With a potentially $625 million lawsuit filed against Activision by Infinity Ward employees this week, it didn't seem possible events surrounding the publisher could get any more dramatic. Then, this morning, Activision announced it had locked down one of gaming's top developers for a decade-long exclusivity deal.
Under the terms of the agreement, the studio behind the heralded Halo series has allied with the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 publisher for "an exclusive 10-year partnership to bring Bungie's next big action game universe to market." The deal will give Activision exclusive international publishing rights to all future Bungie games based on an unnamed new property through 2020.
According to Activision COO Thomas Tippl, Bungie's "new intellectual property" will be available on "all platforms"--including the PlayStation 3. Sony Computer Entertainment America corporate communications chief Patrick Seybold backed it up with a Twitter post, saying, "Marrying [Bungie's] creative minds and incredible talent to the power of PS3 will be like giving PS3 fans Halo on steroids."
The multiplatform move marks an end to the suburban Seattle studio's current Xbox 360 exclusivity. Since 2001, Bungie has effectively developed Halo games solely for Xbox platforms, farming out the PC port of Halo: Combat Evolved to Gearbox Software (Borderlands) and Halo 2 for Windows Vista to an internal Microsoft Game Studios team.
Microsoft Game Studios had been Bungie's exclusive publisher, as Microsoft owned the studio until 2007. That year, the shop stunned the industry by breaking away from the Redmond, Washington-based software giant to become an independent shop. Reps for the studio have previously said that it is working on an all-new game and that Halo: Reach will be its last Halo title.
Microsoft continues to own the Halo IP, and recently formed an entire internal division, 343 Industries, to manage and develop it. Following the deal, it gave the following statement after the Activision deal was announced: "Our partnership with Bungie as a first-party developer for Xbox 360 remains unchanged, and right now we're deeply engaged with them on the development of Halo: Reach, which is poised to be the biggest game of 2010."
Today's announcement underlined the fact that Bungie will remain an independent studio and retain ownership and control of its new IP, with Activision providing publishing duties and (presumably) financing. Those terms sound eerily reminiscent of the arrangement struck between Electronic Arts and Respawn Entertainment, the indie studio recently formed by fired Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella.
To hear Tippl discuss the deal--and literally say "let's kick EA's ass!"--check out the video press below. (Video starts at 1:04.) To hear Bungie explain how the deal go down, read GameSpot's interview with community manager Brian Jarrard and writer/design director Joseph Staten.