Bungie Bounces: Where Next for Halo's Developer?

Bungie franchise and community director, Brian Jarrard, analyzes the company split with Microsoft

Microsoft recently confirmed rumors that Halo developer Bungie would be amicably breaking off from its software giant parent. Jarrard talks about the snowballing rumors, the future of Bungie, development for other platforms and more…

What was it like sitting back and watching all of these rumors unfold on the Internet. There are some people that called it "ludicrous," even calling people that simply entertained the idea "suckers." Meanwhile, what was Bungie doing while this was all going on?

Jarrard: We've kind of been watching from the sidelines. It's been kind of entertaining at times. I've read some pretty awesome forum posts with people that were sure that this was nothing but an Internet hoax. It's funny now to watch them eat their words.

Mostly, in the past couple days, we've been frantically working with our friends at Microsoft to get all of our ducks in a row and get all these last few deal points wrapped up and get to a point where both sides were comfortable announcing this to the world. There's just been a lot of last minute meetings and discussions taking place just to get everything ironed out.

We've been frantically trying to do that in the midst of the Halo 3 launch and trying to get our whole studio back in operation again.

What exactly is the next step after you've made this announcement?

Realistically, in the immediate future, I don't expect really much to change at all to be honest. We have people right now that are already at work—it's just another day in the office. Our immediate projects that we're committed to like the Halo 3 content, working with Peter Jackson on the new Halo project, these are things that were already well-underway before the announcement. We're going to continue to work on these projects with Microsoft acting as our publisher.

In a lot of ways, day-in, day-out, life isn't going to change in the short term. But the potential for what we're doing months and years from now is dramatically increased. Who's to say where that will lead? Right now, we've got some projects that we're working hard to get out the door.

How exactly does this whole "split" work out? How does a studio that was acquired in 2000, a wholly-owned studio, just get up and take off with its name and studio intact?

Well, it was an interesting set of discussions, as you can imagine. It's been going on for quite a while. Ultimately, it was something that we had to do as a group to creatively continue to expand and continue what we want to do. As [Bungie's Jason Jones] so aptly put it, we're a shark that just has to keep moving to stay alive, otherwise we felt that we'd start to stagnate and potentially lose interest, and maybe even lose some of our teams.

Fortunately for us, Microsoft realized that, and they've been very accommodating to help us work through this and come to an arrangement that ultimately is going to reinvigorate and empower Bungie to continue to do great games and make great games for Microsoft's platforms, as well as getting more Halo games to come from our studio as well.

At the same time, it gives us the freedom down the road to explore other opportunities and challenge ourselves and keep us engaged in what we do. It was about putting together a deal where both groups could get what they're after.

Did this idea of breaking away come during the development of Halo 3, or possibly before?

Without getting into too many specifics, as we're not at liberty to discuss the contractual terms, this is something that obviously some people here have been thinking about for a long time. I would say probably coming off of Halo 2 going into Halo 3 was the first time that kind of became something that was realistically attainable. Like I said, Microsoft was very accommodating and willing to work with us on this.

It seems like the word "accommodating" is kind of an understatement. You guys just made them $300 million.

[Laughs] Yeah, I mean to be fair to them too, they've been a great publisher and a great partner, and they'll continue to be. We're extremely happy with the Halo franchise as a whole, but some of the credit definitely has to go to them as well for just being a great publisher and supporting the game and marketing it. It has been a partnership, and it will continue to be a partnership.

This also means that Bungie can go multiplatform. We know that Bungie will be concentrating on the Xbox 360, but has Bungie been able to tinker around with other platforms? What do you think of PS3, Wii and the handhelds?

To be honest, we haven't really put any serious thought into that at all right now. Typically speaking, that opportunity could exist for us down the road and possibly those prospects are exciting for some of our engineers, but on the other hand, we've only made one game for the 360 and that game happened to turn out very, very well. The platform's been really good to us, Microsoft has been really good to us. So for now we're just taking it all in stride. We've got our hands full with some 360 commitments and that's going to keep us occupied for quite a while.

Beyond that, anything's possible, but it's too early to say. We don't have any dev kits in the building for other platforms. There's nothing like that going on right now.

This may be premature, but when are we going to find out about Bungie's next project?

You'll find out as soon as we're ready to show and talk about something. Bungie is notoriously tight-lipped and "when it's ready it's ready" is kind of our mentality. I think the first thing that you'll hear about, hopefully soon, is our collaboration with Peter Jackson and this new Halo experience, because that's a real project that's had real progress. It's pretty exciting.

Beyond that, we have a group of people who are in the really fun exploration and incubation phase and just testing out concepts and ideas. Eventually those guys will land on what we think will be our next big thing.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.