Sony Bought (Checks Notes) Bungie?

Contributed by DJMMT

Recently, Sony announced that they bought Bungie for $3.6B! I have so many issues with this decision that I don’t even know where to start. First of all, this is another general acquisition decision that I don’t agree with for ethical reasons. The larger industry problem of platform holders just buying large third party publishers aside, my biggest issue about Microsoft’s purchase of companies like ZeniMax and the more recent Activision Blizzard has always been about where a specific company’s profits and by extension value came from. A company that built its name and profitability on multiple user bases should not be blocked off from any of those major user bases. If a company made its fortune selling games to PlayStation users, it’s wrong for that company to suddenly be walled off from the very users that made the company valuable. That’s why I complained about Insomniac Games making Sunset Overdrive an XBOX exclusive all the way back in 2014.

It’s not that I have any issue with exclusives. It’s that Insomniac Games made its reputation and money selling games almost exclusively to PlayStation users. And I’d lodge the exact same complaint if tomorrow a Mario game was released as a PlayStation exclusive or a 343 Industries game was released as Nintendo Switch exclusive. Nintendo users should get that Mario game, because that game wouldn’t exist without their financial support for all the years leading up to that game. XBOX users should get that 343 Industries game, again because that game wouldn’t exist without their financial support for all the years leading up to that game.

You still can't play this game on PlayStation.

By this same logic, I have no problem with platform holders purchasing companies that made the lion’s share of their money and value through selling games on that specific platform. That’s why I don’t see Sony’s purchase of Insomniac Games as problematic. Insomniac Games only exists because of PlayStation users, like me, purchasing their games. There’s no ethical concern there. So in the case of Bungie, in a pre-Destiny world, I would have had no problem with Microsoft buying them, which they did back in 2000. That was a sensible move sense all their money, at least in the modern gaming era, came from XBOX users, because of HALO. They left Microsoft in 2007 and then continued making HALO games exclusively for Microsoft.

It took Bungie another seven years after leaving Microsoft to make a multiplatform game. That game was of course Destiny. But let's not ignore the fact that the only reason Destiny exists is because of 13 straight years of heavy support of Bungie games by XBOX users. To suddenly rip Bungie’s games away from the XBOX user base is wrong. It’s wrong. There’s no other word to describe it. Now if we were able to get the total accurate sales data for all of Bungie titles starting in 2001 with the original HALO: Combat Evolved and could show that Destiny 1 and 2 had netted more total profit from PlayStation users than the entire total of profits from XBOX users spanning all their games since 2001, then maybe such a move to PlayStation exclusivity would be justified. But that’s a big maybe. And I’m fairly confident the numbers wouldn’t show that the Destiny franchise netted such a huge level of profit from PlayStation users.

If Bungie had to get purchased by someone, that someone really should have been Microsoft. Sony has stated that they don’t plan on making Destiny exclusive, which honestly who cares about Destiny in 2022 and if you do, why? But at least for now, XBOX users won’t lose out on new content from Bungie. And that brings me to what should be seen as the more important topic of discussion for PlayStation users, like myself.

Of all the companies I would not have wanted Sony to buy in the gaming space, there are few on the list higher up than Bungie. It’s simply not a PlayStation relevant studio. We’ve hashed this out many times in the past. The bulk of the PlayStation user base doesn’t favor FPS titles as the focus genre to play. I’m not saying that there’s no place for FPS titles on PlayStation. But as I’ve said multiple times previously, there’s a difference between building a franchise in house and buying one already made and walling it off from other longtime players. One of those occurrences is commendable. The other is despicable.

Bungie is not a studio that appeals to the bulk of PlayStation users. And it’s certainly not worth $3.6B. Especially considering that Sony didn’t get the rights to HALO. They basically paid $3.6B to get a group of developers they could have poached piecemeal for less and ownership of the Destiny IP. Again, not worth $3.6B. And ultimately they won’t end up making games that appeal to the larger PlayStation user base. So I think this entire purchase was the absolutely wrong move, when looking at it from the standpoint of a gamer that uses the PlayStation platform.

What I find both interesting and sad, as a gamer, is that Sony didn’t actually buy Bungie because of its value for the development of future games. While some people were already saying it in advance of the follow-up interviews, Sony quickly came out and said that they wanted ownership of the Destiny IP as a transmedia investment. They aren’t thinking about games. They’re thinking about movies, TV shows, books, toys, and metaverse assets. I still don’t think Bungie and Destiny were worth as much as they paid for them, but when put that way the purchase makes a lot more sense. But this is a gaming blog and I’m looking at this acquisition based on how it affects me as a PlayStation gamer. That’s $3.6B that could have been better spent on multiple studios that actually produce games a majority of PlayStation users want to play. From an ethical standpoint I’d still be against it, but Sony purchasing a company like Ubisoft would have been a way better purchase for PlayStation users than Bungie. Obviously, they wouldn’t have gotten it for $3.6B, as the company’s net worth is listed at $7.27B at the time of writing this. But that doesn’t somehow justify throwing money away at a company less relevant to your userbase simply because it’s cheaper than the one that would actually make sense.

This trend of random acquisitions has only gotten more annoying with time, and it shows no signs of stopping. Sony buying the creator of XBOX’s most powerful franchise is a clear shot across the front bow and will absolutely net a reaction from Microsoft. Even as Phil Spencer continues to pretend to be best friends with Sony now and a friend to all gamers on all platforms. I’m just happy that Nintendo has publicly stated that they’re against the concept of blind studio purchasing for no good reason. Given their track record with keeping up with the industry, that means we have at least a good 10 years before they finally get on board with this trend.

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DJMMT ,04 Mar, 2022