As the drama surrounding Call of Duty developer Infinity Ward continues to unfold, Activision has dropped a new bombshell: the company has signed a 10-year publishing agreement with Bungie to bring its "next big action game universe to market."
Activision will have the rights to publish the new intellectual property "on multiple platforms and devices." Does this extend outside Xbox 360? The press release doesn't say, but it seems likely, and in a video released to the press, Activision COO Thompas Tippl said the partnership was about bringing Bungie's next universe to "the platform of your choice."
Bungie, like Respawn Entertainment, retains the rights to the intellectual property. Few details on the project were released, not even a codename or vague release date. For all we know, Bungie's next project is years away. According to the announcement release, the deal has been in the works "over the past nine months."
In a bizarre coincidence, the news comes the same day Halo: Reach moves into open beta for select users, while the rest of the gaming world waits for the official switch to be turned on next week.
"It’s no secret that while the full might of our studio has focused on making Halo: Reach," said the studio on Bungie.net, "another core team, led by our co-founder and Studio Creative Director, Jason Jones, has already begun laying the groundwork to bring our newest universe, stories, and characters to life. Next up, the most ambitious game we’ve ever made, Halo: Reach. Built upon ten years of experience developing the Halo franchise, we’ve assembled the best team, the best technology, and the best talent to ensure that Reach is the game our fans deserve. Strap in and buckle up tight, we’re sending our baby out with a bang."
Bungie claims the partnership is simply to help the company's games reach a larger audience.
"Today, we’re poised to open a new chapter in Bungie’s history—one that begins with a partnership between Bungie and Activision and ends where we always knew it would, with World Domination," said the studio, with their tongue always firmly planted in cheek. "Our Next Big Thing now has a concrete path, leading from our studio to the platforms of our choosing. The business formalities are behind us. Our Constitution remains unchanged. We are still Bungie, still independent, and now we are free to bring our stories to an ever bigger audience."
Bungie remains partnered with Microsoft for Halo: Reach, scheduled for a release this fall on Xbox 360. Microsoft acquired Bungie back in 2000, converting their sci-fi shooter, Halo, into a breakout Xbox launch title. Bungie also produced Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST for Microsoft. The studio managed to broker its independence from Microsoft just days after the launch of Halo 3 for Xbox 360.
Activision continues to deal with the fallout from the firings of former Infinity Ward leadership Vince Zampella and Jason West. The duo have since formed Respawn Entertainment alongside EA Partners. While Electronic Arts is funding the new project, they do not control the intellectual property -- Respawn does. Both West and Zampella are suing Activision for control of the Modern Warfare brand, unpaid royalties and wrongful termination. 38 other former and current Infinity Ward employees recently filed suit against Activision over money, as well. It's possible the two lawsuits may be merged together.
Halo: Reach is largely expected to be Bungie's last self-developed Halo release. Microsoft formed 343 Industries, involving talent like Kojima Production assistant producer Ryan Payton and former Bungie content manager Frank O'Connor, to oversee the future of the Halo franchise from within Microsoft.