Sony Studios Spotlight: Bungie

By Kes Eylers-Stephenson,
The legendary and storied developer Bungie is now a multiplatform team that is a part of Sony Interactive Entertainment. This is the one-stop shop for all things Bungie: history, projects, recent news, and a rating.

Update Log:
10/04/22 — Added new project to current projects
If you want to see where Bungie ranks amongst the other Sony first-party developers and find out more information about the other teams, check out our PlayStation Studios Hub Page.

Bungie overview

bungie carousel

Founded in 1991 by Alex Seropian, Bungie is one of the most storied developers in the video game industry. With all of the behind-the-scenes activity well-documented, this particular history of the studio might be long, but it is still truncated. Bungie, after time spent developing PC games, then as a Microsoft first-party team, then as an Activision partner, then as an independent studio, is now 900 people strong and based in Washington state. At the start of 2022, Sony Interactive Entertainment bought the company for $3.6 billion, though the company will remain outside of the PlayStation Studios hierarchy and will be publishing all of its games multiplatform and offering live-service development assistance for other studios.

Seropian began Bungie by making the boxes and writing the disks for a game called Operation: Desert Storm. At university, he would come into contact with Jason Jones, who had been working on a game called Minotaur: The Labyrinths of Crete. The RPG was released in 1992 to moderate success — a reported 2,500 copies — which was enough to convince the pair that they should begin making games together for Macintosh computers.

pathways into darkness bungiePathways into Darkness (1993) — Bungie

The partnership led to the first major commercial and critical success for the upstart company: the Wolfenstein-inspired FPS called Pathways into Darkness released in 1993. The awards the game was given were a result of a combination of Jones doing the coding, his friend Colin Brent working on the art, and Seropian designing and marketing the game. The success led them to Doug Zartman, the first full-time employee at the company and eventual PR person.

In 1994 the next stage of Bungie's life began. A sequel to the successful Pathways into Darkness became the vitally important FPS Marathon. It introduced verticality by utilising a jetpack and the fact that you could look up and down as well as left and right. Marathon also retained the story that made Pathways into Darkness unique. Crucially, the game was a perfect alternative to the Windows-only Doom and System Shock for Macintosh which gave it a market to call its own. Marathon's success would lead to the commercialisation of Bungie, as the orders for the game were in the tens of thousands: an order of magnitude larger than for Pathways of Darkness. It was an immense success.

Marathon 2 (1995) — BungieMarathon 2: Durandal (1995) — Bungie

This led, naturally, to a sequel called Marathon 2: Durandal in 1995. It outsold its predecessor by no small margin and made several key innovations. It introduced co-op campaigns, but also started the process of getting Bungie games multiplatform. Marathon 2 made it to PC in 1997, Bungie itself recorded the revenue growth at 500% after going multiplatform. For the developer and publisher, it also marked the expansion of the team into a full staff with specialist roles even though it had been growing since Pathways into Darkness in 1993.

Later in 1996, Bungie would take the reigns on publishing a shooter called Abuse developed by Crack Dot Com. The final game in the series, Marathon: Infinity, was published for the Mac although it was a co-development project with Double Aught Studios. This version introduced game editing tools, which were something that would become prevalent in later years. A strategy game was the next in 1997, called Myth: The Fallen Lords, and was a huge hit amongst the online community thanks to a dual release and really easy online matchmaking (for the time). In 1998 the sequel was released, called Myth II: Soulblighter. It quite famously had a hard drive-eating bug that would have certainly resulted in lawsuits if released to the general public, so Bungie had to spend $1 million to print new disks with the fix. The team were allegedly literally ripping apart freshly printed boxes in the factory in order to get the right disks in there.

oniOni (2001) — Bungie West

Rather interestingly, the success of the 90s allowed the company to expand with a team called Bungie West, which would make one game: Oni. The third-person action game was bizarrely published by Take-Two in 2001 on Mac, Windows, and as a Rockstar Canada-developed PS2 port. The whole thing was totally different from the work of Bungie-proper. It was set in a sci-fi cyberpunk world, it was third-person, and there was a heavier focus on melee. It would never receive a sequel and wasn't received as well as all of Bungie's other games, though it does have a cult following. Bungie West is now defunct.

For console gamers, Bungie's magnum opus is undoubtedly the Halo franchise (all Halo links go to TrueAchievements). In 1999, the team had attracted attention the world over with the announcement of Halo: Combat Evolved which was originally set for release on Mac and PC, as per tradition at this point. Looking for more stability in the hardware Bungie was using and bombarded by ropey offers from companies that didn't care about games seemed to irritate Seropian and Jones. Eventually, with many offers on the table, the famously independent company were acquired by Microsoft to begin work on the OG Xbox.

halo imagesHalo: Combat Evolved (2001) — Bungie

Halo: Combat Evolved would define not only the original Xbox, but the brand as a whole. It also happened to be a revolutionary shooter for the time, one that is history worthy in and of itself. The series is about the trials and tribulations of Master Chief — an elite one-man-army known as a Spartan — and his relationship with an AI named Cortana. The pair are at the centre of an intergalactic war with a few key players with independent and complex motivations revolving around something called a Halo ring. It also had superb multiplayer and campaign co-op, two features that would bring the game to more people than any Bungie game before it.

