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Bungie's Brian Jarrard

The studio director talks through the 10 year Activision deal and what it means for both companies

Earlier today Halo developer Bungie dropped the bombshell that it had signed a ten year deal with Activision, giving the publisher exclusive publishing rights to games based on a new, unannounced IP.

Many questions were raised by the deal - including how this would affect the developer's relationship with Microsoft, how much freedom Bungie would retain over its new creation and why such a lengthy signing. GamesIndustry.biz spoke to Bungie's community director Brian Jarrard who explained more about the deal.

GamesIndustry.biz Congratulations on the deal - it's exciting news. So firstly, why did you decide to sign with Activision?
Brian Jarrard

Well, two reasons really. Initially we were drawn to Activision - roughly about nine months ago was when these discussions began in earnest. But Activision as one of the largest game publishers in the industry certainly aligns with our desires to bring our new stories and universe to as large an audience as possible across multiple platforms.

And Activision has a lot of expertise, not only with big blockbuster entertainment launches and bringing games to market globally but also with cross-platform releases, so that was great for us out of the gate. But even more importantly was having a partner that would align with what's most important to Bungie and the core pillars of our studios. Specifically I'm talking about our desire to own our own IP, to remain an independent developer and to have creative control over where we're taking our next universe. And Activision was the partner where all those things were able to fit together into a great mutually beneficial partnership.

GamesIndustry.biz Ten years is a long time to sign up for - why not a shorter period of time since you've just finished a lengthy deal with Microsoft?
Brian Jarrard

We have some pretty crazy, ambitious, grandiose plans for what we want to do with our next big game universe, our action universe, and how we want that to play out and the types of stories we want to tell and the types of experiences that we want to share. So we're looking at that right now as a very long term proposition from the creative and development side. And this deal was structured to basically span that vision and to help us be able to achieve what we want to do for the next decade.

GamesIndustry.biz Does Activision have complete exclusivity over all the games you make based on this new universe?
Brian Jarrard

Yes, exactly. For this new IP that we're going to be working on together, they will be the exclusive publisher for this.

GamesIndustry.biz How flexible is the deal? Are you free to develop other IPs other than this one and, say, self-publish them?
Brian Jarrard

You know it's something that we haven't put a lot of thought into right now, just because we do have such ambitious plans and the time and scale that we're aiming for with this next universe. The reality is it's really going to take the full force of our entire studio to bring it to life and all of our best and brightest are going to have to be focused on the single goal.

So it's hard to think of a world where Bungie's going to start to have multiple projects underway and we're fragmenting our team. So for right now our focus is on finishing Reach and then aligning our entire team to help realise this vision for our next universe.

GamesIndustry.biz Will you retain creative control over development of the IP?
Brian Jarrard

We will, yes. But, you know, it's in partnership with Activision so even already in terms of things like production, together we've been able to sit down and work out schedules for milestones and key dates that we both believe in. So it's a very great mutual partnership and Activision obviously, I think, was drawn to Bungie based on our track record and predictability and what we do best is making great games and experiences and supporting great communities. So, they have every intention to let us keep doing that and that's definitely another appealing aspect of this partnership.

GamesIndustry.biz How far into development on the new IP are you?
Brian Jarrard

Right now the bulk of our team is still focused on Halo: Reach. We have a way to go on that and have had tremendous progress - our beta launch is on Monday - but we still have to get that game out the door this fall. And it's most important for us to leave Halo fans with what we believe is the definitive title in the series and the best game Bungie has made to date. There's a lot going on there.

However, Jason Jones, who is one of Bungie's co-founders from 19 years ago, he and a core group of our studio - a lot of the people who worked on the original Halo: Combat Evolved and brought Halo to life - have been working for quite some time on the initial framework and sort of the big brush strokes of filling in where this universe is going to be and what it's going to look like and the types of experiences you're going to have.

I would say now we're moving more into a formal pre-production style of role, with the goal being that once Reach is complete we need to be able to roll the majority of our team into this new project in a meaningful way and hit the ground running. Just in the last year there's been a lot of progress made, even in the past few months the excitement level is growing and there's tremendous momentum being picked up as this new project starts to get underway.


Kath Brice