How Bungie's Split From Activision Could Make 'Destiny' Even Better

More creative freedom.

2018 was an exciting year for Destiny fans with the release of “Forsaken,” the biggest update in Destiny 2 history, but 2019 may mark an even greater chapter for the franchise as the game’s developer, Bungie, finally has a chance to create the game it always wanted without any oversight from corporate owners.

Bungie and Activision mutually announced on Thursday, January 10 that the partnership between the two companies would dissolve, ending a relationship that began in 2010 and was originally supposed to last until 2020 (and beyond) with the ultimate purpose of establishing the Destiny video game franchise as a sci-fi video game juggernaut.

But was Activision part of the problem with Destiny’s development all along? With the future of Destiny 2 and future games in the franchise now firmly in the hands of Bungie, could the ongoing development only get better?

The honest truth remains unclear, but reporting around the separation and Destiny in general suggests that Activision put rigid guidelines on the development of the Destiny franchise — and that Bungie could thrive with full creative freedom as the company seizes the publishing rights for Destiny.

“We know self-publishing won’t be easy,” Bungie wrote in a blog post about the split. “There’s still much for us to learn as we grow as an independent, global studio, but we see unbounded opportunities and potential in Destiny.”

The contract between Activision and Bungie, which leaked 2012 as part legal proceedings between EA and Activision, stipulated that Bungie stick to a fairly rigid schedule in terms of ongoing DLC for the Destiny franchise, something Bungie has gingerly worked against with a series of mostly smaller updates. The original agreement required four major game entries every other year with four major game updates (akin to Destiny 2: Forsaken) in between.

Coupled with a May 2014 announcement that Activision was investing $500 million into Bungie specifically for developing the Destiny franchise, the early history of the game makes it seem like Activision was in charge.

That’s held in the five years of Destiny’s history, and pressure to produce regularly scheduled content updates caused the overall story of Destiny to suffer since pretty much the beginning.

That’s also why, as reported by Kotaku, Bungie employees cheered and popped champagne when the split from Activision was announced. At the very least, without Activision’s oversight, Bungie can operate on its own schedule and produce the kind of updates that it wants.

Destiny 2 Black Armory
'Destiny 2: Black Armory' is the latest major content update.

The development of the original Destiny was as ambitious as it was risky, according to extensive reports from Kotaku which cite an extremely optimistic outlook from Bungie COO Pete Parsons in 2013.

“We want people to put the Destiny universe on the same shelf they put Lord of the Rings,” he said.

The first two Destiny games may have gathered a passionate fanbase (this author among them) in the tens of millions, but even the most avid fans would never claim the game’s universe and lore compare to true sci-fi and fantasy juggernauts. Destiny will never match Lord of the Rings or other pieces of iconic genre fiction, but Activision no doubt hoped it might.

'Destiny 2: Forsaken'
'Destiny 2: Forsaken' was widely loved by players but didn't wow anybody in terms of sales.

But without Activision’s oversight, Bungie might actually be able to pursue what the developer originally intended. The company can finally tell the story it wants, instead of rushing out regular updates to please its corporate overlords.

We already saw some of this with Destiny 2: Forsaken, a major update from September 2018 that killed off a main character, introduced an exciting new storyline, and made a bunch of interesting gameplay tweaks. It felt like a highpoint for Bungie, but with Activision out of the picture, Forsaken may soon seem insignificant.

Check out this ViDoc about Destiny 2’s schedule for 2019.

This look ahead could be the last stretch of rigidly scheduled content for 'Destiny 2'.