If Halo: Combat Evolved brought the series to life and defined the OG Xbox, then Halo 2 perfected every element in 2004 on the same system. With cleaner and more lively combat scenarios that improved on the open stages and vehicle combat of its predecessor, a great continuation of the story, and Xbox Live connectivity making it easier to play with friends, it is no surprise that this is the favourite for many Halo fans. Halo 3 rounded out the Original Trilogy in 2007 with a superb conclusion to the Master Chief/Cortana arc. Arguably, this cemented the series as a franchise worthy of celebration, as it made the generational transition to Xbox 360 perfectly. It also introduced the ingenious map editor functionality called Forge.

halo imagesHalo: Reach (2010) — Bungie

Imagine the surprise, then, when in 2007 Bungie and Microsoft split up, with the developer becoming a privately owned company again. It was odd, given that Bungie built the first-party foundation for the Xbox brand that any Microsoft success was built off, and it is even more strange from the modern lens of seeing industry consolidation at every turn. Bungie was (and still is) one of the best FPS developers in the world, and it seems the team just walked free.

That being said, the team were not yet done with Halo and would go on to release two more titles. First came 2009's Halo 3: ODST which was set between the second and third games. It was a more boots-on-the-ground affair and has been regarded by many fans as a bit of a black sheep of the family, despite reviewing very well. Only a year later, in 2010, came the prequel game to the Original Trilogy called Halo: Reach. This would be the final Xbox 360 title for Bungie's run with the legendary series and was a tonal shift from the previous games to something a little more melancholy. It tied up story threads of the trilogy and brought together all the fantastically crafted gameplay elements — semi-open play spaces, great shooting, vehicle combat, and incredible artistic direction — into one final Halo for Bungie. The series would then be passed to 343 Industries. That team would go on to make Halo 4, Halo 5, and Halo Infinite to varying degrees of success.

The next stage for Bungie would be a strange partnership with Activision, announced as a ten year deal in 2010. The first multiplatform project would be Destiny, a sci-fi shooter set across the multiple planets of our solar system, that was released in 2014. At the time, gamers and critics didn't quite realise what they had in their hands. The shooting was as great as ever, the world design and open areas were nearly immaculately designed, the variations in enemy type were perfection, and the intense puzzle-like raids were innovative and without comparison. In fairness, at launch, the game did feel content incomplete.

Destiny was the harbinger of the modern live-service model — a system when the base game would update with content and expansions over and over, with events and item drops to tide players over for many years. Between launch in 2014 and the release of the sequel in 2017, the game would have six major updates. The first was The Dark Below, with an extra strike mission, a raid, and the first major story expansion. House of Wolves followed in 2015 with content focused on expanding the remit of a race called the Fallen.

Destiny 2 TrophiesDestiny 2 (2017) — Bungie

Later in 2016, The Taken King would release and revitalise the game with a new race, area, and more activities and game mechanics. This was compounded by an update in April, which would be followed by a later expansion called Rise of Iron. Again, more areas, a new raid, light level increases, and more helped round out the Destiny experience. It would all be brought to a conclusion with a final Age of Triumph update that would give a lovely recap of your time with the game while making all content suitable for an end game experience.

With everything going so swimmingly with Destiny, in the end, it was fairly obvious that Bungie hadn't been the one to decide a sequel was a good idea. Destiny 2 was released in 2017 for PS4 with a much better critical reception as players finally understood what they were getting their hands on. However, despite misgivings about Activision's probable request for a sequel, Bungie did create a much more secure platform for the live-service updates it was running and created a much more tight-knit gameplay foundation for players. More content came swiftly, with The Curse of Osiris released in the same year. It was followed by Warmind and Forsaken in 2018, the latter of which introduced a new seasonal structure.

Forsaken was a huge overhaul, much like The Taken King from the first game, and added new areas and gameplay tweaks to make the game as sound as possible. 2018, though, would prove vital in a different way for Bungie as it secured a $100 million investment from NetEase, when the slightly nefarious Chinese investment company wrangled a seat on the board of directors.

In 2019, alongside the release of another Destiny expansion in the form of Shadowkeep, Bungie somehow managed the impossible: escape from the Activision Blizzard agreement two years early. In addition, the team kept a hold of the Destiny licence as the pair disagreed on the future of the franchise. 2020 would herald the latest update — called Beyond Light — for Destiny 2 in which the shift back to independence also relieved some of the microtransaction systems. 2021 was the only barren spell for Destiny 2 ahead of the launch of The Witch Queen in 2022, which will be followed by Lightfall in 2023 and The Final Shape in 2024.

