Last week, Microsoft dominated the gaming world. Now, it’s Sony’s turn. On January 31, the PlayStation-maker announced plans to purchase Bungie, the studio behind Destiny 2, to the tune of $3.6 billion.
It’s yet another major acquisition in the industry that could have major ripple effects moving forward, especially as Destiny 2 is currently one of the biggest live-service games out there. But is Sony simply reacting to Microsoft’s unfettered growth, or is there more to it than that? According to one industry expert, PlayStation could be playing the long game in one unexpected way.
What Happened — On January 31, 2022, Bloomberg revealed that Sony would be purchasing Bungie, which was quickly followed by official confirmation. While the deal pales in price comparison to Microsoft’s $69B purchase of Activision, it’s still a rather steep price tag for a single developer.
Perhaps most interesting, however, is messaging from PlayStation and Bungie that the studio will remain an “independent subsidiary.” According to Sony’s official blog, Bungie “will remain independent and multi-platform, will enjoy creative freedom, and their track record in developing massively successful franchises in the sci-fi shooter genre will be highly complementary to SIE’s own IP portfolio.”
What does this mean for Bungie and Destiny?
At a cursory glance, this deal doesn’t seem to mean much is changing other than the studio now has more resources and talent to draw from. All of the messaging from both companies only reinforces the idea that Bungie games will remain multiplatform, including Destiny 2. An FAQ posted on Bungie’s website addresses concerns fans might have about forthcoming content being PlayStation exclusive, saying “Bungie retains full creative independence for our games and our community. Our plans for the Light and Dark Saga are unchanged, all the way through The Final Shape in 2024.”
Additionally, a question about if future Bungie games will be exclusive answers: “No. 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.”
Of course, now that Sony owns Bungie, it stands to profit much more on the success of Destiny 2 and future projects, which is likely a factor in keeping everything multiplatform. Keep in mind, however, that multiplatform doesn’t necessarily mean new games will be on Xbox — it could also simply refer to titles being on PC or even Nintendo platforms, as unlikely as that might seem.
Another element to all this may lie in Sony’s expertise with other media, like its Sony Pictures division. Bungie has been vocal in the past about wanting to expand Destiny 2 into “additional media,” and it certainly has the popularity to do so. With Sony’s support, it would absolutely be much easier to translate Destiny into television and film.
Finally, one of the big questions after Microsoft’s Activision purchase was whether Call of Duty would remain multiplatform. With that in mind, there may be an ulterior motive to some of PlayStation’s messaging about Destiny 2 remaining multiplatform.
“It’s likely that Sony is drumming up Bungie’s continued ‘multiplatform’ position as an attempt to pressure Microsoft into doing the same with key Activision titles in the future,” George Jijiashvili, an analyst at Omdia, tells Inverse.
One of the big questions after Microsoft’s purchase was whether Call of Duty would remain multiplatform. Sony could use Destiny as leverage to make sure that happens.
Is this in response to Microsoft’s Activision Deal?
Without insider information, it’s impossible to say exactly what led to Sony’s deal with Bungie, but it’s extremely unlikely that this is only a knee-jerk reaction to Microsoft. These deals take a lot longer than a week to shore up, though it’s possible Sony sped up the process after last week.
“I think this deal was partially a response to Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard,” Jijiashvili says. “It’s likely Sony was already shopping around for their next big acquisition, and Microsoft’s shock purchase of Activision Blizzard accelerated that process to light speed.”
Beyond that, however, acquiring Bungie does seemingly line up with the “vision” that PlayStation has been fostering.
It’s easy to see why someone might think this purchase is a direct response to Microsoft. As the makers of Halo, Bungie has traditionally had a close relationship with Microsoft, and the company partnered with Activision to create the first Destiny before going independent years later. The reality, however, is probably much different.
PlayStation has been hyper-focused on delivering “experiences” with specific games like The Last of Us Part II, whereas Microsoft is more focused Xbox Game Pass and the concept of video games as a service. As part of Sony’s strategy, the company has been slowly purchasing prestige developers like Housemarque (Returnal), Insomniac Games (Spider-Man), and Bluepoint Games (Demon’s Souls remake). Destiny might not be a single-player experience like those games, but it’s still a beautifully polished product that fits in well with Sony’s growing library of first-party titles.
“Bungie makes games with outstanding technology that are enormously fun to play,” said Herman Hulst, head of PlayStation Studios, on the PlayStation Blog. “They also have unmatched dedication to the communities that play their games, and everyone at PlayStation, and PlayStation Studios, will be excited about what we can share and learn from them.”
Over the years, both Destiny games have seen a variety of exclusive content (or timed exclusives) on PlayStation. The two company’s relationship has been building for years, and this deal brings the expertise of both Sony and Bungie together, providing something that both companies need.
Where does PlayStation go from here?
With the entire industry seemingly trending toward consolidation, the bigger question is: What’s next for Sony? For one thing, there may still be some work to do within Bungie itself. Although not on the scale of Activision, Bungie has had reports of toxicity and harassment within its studio culture, highlighted by a December 2021 exposé from IGN.
In terms of the bigger picture, this apparently isn’t the last we’ve heard of Sony acquisitions. Christopher Dring, head of Gamesindustry.biz, tweeted, “Jim Ryan told me 'We should expect more' when it comes to further PlayStation acquisitions.”