After Microsoft dropped a big bag on Activision, Sony decided to buy Bungie video game studio for $3.6 billion. The independent studio developed Destiny, the famous online FPS (first-person shooter) and the iconic Halo series, which fuelled Xbox’s growth.
Bungie will continue to work independently, and Destiny will be published across all gaming platforms. The company has also stated that its future games will not be exclusives for Sony. So then, what pushed the PlayStation (PS) maker to buy the studio? A slice of the answer lies in the comment made by Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE), “Bungie purchase will give SIE access to its live game services and technology expertise, allowing SIE to reach billions of players”.
Unlike Microsoft, Sony is a multimedia giant with its claws on most of the entertainment industry. Meanwhile, Bungie has been planning to jump from its SciFi oriented games to PvP (player vs player) competitive games for a while now. In 2019, the studio pledged to release at least one non-Destiny game by 2025, and Bungie CEO Pete Parsons said in 2020 that Bungie had been working on multiple new games for the past three years. He also mentioned, “telling new stories and creating new IPs”.
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Other players have entered the buy zone. Take-Two Interactive, the Grand Theft Auto developer, will buy FarmVille maker Zynga for $12.7 billion.
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Why buy now?
There has been a lot of buzz surrounding this deal, especially after Microsoft bought Activision. But, Sony’s recent buy is not out-of-the-blue, and it has been under discussion for the past six months. In a way, Sony was already planning two steps ahead of the Xbox maker. Previously, SIE worked with Bungie to drop a few Destiny exclusives in recent years.
“We always had a strong partnership with Bungie ever since Destiny was developed, and I could not be more thrilled to officially welcome Bungie to the PlayStation family,” said Jim Ryan, President and CEO, SIE.
This deal benefits both parties and must be considered a “collaboration” and not just any acquisition. SIE can now expand PS products to a larger audience and deploy Bungie’s live services power. Meanwhile, Bungie can utilise SIE’s ability to focus on new projects and improve its future potential. Jim Ryan, the PS boss, said, “With the purchase of Bungie, we will use the studio’s experience to create games as a service that engage the community in the long term and to support future PlayStation Studio projects that follow that model.”
In an interview with Gamesindustry.biz, Ryan mentioned that the Bungie deal was not responding to the other big acquisitions announced this year. However, it isn’t easy to look past that as it is an attempt to widen the gaming industry consolidation. Large entertainment companies are slowly swallowing the smaller video game studios, a trend that has picked up in the last two years.
However, it is not Sony’s only buy; in 2021, it bought Nixxes Software (PC port developer), Returnal developer Housemarque, The Playroom (an AR interactive game) maker Firesprite Studios, Bluepoint Games (known for making the best remastered/remake games), and finally, Valkyrie Entertainment, a God of War support studio.
Given the recent acquisitions spree, there are other rumours in the gaming industry like Sony buying Square Enix and making Final Fantasy a PS exclusive. Will Microsoft buy Ubisoft to list Assassin’s Creed to its game pass? These unimaginable outcomes might just come true. SIE has signalled that there could be more purchases soon after Ryan said that Sony is still not done and has a long way to go.
Can Sony claim the metaverse prize?
Each company has its distinct features and a target demographic. Since Sony launched PS, it created a very competitive console market and placed itself as the frontrunner. However, it still lacks the agility of a gaming PC. For the longest time, the quality of PS games overshadowed Triple-A games (AAA). To differentiate itself from Xbox and Nintendo, PlayStation focused on indie developers and released character-based and narrative-driven games (exclusives).
Gamers always played story-based games, which delivered a more progressive and natural gaming experience. From action RPGs (role-playing games), turn-based strategy games, to the souls’ genre, one thing remained constant – storytelling. Over the years, the demand for open-world games grew, and Sony capitalised on it. However, the best ones were exclusives (only for PS) and were not a live service game (online), which meant people often used to finish the game and then move on. You can play it again at any time you want.
It was not a player-to-player interactive service, and now Sony plans to go that direction after Ryan discussed Sony’s plans for live service games. With the ongoing hype around metaverse, Sony can build on its player base and expand to Destiny’s audience. Destiny 2 has an estimated player base of 38.8 million players, making it the second most popular massively multiplayer online game (MMO) of all time, only second to World of Warcraft.
Hence, Sony can benefit more from this deal after it slowly moves to a different demographic amidst the rapid demand for a realistic gaming experience.