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June 19th, 2000

[10:00 AM] Black Becomes White, The Sun Doesn't Rise, & Microsoft Buys Bungie Software
by Staff

In a stunning move to those of us who have counted on such things as the sun rising every morning and Bungie being the coolest company around, Microsoft has announced that they have purchased Chicago based Bungie. Bungie is the longtime Mac gaming powerhouse responsible for the Marathon and Myth franchises, and developers of the highly anticipated Oni and Halo titles. Microsoft is the giant software company not known for being all that creative that is currently in the midst of an antitrust trial brought on by the Department of Justice. Ne'er the twain shall meet? According to Microsoft:

Microsoft Corp. today announced it acquired Chicago-based Bungie Software Products Corp., a leading independent developer of action oriented computer and video games. As a result of this acquisition, Microsoft gains exclusive publishing and distribution rights to select Bungie-developed titles, including the highly anticipated sci-fi action epic "Halo."

"This acquisition reflects our commitment to growing our business with a strong portfolio of quality games for the PC and Xbox platforms," said Ed Fries, vice president of games publishing at Microsoft. "Bungie's highly talented team consistently delivers award-winning games, and we're looking forward to supporting their creative spirit here at Microsoft."

Bungie's development staff will become an independent development studio within the Microsoft Game Division, where it will retain its unique character and edgy personality. Microsoft expects the Bungie team to play a key role in the development of content for the Xbox platform, creating the kinds of innovative technology that have defined its character. The team will also continue developing titles such as "Halo," a revolutionary action game recently nominated for four E3 Game Critics awards, including Best of Show, and heralded as "the first truly amazing game of the next millennium," by top online games Web site Gamespot.

"This is an opportunity to combine the strength of two outstanding software companies: Bungie's talent for creating great games and Microsoft's strength in distribution," said Alexander Seropian, founder and CEO of Bungie Software Products. "Microsoft will provide us with the resources and infrastructure we need to continue to build great games and make them available on a worldwide scale. We are also looking forward to helping define the Xbox platform, which may soon be the world's premier game console."

In a related announcement, Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., (Nasdaq "TTWO") current distributor of Bungie-developed titles, announced it acquired all right, title and interest to select Bungie game properties, including the popular "Myth" game franchise and the upcoming action game "Oni," and has sold its 19.9 percent equity interest in Bungie to Microsoft. Ryan Brant, Chief Executive Officer of Take-Two, said, "This acquisition is a positive for all involved. We have a tremendous amount of respect for Bungie's talents and the contributions it has made to the games industry, and we look forward to working with Microsoft to make Xbox a success."

Underscoring Microsoft's commitment to being a leading worldwide games developer and publisher, the acquisition of Bungie follows last year's successful acquisitions of FASA Interactive Technologies Inc. and Access Software Inc., both of which have resulted in the upcoming PC games "MechWarrior™ 4: Vengeance," "Crimson Skies™" and "Links™ LS 2001," all due out later this year.

Does this mean the end of Mac development from the Bungie team? Not so according to a Daily Radar interview in which Alexander Seropian stresses that "Bungie" will still have the power to develop for whatever platforms they want, as long as it is not PlayStation2. According to the excellent Daily Radar piece:

Making it all easier for the independent-minded Bungie, Microsoft will keep the Bungie imprint active (so that games will still be released under the Bungie name), and will stay in operation so that the group can continue to reach out directly to its fans, and the group will have its own space on the Microsoft campus that it can "build out" however it likes. So smack dab in the middle of Microsoft's world, the long-haired, Mac-using Bungie crew will plop down with their bean bags, knickknacks, and entirely different (and independent) corporate culture.

And the key decisions about their games, like what platforms they will appear on, will remain in the hands of Bungie's Seropian and Jones. "We have the responsibility to make smart business decisions," Seropian told us. But beyond that, it's Bungie's call. Just because it's a Microsoft company, it does not mean that the group will no longer publish for the Macintosh, which has been the company's bread and butter since its founding. Does that mean that Halo may still appear on the PlayStation2? That's a little more unlikely. "It's obviously going to be unlikely that our future titles will be developed for the PS2," Seropian said.

Inside Mac Games reports that negative reactions from the legions of Bungie fanatics has already started. According to Inside Mac Games:

Reactions around the web are already pouring in. Microsoft haters have declared open war; many longtime Bungie fans have voiced their anger and perhaps disgust. "Nijhazer," webmaster of Bungie.Org, has resigned. Randall 'Frigidman" Shaw has closed Myth file site The Mill. Several other fan sites are also considering closures.

If you have any thoughts on this issue, and we know that you do, make sure you stop by our Mac Gaming forum and state your mind!

The Mac Observer Spin: It's no wonder why Microsoft wants to buy Bungie. Microsoft is simply buying develop support for it's Xbox gaming console. This is the tactic that Microsoft regularly employs, and we suppose this is simply good business (it's too bad that Microsoft won't ever have to actually see whether their technologies and products can stand on their own merit). No, what is strange is why Bungie could possibly consider being bought by Microsoft, a company that on its face stands as the antithesis of what Bungie stands for. That is the real mystery here.

In Objectivist circles there is an axiom that says "Contradictions don't exist." The theory says that if you think you perceive a contradiction, (re)examine your premises. In this case, it seems a contradiction that Bungie would want to be owned by Microsoft. Yet the two prinicpals have openly embraced the move, and indeed it could not have happened otherwise. In addition, all but 8 of the company's employees have not only agreed to stay on, they have agreed to move half way across the country to live and work in the midst of the very corporate environment that provides for much of the seeming contradiction in the first place! In reexaming our own premises it would seem that perhaps there is something we don't know.

As for whether the company will continue to develop for the Mac, they probably will. After all, Microsoft's goal from this move is not to somehow hurt the Mac market, but to crush Sony in the gaming console market. Bungie will likely be as free as they want to waste whatever time they care to in developing for "other" platforms as long as they have the Xbox version ready by such and such a date and as long as they don't develop for PS2.

Bungie has long been the source of many a Mac user's remaining pride in being a Mac user, especially in the darkest days when there was little to be proud of. This was largely because Bungie was a company that possessed the same kind of attitude that once was associated with Apple. Not only that, they were a Mac-only game developer for many years, and have remained a Mac and PC developer ever since. The company makes cool games that push the boundaries of what we look for in a computer game. They also showed that it was possible to do ground-up development on the Mac that kicked butt over anything in the PC gaming world. In essence, for many Mac users, Bungie Software embodied some of the reasons why we were Mac users.

It is our strong hope that the Bungie attitude can survive the Microsoft way. It is our fear that they can not. We will give them the benefit of the doubt because they have earned it. Jason Jones and Alexander Seropian have given a lot to the Mac community, and for that we salute them!

Bungie - Microsoft

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