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February 1, 2022
Japanese tech giant and owner of PlayStation, Sony, has bid $3.6 billion for games developer Bungie, which appears to nod towards future metaverse plays.
It’s a been a busy January for the games industry, or at least its corporate lawyers. Sony’s swoop for Bungie follows an $11 billion bid from Take-Two Interactive for Zynga, a record breaking number for the games industry which lasted five minutes before Microsoft put in an astonishing $69 billion bid for Activision Blizzard.
Bungie is the studio originally behind Halo (though the rights for that franchise are owned by Microsoft) and more recently Destiny. There’s special mention in the announcement that should the deal go through (it is still subject to regulatory approvals) the firm will operate independently, maintain the ability to self publish and ‘reach players wherever they choose to play’. Which sounds like they are saying Bungie games won’t be made PlayStation exclusive – which would be an obvious benefit of buying the firm up.
“We’ve had a strong partnership with Bungie since the inception of the Destiny franchise, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to officially welcome the studio to the PlayStation family,” said Jim Ryan, President and CEO, Sony Interactive Entertainment. “This is an important step in our strategy to expand the reach of PlayStation to a much wider audience. We understand how vital Bungie’s community is to the studio and look forward to supporting them as they remain independent and continue to grow. Like Bungie, our community is core to PlayStation’s DNA, and our shared passion for the gamer and building the best place to play will now evolve even further.”
Pete Parsons, CEO and Chairman, Bungie added: “In SIE, we have found a partner that fully supports us and wants to accelerate our vision of creating meaningful entertainment experiences that span generations, all while valuing the creative independence that is the heartbeat of Bungie. We will continue pursuing our vision of one, unified Bungie community, building games that value our community and meet them wherever and however they choose to play. Both Bungie and SIE believe that game worlds are only the beginning of what our IP will become. Our original universes have immense potential and, with SIE’s support, we will propel Bungie into becoming a global multi-media entertainment company dedicated to delivering on our creative vision.”
We know it comes up a lot these days, but both quotes sound like pretty strong signalling towards the metaverse.
There was much talk of how the Microsoft deal with Activision Blizzard was about providing content for its ambitions in the metaverse, the counter point being Microsoft is just as invested in the less ethereal gaming market and could just be looking to consolidate it’s hold there and pipe some more games into its Games Pass platform.
Sony and Microsoft are each other’s biggest rivals in the console gaming space, and the deal on the surface naturally seems like it would be a counter move to Microsoft’s big play earlier this month, which gave Sony’s share price a heavy dent.
However Ryan told Games Industry in an interview that “These conversations have been a number of months in gestation, and certainly pre-date the activity that we have seen this year. From our perspective, this is really doing what we feel is right for PlayStation, and what we feel is the right thing to do to drive PlayStation to places we’ve never been before.”
Who knows how true that is, but if we are to take it at face value – as well as the comments in the release that Bungie games will not be made PlayStation exclusive – then what is this multi-billion deal about? Perhaps the two firms independently concluded that if the metaverse is coming, as crossed over with gaming as it already is, it would be better to own some of the IP around whatever virtual worlds end up defining its early days, as well as provide the hardware to enable it.
Sony is one of biggest firms in consumer tech, but money bags Microsoft is the bigger fish here. Immersive /VR/AR gaming worlds feel like the most tangible application that comes up whenever someone gets on stage to talk about the metaverse, so this will be an interesting area of competition as it starts coming more into focus on a business level.
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