar and stuff like that. Conclusion: Still has the best fighting system known to date in the history of 3D games!!! (Fact!) (Obviously I'm not talking about SFIV and games like that because those more like the old 2D fighters for me. These two games totally different genre.)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Joe Bognar on 29th April 2010 2:17pm

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Denis Dyack President, Silicon Knights12 years ago
Congrats Bungie and Activision! Looking forward to seeing what the first game is!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Denis Dyack on 29th April 2010 2:31pm

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Jamie White Freelance Support 12 years ago
The way I read it aswell - Activision will be publishing all future IP, so leaves a window open for a Halo return for Bungie in the future perhaps ??
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Ben Hewett Studying MA Philosophy, University of Birmingham12 years ago
This isn't bad at all. Bungie should do what is in the best interests of their studio.

It isn't made clear in the original story, but this deal seems to only reign over one IP, leaving the door wide open for Bungie to have multiple teams working on different projects. From the main press release:

"Under the terms of the agreement, Activision will have exclusive, worldwide rights to publish and distribute all future Bungie games based on the new intellectual property on multiple platforms and devices. Bungie remains an independent company and will continue to own their intellectual property."

I think Bungie know what they're doing. It sounds like a deal more akin to the one's made with EA under their EA Partners banner.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Ben Hewett on 29th April 2010 2:46pm

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Dan Lowe 3D Animator, Ubisoft Montreal12 years ago
Congrats to Bungie and Activision on their deal.

The IP ownership will obviously give Bungie a huge amount of leeway when it gets to contract renegotiation.

I can see why Activision would be an attractive partner for Bungie. Say what you will about them, Activision does respect individual studio culture, and that always seemed like a big deal for Bungie.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dan Lowe on 29th April 2010 2:46pm

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Terence Gage Freelance writer 12 years ago
I predict a Marathon remake/update in the next couple of years, as I'm fairly sure they re-registed the trademark a handful of months back.

I'm sure Bungie will have got themselves a good deal, though - and they'll have had a lot of flexibility in doing so, given the studio's history. Interested to see what they come up with. I was of the understanding Microsoft had first refusal on all their developments, so I wonder how they feel about this agreement.
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Joe Bognar PR Specialist, Asus12 years ago
@Terence: Exactly. One of the victims was Oni. :( Vote for a new Oni! :D
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Gordon Jenkins Market Lead, Far Vista Interactive12 years ago
Smart move for both Bungie and Activision. It's a win win for both companies.
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Gregory Keenan12 years ago
oh dear
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Matthew Hill Head of Recruitment, Specialmove12 years ago
Wise words Andreas :-)

I hope this works out well for everyone involved. It's important to recognise that Bungies options were actually very limited.

Unless Bungie went fully down the self publishing route they could only strike a deal with a small shortlist of publishers who have the resources to a) fund a deal and b) Drive the success of their titles & franchises over and above that achieved with Microsoft.

We can probably disregard platform holders (certainly Nintendo) leaving Activision, EA and Ubisoft as the most likely contenders. For those championing EA, bear in mind that EA have had also been criticised in the past for their handling of acquired studios - something they have accepted and made efforts to address. Hopefully lessons will have been learned from the IW fiasco and the future will be brighter for all involved.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Matthew Hill on 29th April 2010 5:18pm

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George Manolas Computer Technician 12 years ago
I agree with Andreas also
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Radha Kotamarti Senior Programmer, Ubisoft Massive12 years ago
I agree with both Andreas' and Christopher's comments. Also, keep in mind that Bungie managed to break away from Microsoft cleanly and with no ill feelings on either side, so the folks at Bungie certainly know how to conduct business with the big boys to everybody's satisfaction. I was at MS when the Bungie breakup occurred, and the general sentiment was one of only goodwill towards Bungie and its future.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Radha Kotamarti on 29th April 2010 3:43pm

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CaseyB Artist, Digital Extremes12 years ago
Bungie has some experience in this department (MS), I am sure they will do fine with whatever they make. I am also sure this 10 year deal had very different fine print then IW's contract, and after this mess with Activision surfaced, I am sure Bungie read over that fine print a few more times :P
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Mike Kebby Marketing Manager, Green Man Gaming12 years ago
"We chose to partner with Activision on our next IP because of their global reach, multi-platform experience and marketing expertise"

Multi-platform experience is the key for me here, and it does make me hope for some great work gracing the PS3 :)

Also great move ensuring that the IP is owned by Bungie.
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Joe Martin Journalism 12 years ago
Eek. Sudden move and completely unexpected.

