Two of the biggest names in video games, Activision and Bungie, announced an exclusive 10-year development deal today, stunning Halo fans and leaving Microsoft’s golden video game franchise at a crossroads.
The deal will maintain Bungie’s status as an independent game developer, but it will give Activision exclusive rights to publish a new gaming franchise on multiple platforms. Bungie manager Brian Jerrard told VG247 that almost the entire studio will concentrate on this new IP, and that Halo: Reach “is definitely Bungie’s final Halo game.”
That alone doesn’t mean the end of Halo, which transformed first-person shooters with innovations that are now industry standard — small things like regenerating health and big ideas like an automatic matchmaking system for online play. Microsoft owns the Halo IP, and that won’t change. Given the rabid enthusiasm Halo fans exude (we had over 1,000 responses to our Halo: Reach beta code giveaway), Microsoft will probably continue to create new Halo games in-house.
But in my eyes, Halo has always been about Bungie. They endlessly tinker with Halo’s multiplayer to keep things fresh and to refine the game based on how people are playing. The studio has cultivated a culture of fandom with an active forum and weekly updates on everything they do, and they keep a staff of community managers who are as obsessed with the series as its players.
Bungie is an independent studio, which means all of those resources and efforts will be going towards the new IP, except for a small group of employees who will support Halo: Reach after launch. If Microsoft intends to keep Halo alive with the same spirit it enjoys today, the company has some big shoes to fill.