While Bungie’s recent struggles are well known, the result of over a hundred layoffs in late October, the more time goes on, the more dire the picture becomes of what’s going on inside the developer of Destiny 2.
This culminated in a report from IGN’s Rebekah Valentine which revealed, among other key issues like “soul-crushing” morale problems, there’s actually something even more intense potentially on the horizon. While Sony purchased Bungie for $3.6 billion in 2022, the company has remained an independent subsidiary since then. However, if Bungie fails to meet certain financial targets, Sony has the power to step in, dissolve the current board, and assume direct control of the company itself which would result in…well, what would that result in?
Getting past the idea that it’s wild Bungie could have even ended up in this situation, I wanted to talk through some scenarios about what it could mean if this trigger was indeed pulled, and Sony fully took over Bungie. This isn’t inside knowledge, just my own analysis, but I could see this going some version of three ways.
Best Case Scenario – Better Leadership, Stronger Games
At this point I don’t think anyone is disputing that a main culprit of most things currently happening with Bungie is Bungie leadership itself. Well, Bungie leadership might dispute that, but it’s the view of the players, many of the developers and apparently Sony itself were they to dissolve the current board.
The idea here is that this could be what the company and its games need. If Sony took out problematic leadership, they could elevate those within the company that could make better decisions, use some of their own talented in-house people, or hire others with live service/AAA experience.
In this case, Sony may agree to absorb some short term losses (spending drop off in the six month season, post-Final Shape falloff) in order to get back on track with a new leadership team to carry Destiny 2 into its next era while continuing to develop and release other Bungie IP’s like Marathon. If the idea that leadership is the main problem, replacing leadership at the hands of Sony could result in some real fixes and positive changes for players and the remaining employees. However…
Medium Case Scenario – Scale Reduction
While poor leadership decisions are indeed a huge part of what’s gone wrong here, there’s also a somewhat inescapable fact that a game like Destiny 2 is simply enormously expensive to make. Delivering this much seasonal content on a regular basis at this scale in addition to huge expansions every year is incredibly difficult and costly, and the game does not have a great revenue mechanism to support that. Destiny has now been overmonetized to the point where it’s turned players off, but not monetized to the degree that it can be supported like Genshin Impact is with its gacha gambling model or something like a WoW subscription (which players would never go for).
In this scenario, I would foresee reductions both in terms of what Destiny becomes, and literal reductions at Bungie. Unfortunately, further layoffs. The idea may be that Destiny simply cannot continue at this pace without some huge surge in revenue or players that just does not seem like it’s coming. Even if The Final Shape itself sells well, we’re supposed to be entering an entirely new era of Destiny after that. But at this same pace? At this same scale? That may be what it’s hard to convince Sony of, and they may reduce the scope of the game and as such, reduce or reorg the teams working on it.
This could mean smaller, less frequent content drops, or literal maintenance mode with perhaps a plan to bring the IP back in a bigger way later. And in the interim, Bungie continues pressing on to realize Sony’s other live service ambitions with new games like Marathon, which both Sony and Bungie are banking on to be a hit, and plans remain uninterrupted for that.
Worst Case Scenario – The End Of Bungie
If this first scenario proposed here is somewhat rosy, this is the bleak end of the spectrum. In this, Sony doesn’t just replace the board, they lose faith in Bungie projects from Destiny to Marathon and think they will burn more money than they bring in for too long.
Here, this would be the realization of some very real internal fears that Bungie would become essentially a support studio for other high profile Sony developers, which could result in it being chopped into pieces and likely would come with significant layoffs. This could be Bungie developing other live service games that are not their own IPs as part of Sony’s larger plan, or it could be Bungie devs getting off live service entirely and going to work on the next God of War or Naughty Dog game or whatever. But Bungie would more or less cease to exist.
For what it’s worth, I do not find the final scenario likely. Bungie is too storied a developer to dissolve and it would make Sony look like idiots for their purchase which isn’t even two years old. Marathon is too promising a multiplayer offering if Sony does have any ambitions of making a mark in that space. And Destiny, despite its issues, is too strong an IP to fully kill, a series that has lasted a decade and amassed a fanbase of millions, including hundreds of thousands of avid players to this day. You don’t just erase that from existence after a revenue downturn.
My guess would be somewhere between the first two. I don’t think replacing Bungie leadership is a magic fix, as much as it might help, and there are real questions to reckon with about the sustainability of Destiny with its current content spend under its current revenue model. And if you can’t squeeze more revenue out of it, which I don’t think you can at this point, what to do? Possibly refocus or reduce scope. But whatever happens, I would like to see the option that does not result in further layoffs, and whatever can help improve the dismal morale over there. We don’t know how long Bungie’s ticking clock is here, but my guess is that it may end around The Final Shape, and then we’ll figure out where things go from there.
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