Bungie 'almost went back to Microsoft' with Destiny before Activision deal

Destiny
Destiny (Image credit: Activision)

What you need to know

  • Former Bungie audio director, Martin O'Donnell, has provided insight into the now-terminated publishing deal between Activision and the Destiny developer.
  • O'Donnell claims Bungie mandated ownership of the Destiny IP, ruling out a once-proposed deal with Microsoft.
  • Bungie split with Microsoft in 2007, following almost a decade behind the Halo franchise.

Bungie once approached Microsoft to publish its hit multiplayer shooter, Destiny, former audio director Martin O'Donnell has revealed. The famed composer behind iconic Halo and Destiny themes has provided insight on the now-defunct Activision deal, which saw the Call of Duty publisher oversee both Destiny, and its 2017 sequel. O'Donnell reflected on the developer's decision to partner with Activision, including a once-proposed agreement with Microsoft's publishing arm.

In a candid interview with HiddenXperia on YouTube, O'Donnell provided his viewpoint on Bungie's decision to partner with Activision, several years after it departed from Microsoft and Halo. The composer was among those behind early negotiations, although later fired by Bungie in 2014.

While Bungie and Activision released two entries under the once 10-year plan, the deal was terminated in 2019, leaving the studio to self-publish Destiny.

"Because I was in leadership and I was on the board of directors when we went with Activision, if there is any blame for going to Activision, I am part of it," O'Donnell said. "There were seven of us total, I think […] and made that deal with Activision. We knew it was a risk right from the get-go, and then it turned out to be exactly as bad as we thought it was going to be. I am the only one who is gonna say that, except anyone who no longer works for Bungie, and everybody who no longer works for Bungie is gonna say, 'yeah, it was bad from the start.'"

Destiny 2

Source: Activision (Image credit: Source: Activision)

The ex-composer claims Bungie entered its deal with strict terms, mandating control over the Destiny IP. That ruled out several "big players" from publishing the title, including Microsoft.

"The reason why we went Activision was not just the money, but it was because as part of the contract, they didn't own the IP. Now, remember, Microsoft owns the Halo IP, and we wanted to make sure whoever we work with next would not own the IP."

"And Activision agreed to that. All of the other big players during that period would not agree to do that — including Microsoft. Was very close to making a serious... we almost went back to Microsoft, if you can believe it."

Microsoft split with the Halo developer in 2007, as Bungie transitioned into a privately-held independent company, while the Halo brand stayed in-house with Xbox. The alleged partnership would have drastically skewed the future Destiny, which instead enjoyed several limited-time exclusivities on PlayStation, as an extension of its Activision deal.

Destiny 2 has shifted to a free-to-play model since parting with Activision, with supporting expansions scheduled for the months ahead and extending to next-generation consoles.

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Matt Brown is Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.

9 Comments
  • It would be interesting if announcing them becoming an MS studio again was part of the July event, but they would have to bring more to the table than just Destiny...
  • Wow--Microsoft narrowly dodged that landmine. The company's already had enough opportunities to throw large gobs of cash at lackluster multiplayer franchises, one more wasn't what they needed.
  • At least at that time Destiny wasn't a proven success, there was a risk there. Maybe they should have staid with MS the whole time. Maybe they wouldn't have made Destiny. Who knows.
  • They wanted to own their creation, that's not an unreasonable ask.
  • Sadly in the process they lost much more. They lost all the main key Bungie people. And Destiny ended up a huge disappointment. The story side was drastically changed, stuff cut out the game to sell as DLC.
  • Yeah definitely, why should they be allowed to own the creation they built. Obviously the publisher should own the rights.
  • This was a great interview to listen to. Marty is definitely not afraid to speak his mind, which I love. Judging by all the internal mismanagement within Bungie, probably not a bad dodge by Microsoft. I'll always love the Bungie of old, but that was a long time ago.
  • Destiny 2 is now the game we always wanted. It was Destiny 1.5 at launch. But now the model is much nicer and there is a ton of content. Glad they are independent again.
  • Unfortunately the Bungie we knew under MS is dead. Loads of key people have all left. Activision literally destroyed Bungie as we knew them. They left MS to gain there independence. And then cosied up to one of the worst publishers in gaming today. Marty being a causality of that deal. Very sad to see what's left of Bungie.