With this morning's announcement that Microsoft would be acquiring Bungie (developers
of Halo, Oni, and the Myth and Marathon games) we tracked down PR manager Doug
Zartman and had him answer a few questions about what this means for their games
and the company's future.
Blue's News: Okay, the first thing everyone wants to know...what does
this mean for Halo? Will it affect the schedule of the project and will the
game still be released on the Mac?
Doug Zartman: It's important to understand two things: The decision
about what platforms Halo and future Bungie games will be developed for remains
in the hands of Bungie Studios, in the hands of the teams developing them. In
Halo's case the decision has not been made yet. The development team has a ton
of options to consider, and thats what theyre doing right now. They
may choose to concentrate on one platform, to bring the game to every platform
under the sun, or something in between. As of this writing we simply dont
know what the answer will be. We cannot promise that a Windows or Mac version
of Halo will ship, but we can't rule it out either.
Blue's News: What about Bungie's post-Oni/Halo projects? Will Bungie
remain committed to cross-platform development?
Doug Zartman: The development team for each title will make the decision
of which platforms to develop for. That may mean one platform, or several.
Blue's News: Who retains the rights to the Oni, Myth and Marathon series?
Is Bungie keeping them, or will Take Two own them?
Doug Zartman: Take 2 will get Oni and the Myth franchise, Bungie keeps
Blue's News: Microsoft's press release says, "Bungie's development
staff will be integrated into the Microsoft Game Division as an independent
development studio..." What does this mean? Will Bungie be closing one
(or both) of its studios to integrate with Microsoft in Seattle?
Doug Zartman: Yes, the two Chicago teams are going out to Redmond now
to form Bungie Studios, and the Oni team will be joining them once Oni is complete.
Blue's News: It says specifically that Bungie will remain an, "independent
development studio." Will Microsoft have any influence on game development
and direction at Bungie?
Doug Zartman: No. The plan is that they'll leave us more or less
alone to do what we do, and trust that the results will be worth it. They will
be involved on some level at every step of the process, including conceptualization,
but they will not shape the development of the games or censor content. Their
interactions with us will mostly be on a business level.
Blue's News: Are there any personnel changes as a result of the acquisition?
Will there be any layoffs?
Doug Zartman: Many of Bungies publishing staff are interviewing
with Microsoft for positions within their publishing departments. Others are
unable to make the move out to Redmond, and will be moving on to some other
company. They are our friends, and we wish them well. Nearly all of the developers
at this point are going out there.
Blue's News: Will Halo and Oni definitely be released for the Xbox?
Doug Zartman: Oni will definitely be released for the PS2 but it's not
up to us to make Xbox announcements.
Blue's News: Will Halo ever be released for the Playstation 2? A port
was rumored to be in the works, but has never been confirmed. Does the Microsoft
acquisition destroy any chances of this happening?
Doug Zartman: That has never been anything other than a rumor - no PS2
version of Halo was never in development, and now it is not likely that one
Blue's News: What is the current status of Oni? Who will be publishing
it, and is there a planned release date? Has Oni's development been affected
Doug Zartman: Oni's development is unaffected by this. Oni will be finished
by the Bungie West team in their San Jose office and tested by Bungie's QA manager
and his team. The game will then be published, distributed and supported by
Gathering of Developers for Mac and Windows, and by Rockstar Games for the PlayStation2.
It will ship for PC, Mac and the PlayStation2. After the game ships, the Oni
team will relocate to Seattle to join the rest of the Bungie staff and start
work on their next project.
Blue's News: Another line reads, "Microsoft expects the Bungie
development studio to play a key role in the development of future first-party
content for the Xbox platform." Does this mean Bungie will be creating
Xbox exclusive titles?
Doug Zartman: As above, it's up to the teams.
Blue's News: Does Microsoft have plans to utilize the Halo technology
in other projects?
Doug Zartman: Nothing to announce.
Blue's News: One question many people have regarding this announcement
is simply...why? Bungie has always been a fiercely independent company, having
self-published both Myth games, and last August, Take Two Interactive purchased
a 20% stake in Bungie, so why, almost a year later, this decision to align with
Doug Zartman: For two reasons:
A. Microsoft is offering us the opportunity to lead the way on a next-generation
console system. We will not only be one of the premier developers for the platform,
but we'll be working directly with the Xbox team, helping to optimize the hardware
and software for each other. We'll influence the design of the system; we'll
help to ensure that the Xbox is the best platform to code for, and the most
impressive console on the block. Such an opportunity does not come often. Bungie
has always tried to keep abreast of the industry, if not ahead of it, and next-gen
consoles seem like the place to be if you develop games. This deal allows us
to get into that market in a big way.
B. The business of publishing entertainment software independently has changed
enormously since Bungie started. Bungie was not in immediate danger of going
under or anything like that, but we realized that within a few years wed
need a strong partner if we wanted to keep making games the way we always have.
We opted to make what we saw as an inevitable move while we were still in a
position of strength, rather than wait for circumstances to force our hand.
The ultimate goal is to ensure Bungie continues to exist and continues to produce
the high-caliber games for which it is known.
Blue's News: Lastly, the announcement that Halo might be switching to
a first person perspective received audible cheers from our readers. Can you
give us any more information on this? Has a definite decision on whether or
not to change the perspective been made? What factors are involved?
Doug Zartman: Halo will not be either 100% first person or 100% third,
but instead will use the best mode for whatever activity the player is engaging
in. You gotta have first person for sniping; you gotta have third for driving...
an artful mix is the best solution.