In 2022, this incredible, innovative, and savvy studio was purchased for $3.6 billion by Sony Interactive Entertainment as a team that will operate independently of its PlayStation Studios. Bungie will retain its siloed-stated — and probably its effervescently casual nature — while providing multiplatform game releases and a live-service support network for all of Sony's other teams.

What a journey! From the days of Seropian and Jones making boxes to hard drive-eating bugs; from space rings and super-soldiers to inventing the modern live-service structure; from wheedling out of Microsoft and Activision deals to a place where it can request independence from PlayStation. Bungie is, no doubt, an icon of the video games industry.

Bungie's previous project: Destiny 2: The Witch Queen (2022)

Destiny 2: The Witch Queen (2022) — BungieDestiny 2: The Witch Queen (2022) — Bungie

Bungie had to delay its major expansion The Witch Queen out of 2021 and into 2022 due to the COVID 19 pandemic halting work. However, the team made The Witch Queen one of the biggest Destiny 2 updates with a major story thread revolving around the Guardian's journey to Savathun's Throneworld and the middle chapter of The Light and Darkness Saga that has been running since back in 2014 with the release of the first Destiny. With the innovative new weapon called The Glave, rival "Dark" varients of the guardians to fight, a new raid, wicked new bosses, weapon crafting, and much more, The Witch Queen has been well received by fans of Destiny — with some calling it the best content ever made. The Witch Queen introduced the 16th season called The Season of the Risen, which will be followed by the 17th and 18th seasons over the next 3-6 months.

Bungie's current project: Destiny 2: Lightfall (2023) and Destiny 2: The Final Shape (2024)

Destiny 2: Shadowfall (2023) — BungieDestiny 2: Shadowfall (2023) — Bungie

Bungie is currently at work on Lightfall for 2023, which will be followed by Destiny 2's last expansion The Final Shape, which will mop up The Light and Darkness Saga. Other than the release date, we know very little about either entry, given that The Witch Queen has been the primary focus of marketing for so long. The 11th expansion will likely contain more story missions, another destination, a raid, more weapons, and more gear, as well as some fun gameplay tweaks. The release of Lightfall was scheduled for 2022 but was pushed back.

Bungie is also rumoured to be making third-person action game. The job listings indicated that the game will be "character-focused," suggesting that Bungie might be making an Overwatch-style hero-shooter that has been long rumoured.

Bungie in 2022

bungie aquisition

In 2022, Sony Interactive Entertainment purchased Bungie for $3.6 billion. That makes Bungie the second acquisition of the year after Valkyrie Entertainment. As per its long-held reputation as an independent entity, Bungie will operate outside of the PlayStation Studios and continue work on Destiny 2, its expansions, and an inevitable sequel. PlayStation will also gain the Destiny IP for extended media projects, as well as the chance to expand on whatever other IP Bungie has in the works. The Washington-based developers will also provide a live-service support network for all of Sony's other teams.

This likely includes help with Naughty Dog's work on The Last of Us Factions; Guerrilla Games' rumoured FPS or Horizon multiplayer title; Firesprite's work on the rumoured Twisted Metal; as well as whatever Deviation Games, Haven, and Firewalk Studios are working on in conjunction with Sony.

Bungie would release The Witch Queen, the tenth Destiny franchise expansion, on February 23rd, 2022.

Where does Bungie rank?

Bungie is now a Sony-owned team, but isn't a PlayStation Studio and will remain functionally independent making multiplatform games. The team is 900-strong and the primary focus will be on live-service products and infrastructure for the PlayStation Studios set-up while providing Sony Pictures with ammunition for PlayStation Productions TV and film adaptations. We think Destiny and Halo are more than good enough games to warrant placing Bungie into the Platinum Tier. However, we haven't yet seen what the team can offer for Sony specifically yet in terms of output (gaming or influence-wise). Hopefully, once Bungie has settled down, we will have a better idea of how the team is set to provide internal assistance. So, to us, this is a gold trophy with plenty of room to move up and down the form chart depending on how Bungie is managed and integrated into the SIE set-up.


Great games already notched for the studio and primed to make more

If you want to see where Bungie ranks amongst the other Sony first-party developers and find out more information about the other teams, check out our PlayStation Studios Hub Page.
Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Written by Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Editor Kes is our resident expert in PlayStation and Sony news. He writes about PS5 games like LEGO Horizon Adventures, Assassin’s Creed Shadows, Kingdom Come Deliverance II, Concord, and Death Stranding 2 using experience from years of PlayStation gaming. He also covers PS Plus news, as well as his favorite games — The Witcher 3, God of War, and The Last of Us — before an evening swim.
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