In the run-up to the launch of "Halo 3," Microsoft Game Studios Head Shane Kim described the game franchise as the "crown jewel" of the company's burgeoning Xbox video game console business.
This morning, Microsoft announced it is parting ways with Bungie, the studio responsible for Halo, which it acquired in 2000.
Microsoft will retain ownership of the "Halo" intellectual property and an equity interest in Bungie, which is becoming independent. "Halo 3" generated more than $300 million in global sales since it was released Sept. 25.
"While we are supporting Bungie's desire to return to its independent roots, we will continue to invest in our 'Halo' entertainment property with Bungie and other partners, such as Peter Jackson, on a new interactive series set in the 'Halo' universe," Kim said in a statement released at 8:01 a.m. today. "We look forward to great success with Bungie as our long-term relationship continues to evolve through 'Halo'-related titles and new IP created by Bungie."
Bungie will remain in its current Kirkland location and will continue developing games with a "primary focus on Microsoft platforms," Harold Ryan, studio head for Bungie, said in a statement. The statement does not rule out the potential of developing games for competing platforms, though it looks like "Halo" will continue to be a Microsoft exclusive.
UPDATE, 9:45 a.m.: More insight into why Bungie wanted to cut the cord from the Bungie Weekly What's Update!, a newsletter posted on Bungie.net. The post by Frankie this morning at 8:03 a.m., starts out with this: "Almost Nobody asked, What's all this about Bungie and Microsoft splitting up?" A bit of sarcasm, Frankie? I was hanging around your bunker-like offices yesterday pestering employees about this as they strolled through Peter Kirk Park on the way to lunch.
Anyway, here's what he has to say about this "unprecedented and exciting agreement":
[S]tarting immediately, Bungie will become an independent company and will retain a long-term publishing agreement with Microsoft Game Studios for "Halo" titles. The new structure became effective on Oct. 1, 2007. The official blurb follows, but since you're a valuable part of our community, we thought we'd sum it up simply and concisely.
Bungie has long been built on creativity, originality and the freedom to pursue ideas. Microsoft agreed, and rather than stifle our imagination, they decided it was in both our best interests to unleash it. We'll continue to make Xbox 360 games, and we'll continue to make amazing games for MGS. In that regard, nothing has changed. All that has changed is that now Bungie Studios is once again, the property of the folks of Bungie Studios. Microsoft is and will continue to be, a brilliant, inventive and creatively collaborative publishing partner. Practically speaking, nothing has changed and you guys won't see much, if any difference, for a while unless you come to work for us, that is -- we're hiring at http://www.bungie.net/inside/jobs.aspx