Report: Microsoft-Bungie Buyout Angered Steve Jobs

Apple CEO Steve Jobs was allegedly in a rage about Microsoft’s purchase of Mac game developer Bungie back in 2000, according to former Microsoft executive Ed Fries. In an interview with Develop magazine, Mr. Fries said that he was tasked by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to mollify Mr. Jobs, and a deal was reached to bring Microsoft-published games to the Mac.

“As soon as we announced we bought Bungie, Steve Jobs called,” Mr. Fries told the magazine. “He was mad at [Microsoft CEO Steve] Ballmer and phoned him up and was angry because we’d just bought the premier Mac game developer and made them an Xbox developer.”

Mr. Fries was then the vice president of game publishing for Microsoft, and a central player in both the Bungie buyout and the purchase of another game development house called Rare.

Bungie was the premier game developer on the Mac platform, with titles such as Marathon, Myth, and Oni being developed for the Mac platform at a time when many developers either fled or ignored the Mac. Halo was to be the company’s next big franchise, and it was shown to the world for the first time running on a Mac during a Stevenote at Macworld New York 1999.

In July of 2000, Microsoft announced that it had bought Bungie, and that Halo — which had been scheduled for release on both Mac and Windows — would become a premier Xbox title. That was, according to Mr. Fries, when Mr. Jobs started phoning Redmond.

“So, during the day, I got an e-mail from Steve Ballmer asking me to phone Steve Jobs and calm him down about the whole thing,” Mr. Fries said. “Anyway, we did this deal with Apple where we’d port some PC games to the Macintosh and help Peter Tamte create this company to do it, and I had to go to a Mac developer conference and get on stage and talk about this whole new partnership. It was a pretty strange time.”

This is all clearly water under the bridge, of course, but many Mac Bungie fans will likely be interested in knowing that the Microsoft move that many saw as a big blow to Mac gaming was important to Apple CEO Steve Jobs.