Bungie axes staff throwing rumoured Destiny Mobile into uncertainty

After acquiring the company 15 months ago and in the face of difficult times for gaming at large, Sony are cutting costs and key staff

Bungie axes staff throwing rumoured Destiny Mobile into uncertainty

It’s official. After rumours broke late yesterday on social media with key staff posting their departures, development giant Bungie has announced a programme of redundancies designed to reduce costs and bring the company into line following their $3.7 billion purchase by Sony 15 months ago.

UPDATE: Bungie is laying off approximately 100 staff in their 'PlayStation division'. As a result two upcoming titles will be delayed. Marathon will be bumped to June 2024 at least with the Destiny 2 expansion, The Final Shape, not arriving until 2025.

Bungie had been rumoured to be working on a major mobile title, thought to be a first-person-shooter based on their Destiny franchise. Further rumours suggested that the company was partnering with Netease in the production of the game, backed up and made more real when an employee of NetEase dropped a deleted clanger on LinkedIn saying that they were working with Bungie to develop "an unannounced FPS mobile game".

It appears that the project - and others in the Bungie/Sony pipeline - have proved a stretch too far and Sony have joined the long line of game companies tightening belts, reining in ambitions and paying the major price of losing significant, hard-won talent.

Game over

In a post on X (formerly) Twitter Bungie CEO and chairman Pete Parsons issued the following statement:

“Today is a sad day at Bungie as we say goodbye to colleagues who have all made a significant impact on our studio. What these exceptional individuals have contributed to our games and Bungie culture has been enormous and will continue to be a part of Bungie long into the future.”

Parsons then went on to add: “These are truly talented people. If you have openings, I would highly recommend each and every one of them.”

While the moves may come as no surprise, given the ongoing outbreak of redundancies all across the gaming sector in recent months (and the fact that such large corporate buyouts inevitably result in painful ‘streamlining’ and ‘synergisation’ at some point down the line) many have been left smarting as Bungie very specifically promised that this would be exactly what they wouldn’t be doing following the Sony acquisition.

When many rankled at the idea of such and independent and creative US-based team falling into line as a Sony studio at the time, worries were appeased during the announcement regarding Sony’s plans for the company. As part of the company’s all-hands virtual meeting event to announce the deal management took the time to assure employees that there would be “absolutely no layoffs” and nothing “major” in terms of restructuring, according to sources speaking to the Washington Post.

Today's redundancies are also made all the more surprising and intriguing as it was revealled soon after the sale that $1.2 billion of that $3.7 billion purchase price was set aside for retention packages for employees aimed at keeping key Bungie staff at the company following the successful takeover.

It would appear that 15 months is a very long time in video games, and sufficient a time in order to change plans, renege on promises and write off $1.2 billion as water under the bridge.

It's not me, it's you…

Today’s moves would also appear to be at odds with the consensus at the time of purchase that Sony required Bungie’s talent pool (the creators of the Halo and Destiny series) to push forwards their plans for large-scale multi-player online games on cloud gaming platforms and mobile.

“Well... my heart is breaking for all affected. I am now looking for opportunities,” posted Destiny 2 community manager and Bungie’s co-lead of accessibility, Liana Ruppert. “I have 21 years of games industry experience in media, production, and community management. I'm processing, I'm so heartbroken. I don't know what to do from here... this was my home. I feel so lost.”

Staff affected also include Griffin Bennett, social media lead for Bungie who posted: “I've been laid off from Bungie. A surreal thing to write as I sit here pondering what went wrong. I'm still processing it all and while my first instinct is anger I know I'd regret what I'd say. Thank you to everyone at Bungie who helped make my last five plus years the best ever.”

As to which projects will now be delayed or canceled - including the fate of Bungie’s much rumoured but as yet unannounced mobile project - only time will tell.

Editor -

Daniel Griffiths is a veteran journalist who has worked on some of the biggest entertainment media brands in the world. He's interviewed countless big names, and covered countless new releases in the fields of videogames, music, movies, tech, gadgets, home improvement, self build, interiors and garden design. Yup, he said garden design… He’s the ex-Editor of PSM2, PSM3, GamesMaster and Future Music, ex-Deputy Editor of The Official PlayStation Magazine and ex-Group Editor-in-Chief of Electronic Musician, Guitarist, Guitar World, Rhythm, Computer Music and more. He hates talking about himself.