Personally, to me, it's the length of the deal that's the most surprising and worrying. Ten years is a long time to commit...
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Kenneth Seward Game Designer 12 years ago
Holly wow, this is the biggest "wha?" moment I've seen in a while. Besides from money, why whould bungie align themselves with a publisher that is universally viewed as the Lucifer of us gamers? All I can think of whenever I see or hear about bungie or its next IP is piglett from winnie the pooh going "Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear oh dear......" because unless Activision gets their image cleaned up, I a have to put a personal embargo on bungie as well.
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Matt Martin Editor, GamesIndustry.biz12 years ago
10 years isn't long if you're committing to an MMO project. Or the creation of a world that you're intent on populating with multiple stories, games, spin-offs etc. For consistency, a long term deal might benefit growth, establishing and moulding new IP. These are interesting times.
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Matthew White Studying Computer Science with Games Development, Miami University12 years ago
I'm happy for Bungie in this. People need to remember that they have signed a publishing deal. They did not make Bungie an Activision owned company and they did not give the IP rights to Activision. Activision, despite the recent issues that have been publicly displayed, is an amazing publisher. They tend to promote the games they publish extremely well and for a big studio like Bungie I am sure we will see this in spades. The last thing Bungie is going to do is put themselves into the same place they were with Microsoft. Expect to see some good things from this deal, both for Bungie and for Activision.
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Robert Walter 3D artist 12 years ago
I agree with some of the cooler heads. It's in the DNA of all companies to defend their interests—if not to actually be greedy. Unfortunately for ATVI and others, good PR is not also in that DNA.

(Sadly, it would appear Apple has just hired ATVI's PR firm.)
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Perry Chen Studying Finance, Boston College12 years ago
Instead of jumping into conclusions, we should see how this deal unfolds first. All Activision may do as part of this deal is publish and publicize - which is what Bungie wants them to do, but it remains to be seen if Activision might try to buy out Bungie if they are successful enough. However, I doubt Bungie would let that happen, and Activision hasn't been successful in buying out developers in the past.
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Haven Tso Web-based Game Reviewer 12 years ago
What were they thinking?
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Thomas Smith Technical Artist 12 years ago
Completely unexpected, and great news for both publisher and studio.
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It will be interesting to see what Bungie thinks of development on the PS3 compared to the xbox360...
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Ade Gbenjo Freelance Games Journalist 12 years ago
The negativity stems from the stigma surrounding activision more than anything.
Of course, Bungie don't 'work for' Activision, this is a partnership, and evidently people are ignoring this fact. So I wont deny that people here are jumping to conclusions.
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D12 years ago
Wow, missed a lot of comments.

Good luck to them - far too early to tell how this will all pan out.

Like Matthew Hill said, it's not like Bungie were overwhelmed with choice. Whether they made the right one, time will tell.
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Aurélien Dussalve12 years ago
And they lived happily ever after...
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Andrew Clayton Executive Editor, Side Story Games12 years ago
Say what you want about the deal on either side of the spectrum, but if I were Bungie I'd be seriously reconsidering a long-term contract with a company that just lost one of their biggest (and most profitable) subsidiaries. It doesn't bode well for the way decisions are made at Activision.
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Thomas Luecking12 years ago
If Bungie has good lawyers - and I am sure that is definately the case - this deal is the best they could possibly achieve. Staying independent and keeping all rights to their forthcoming IP they don't have to negotiate with publishers every time they work on a new title. Plus there is also the important point of a long term relationship with established routines and processes when it comes to cooperate with a publisher. Regardless of its bad reputation Activision is one of the few publishers who can really pull off a multi platform launch on a global scale - and that was one of the main reasons Bungie opted for this deal.

Congrats to Bungie and I hope they can fully concentrate on their new baby once Reach will go gold!
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Jay Crowe Creative Director, Bohemia Interactive12 years ago
Like it or not, Activision is one the most powerful Publishers in the industry – The recent IW debacle probably gives Bungie leverage to negotiate improved terms. Furthermore, the involved parties are likely to have learned from the situation, and should have new procedures in place.

I’m sure the team negotiating for/ at Bungie have been careful to assess the benefits and potential problems associated with contracting with a huge corporate structure such as Activision, the time taken to bring the negotiations to fruition seems to bear this out.

Idle speculation aside, the truest test of the success of his arrangement is the quality of games that they produce.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jay Crowe on 30th April 2010 5:08pm

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Stephen Woollard Online Infrastructure Specialist, Electronic Arts12 years ago
I think what most of the naysayers are missing is the fact that Activision owned IW, whereas this arrangement is similar to our EA Partners - the studio remains independant and Activision will publish/distribute and provide capital for development.

Still, a lot of folks saying they'll never buy from Activision again, but then people always say stuff like that. It reminds me of all the folks on Steam who were adamant they were going to boycott MW2 and on release day something like half of them were online in... you guessed it... MW2.
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Michael Vandendriessche Studying Computer Science, K.U. Leuven12 years ago
Funny, I thought Bobby Kotick was CEO of all of activision. Always cool to learn something new from the details.

I think this is a good time to join Activision for Bungie. Like mentioned before, they might get more out of the deal now that the IW-spectacle is still fresh in people's minds. 10 years does look pretty long though. Will Bungie even survive those 10 years?

I don't own any of Bungie's games but i've played Halo2 for a while and it's pretty cool. I'd like to see what they'd cook up for ps3.
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