Destiny developer Bungie and its publisher Activision have announced that the gaming companies are parting ways, with the rights to the hugely popular shared world shooter reverting to Bungie. The Seattle-based team will now self-publish all expansions to the ongoing Destiny 2 and any future sequels.
News of the shock split, which comes after a partnership of eight years, was revealed in a joint statement on Thursday night.
“Today, we’re announcing plans for Bungie to assume full publishing rights and responsibilities for the Destiny franchise. Going forward Bungie will own and develop the franchise, and Activision will increase its focus on owned IP and other projects.”
“Activision and Bungie are committed to a seamless transition for the Destiny franchise and will continue to work together during the transition on behalf of the community of Destiny players around the world.”
“We have enjoyed a successful eight-year run and would like to thank Activision for their partnership on Destiny,” added Bungie. “The planned transition process is already underway in its early stages, with Bungie and Activision both committed to making sure the handoff is as seamless as possible.”
Despite the success of the Destiny series and the apparently amicable split, the relationship between developer and publisher has reportedly been strained since the beginning. Kotaku reports that developers at Bungie cheered and popped champagne when the news was announced.
The main point of contention had reportedly been Activision’s demand for an annualised schedule for Destiny, with a new major expansion or sequel for the persistent online game due every autumn. The latest update for Destiny 2, Forsaken, was well-received by critics and fans but failed to meet Activision’s sales expectations.
“We have not yet seen the full core re-engage in Destiny, which has led to the underperformance against expectations to date.” said Activision COO Coddy Johnson in a November earnings call, “Some players are in ‘wait and see’ mode. If you’re in, you’re deeply engaged. If not, we think now’s the time to bring players back.”
Despite the industry-shaking nature of the news, such tension suggests a managed split will be beneficial to both parties. While it leaves the portfolio of Activision, which also publishes the Call of Duty series, looking light without the persistent world of Destiny, the publisher will surely seek to fill the gap with its own IP. An earnings call on 12 February is likely to detail Activision’s post-Destiny plans.
Bungie, meanwhile, recently received a $100m investment from Chinese technology giant Netease to help Bungie grow into a “global, multi-franchise entertainment studio.” Bungie CEO Pete Parsons told the Wall Street Journal at the time of the Netease investment that it was “a big part of the company’s focus to self-publish in the future.”
Few expected that future to come so soon, or for Bungie to be able to take Destiny with them. For now it is business as usual for the 50 million selling shooter, including the PC version of Destiny 2 remaining on the Activision-Blizzard owned Battle.net distribution platform.
“We’ll continue to deliver on the existing Destiny roadmap,” said Bungie. “And we’re looking forward to releasing more seasonal experiences in the coming months, as well as surprising our community with some exciting announcements about what lies beyond.”