There are few studios in the game industry that are recognized by the masses for their continued brilliance. Even fewer are third party studios not directly under the wings of Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo. Rockstar is one, a studio that has become a household name due to the success of its many IPs. Including, of course, the Grand Theft Auto series. Another you could easily argue for is Bungie.
Founded in the early 1990s, Bungie got their big break in 1999. After showing their new IP, Halo, during a closed-door screening at E3, Bungie’s new title was officially revealed to the masses by Steve Jobs at the Macworld Expo later that year. It was intended to be released on both Macintosh and Windows, but Jobs wanted the ambitious project to be a highlight for his company. Then Microsoft did something that few ever did – they pulled a fast one on Steve Jobs.
Many companies had tried purchasing Bungie in the past. Activision apparently made a serious offer to acquire them back in the early 90s. But Bungie was happy being able to call their own shots. That is until Microsoft saw the potential the studio possessed while showcasing Halo. On June 19th, 2000, Microsoft announced that it had purchased Bungie and that the company would become a staple of the Microsoft Games Division. Halo: Combat Evolved would become an exclusive to the forthcoming Xbox and would start one of the most successful franchises ever. Sorry, Steve.
Cut to ten years later. After five Halo titles between the Xbox and Xbox 360, Microsoft and Bungie amicably ended their relationship allowing Bungie to freely explore whatever opportunities they desired. Bringing things full-circle, industry titan Activision apparently made another offer to Bungie. This one they couldn’t refuse. In April of 2010, Bungie announced that they had agreed with Activision to a ten year publishing deal. Bungie obviously had something impressive in the works and Activision paid big to be a part of it.
Now, after at least three years in development, we know that Bungie’s newest creation is an ambitious new IP known as Destiny. The developer has been extremely hush-hush on the project, giving out only bits and pieces of information thus far. A big unveil is reportedly coming at this year’s Game Developer Conference. Bungie has a panel scheduled to take place entitled “Brave New World: New Bungie IP”. I don’t think further speculation is necessary about when the game will be revealed. But what is Destiny? Due to a gaff at an advertisement agency Bungie was utilizing, concept art and story details were leaked to the public. Bad for Bungie, good for us.
An overview document prepared by the agency describes Destiny as follows:
“Our story begins seven hundred years from now in the Last City on Earth, in a Solar System littered with the ruins of man’s Golden Age. A massive, mysterious alien ship (the Traveler) hangs overhead like a second Moon. No one knows where it came from or what it’s here for, but only that it’s our protector. Meanwhile, strange, alien monsters creep in from the edge of the universe, determined to take Earth and the Last City. We are young ‘knights’ tasked with defending the remains of humanity, discovering the source of these monsters and – eventually – overcoming it.”
With Destiny, Bungie is hoping to deliver a title that is accessible to a wider demographic. The game is described as “social at its core,” providing “a world to explore with friends, both old and new.” Bungie wants it to be “fun and accessible to all,” striving “to create a universe as deep, tangible and relatable as that of the Star Wars franchise.” Those are some large shoes to fill. Jason Jones, co-founder of Bungie, was quoted as saying “Destiny is designed for your inner seven year old. We want to make it feel like a mythic adventure.” Sounds fun to me.
Bungie made comments back in 2011 that Destiny would be an MMO, but then later back-tracked calling that statement a joke. But it’s clear in their comments that they are hoping for some type of large world for all of us to be able to interact in. In the overview, players are described as “young ‘knights’ tasked with defending the remains of humanity.” Are players working together to continuously battle a looming alien threat? Will we have the option to choose which side of the war we want to be on? What is the Traveler? Will it have its own separate group of characters for the players to select from? Are the ship’s inhabitants truly here to aid humanity? While the information leak provided a lot of information, it certainly raised more questions.
Court documents of Activision’s were made public in May last year and detailed the long-term plans for the franchise. Destiny is to be released in the fall of 2013, followed by sequels in the fall of 2015, 2017 and 2019. Downloadable expansions entitled “Comet” are planned for the following years of 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020. Destiny will launch on the Xbox 360 first, but will also be available on “the next successor console platform released by Microsoft.” PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PC releases would closely follow.
The art released looks absolutely gorgeous. It’s hard to imagine that this title is coming to current-generation systems with the visuals it’s pushing. Huge environments, rich textures and just massive sense of scale. But again, it’s just concept art. There’s no doubt that Microsoft, since they appear to be getting the game first, would love to tout Destiny as a flagship next-generation only title for their upcoming system. But Activision (and its investors) would be crazy to ignore the huge install base that already exists with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
We don’t know much on the title yet, but what we do know is that it’s coming from a developer that has a prestigious track record. Activision was confident enough in Bungie’s future plans that they sunk a huge amount of investment dollars into the project over the next decade. And Activision didn’t get to where it is today by making many bad decisions. GDC is less than two months away, and with it comes an official look at this new universe. Hopefully not just the universe, but a glimpse of the journey that this renowned developer is so excited to take us on. Personally, I’m more than willing to go along for the ride.