I know the press release doesn't really spell that out, but Brian Jarrard, Community and Franchise Director of Bungie, confirmed it for me today:
Bungie is privately owned by Bungie, not Microsoft. We are Bungie, LLC now.
Jarrard was nice enough to take the time to do an email Q&A with me today about a bunch of things. Questions ranged from how Bungie managed the break-up, to whether we can expect to see PS3 or Wii titles to them to what exactly the deal is with Halo DS. Hit the jump for the full exchange. Kotaku: What's the atmosphere like today over at Bungie? You guys must have already been pretty elated with the Halo 3 sales, and now you get a bit more freedom.
Brian Jarrard: Well first and foremost we're in the business of making games and, believe it or not, most of the team is hard at work today like any other day. But yeah, we are still elated by the success of Halo 3 as the numbers continue to pour in and being able to publicly make this announcement today is an exciting next step in the future of our studio.
Kotaku: How would you classify the new relationship? Is Bungie now completely independent of Microsoft, or does Microsoft still own the developer?
Brian Jarrard: Bungie is now officially an independent company but we will continue to maintain close ties and a strong partnership with Microsoft.
Kotaku: If the company is independent does that mean it is now employee owned, publically held or something else?
Brian Jarrard: Bungie is an LLC, privately owned.
Kotaku: Did cash or stock exchange hands to make this deal happen? If so how much?
Brian Jarrard: Sorry but I'm not at liberty to discuss the specifics of this new relationship.
Kotaku: Looking from the outside this move looks like something that purely benefits Bungie, how were you able to convince Microsoft to "unleash" the studio?
Brian Jarrard: To be honest, this new relationship is mutually beneficial to both Microsoft and Bungie. On one hand, we get to return to our roots and explore some creative freedoms and possibilities that we may not have otherwise been able to. Meanwhile we continue to have the support of the best publisher in the industry on some really exciting projects like our Halo collaboration with Peter Jackson. On the Microsoft side, they get the benefit of an energised and inspired Bungie team, committed to making great games for their platforms, and a continuation of our strong partnership together. It's a win-win situation.
Kotaku: What sort of control will Microsoft retain over the studio's future projects? Will they have first choice for new games or the ability to nix titles the studio is working on.
Brian Jarrard: Going forward, we will continue to work with Microsoft as a great partner and publisher of Bungie games.
Kotaku: What motivated this move on Bungie's part? When did the studio first suggest the independence idea to Microsoft and what was their reaction?
Brian Jarrard: This is really just the next step in the evolution of our studio and our relationship with Microsoft. Bungie has always been fiercely independent at heart and being in control of our own destiny, and the creative freedoms that come with that, is the core of what this studio was founded on some 15 years ago. These discussions began with Microsoft some time ago as a means of maintaining a mutually beneficial long term relationship.
Kotaku: In the Microsoft press release, Microsoft mentions the possibility that someone else could perhaps work on Halo titles. Is that something that bothers you?
Brian Jarrard: Not at all - in fact, this is already happening with Ensemble Studios and their work on Halo Wars. And, Peter Jackson and his team have a big role in the Halo project that we are collaborating on. Fortunately Halo attracts the best talent in the industry and Microsoft isn't going to run the franchise into the ground or jeopardize the quality bar and fan following we've already established.
Kotaku: How does Bungie feel about the Halo franchise? It has obviously been a huge success, but have does the studio feel like it's time to move on?
Brian Jarrard: Overall we still love Halo. Many of us are currently playing the hell out of Halo 3, despite spending three or more years creating it. While we do have some people who have spent nearly ten years of their lives on this franchise, we have far more who never shipped any Halo game until this latest release. As we continue to grow as a studio, we are able to branch off and allow some people to explore new ideas and IP while allowing others to continue to explore the Halo universe.
Kotaku: With this new independence are you allowed to start playing around with developing titles for Nintendo and Sony?
Brian Jarrard: For the foreseeable future we're focused on Microsoft platforms and the Xbox and Xbox 360 have obviously been very good to us.
Kotaku: The whole Halo on the DS rumour just doesn't want to die, do you see that in the cards?
Brian Jarrard: This rumour has been circulating for a while and as you know we even saw some real life screens and assets this week. Ultimately it's up to Microsoft to decide if and when they take Halo to a different platform. That particular demo was in fact created and I believe it was an unsolicited pitch a long time ago but nothing ever came of it.
Kotaku: I think most Xbox 360 owners are fans of the Halo franchise, but what I'd personally love to see is a an exciting new IP from Bungie. Do you already have anything in the works?
Brian Jarrard: We are always working on stuff. Secret stuff. We've got a lot on our plate at the moment with the Peter Jackson Halo project and ongoing support of Halo 3 but suffice it to say that we are indeed looking closely at what our next big thing will be. We'll have more to say in due time...
Kotaku: What sort of genres and ideas get the developers excited these days?
Brian Jarrard: We're all gamers at heart and when we're not playing Halo 3, we're spending time with every other good release out there. Regardless of the genre, we are all fans of technical innovation, interesting story telling and most of all, great fun.