Bungie's Destiny - An Update

Yesterday we broke the story that, according to an anonymous source, Bungie was currently working on 'Destiny', an MMO with shooter elements. The source also claimed that he, along with roughly 30 other contractors were let go with little notice by Bungie - a claim that Bungie has denied. We've now been in contact with another verified source who has further elaborated on Bungie's treatment of contractors and provided more details.

Last night Bungie posted a carefully worded response to our story, stating the following:

This evening, Kotaku Australia published a blog entry to their website claiming that Bungie recently terminated as many as thirty contract employees without notice or justification, effectively eliminating all non full time staff at the request of our publisher, Activision-Blizzard.

The claim is false.

Bungie has never been asked to lay off any employees or contract employees by our publisher, Activision-Blizzard, for any reason. The talented professionals who grace our offices day in and day out are the lifeblood of Bungie – our most cherished commodity – and the unsubstantiated rumors posted today are in direct opposition to the culture and values that we believe make Bungie an exceptional place to work, and to call home.

(Oh, and since we're on the subject, we're hiring.)

And later updated it with...

To clarify, Bungie has not experienced layoffs or group firings of any kind.

The first statement seems to only clarify that Bungie hadn't let any staff go at the request of Activision, the second statement clarified that Bungie hadn't experienced layoffs or group firings of any kind.

Bungie did not mention the game 'Destiny' or refute any of those details.

This morning, however, another source contacted us giving us more information on what he claims is a history of poor treatment of contract workers at Bungie. The source has been 100% verified.

According to the source, Bungie technically is not the employer of the contract workers - the agency is. Apparently Bungie regularly brings in contractors from companies such as Volt. The source claimed that Bungie pays these agencies a set amount and the agency itself decides how much to pay the contractors.

The source also claimed that the Bungie's alleged poor treatment of contractors is well known in the industry, and that most keep quiet for fear of repercussions, or being denied full time work at Bungie in the future. According to the source there is a huge disparity between how contractors and full-time staff are treated.

It's also worth mentioning that in a post on Halo.Bungie.Org's forums Eric 'Urk' Osborne stated that Bungie "didn't experience any layoffs or group firings through our vendors, either. We didn't experience layoffs, period." This may render the previous points moot.

We contacted Bungie directly after hearing from our second source, and received an email back asking for "more specifics", we replied stating that we didn't want to give further specifics for fear of implicating our source, before asking for any further comment which, at current time of writing, we've yet to receive.

We're expecting to hear from more sources in the near future.


Comments

    There is a big disparity between the conditions between contractors and full time staff in all major organisations. It's the nature of being a contractor.

    The flipside being that contractors potentially earn a lot more money for their time in exchange for all the perks and advantages of being a full time employee. If you feel you're getting a raw deal as a contractor, the fault is with the agency who rents you out, not the company.

      You know what is weird? I have 2 xbl friends that currently work as contractors for Bungie. Both still work there today, as I post this. One even retweeted urk's post. Sounds like you got completely trolled by an anonymous source. Nice "journalistic integrity", bro.

        I wasn't aware that the entirety of Bungies contractors consisted of 2 people.

          Ironically, your comment could be applied to the apparent extent of informative sources for either side of the argument at this point.

    So.... let me get this right.

    First of all you state your 'source' told you that Activision made Bungie fire 30 employees. Now you're saying that a '100% verified source' told you that it was actually Volt doing the firing (which Bungie has already denied as well).

    Funnily enough - my '100% verified industry source' says this story is nothing more than slander and indicitive of a blog site that can only generate buzz by printing sensationalist rubbish....

      We never said anything - I'm just reporting what I've been told by verified sources.

        When you say "verified source", what have you verified exactly?

        Are you talking about the identity of the source, or the information they have provided to you?

          The identity of the person, the fact they've worked at Bungie.

            It must be the ghost who never lies, he never lies and he just so happens to be a ghost that only you can see. seems legit to me.

            Fair enough. By not publishing all the information you have, I guess you'll be in a position to cross check the non-published facts if anyone else comes forward.

            Don't you think you should verify this info with someone who has actually been recently let go.

            Contractors whinging is dumb anyway. I've done contract work for telecommunications and I got treated 10x better then full-time works and was paid loads more. It depends on the contractors themselves. I wouldn't blame bungie here.

      Wow, Mr Not Important, way to really stand up to what you're saying. At least Mark is putting his name to his 'sensationalist rubbish.' If you don't trust Kotaku.au and Mark's journalistic ethics that's fine, you go right ahead and do so, but don't expect to look like a hero hiding behind an alias while you do it.

      And just an aside, if you're unaccustomed to the journalistic practice of protecting sources, then perhaps you should go read a Wikipedia article or something.

        @Adam Ruch

        Wow - pretty sure not giving my real name here is the issue at hand, and I'm well and truly familiar with the concept of protecting sources, thanks.

        It seems that what is being reported by various sources changes with each update - if that's the case then perhaps a little more 'verification' is required..?

        Got no problem with people taking a swipe at Bungie (or any other company) if it's based on fact. But this reeks of sensationlist "my source has indicated...", not too far removed from "they say that..."

        I think it's appropriate to question the journalistic integrity of a story when the primary claims have been dropped.

        Perhaps there is a story here, but it's morphed so far away from the original commentary that it now looks like, "well my mum said"...

        Remember Utegate?
        It was true that Godwin Grech did work for the Treasury - but Malcolm sure should have 'verified' his sources with a little more scrunity before releasing the story..!

        Protecting sources is one thing, but surely that should necessitate a little journalistic integrity.

      Evangelical Bungie Troll. I think I see your Halo slipping down.

        What an excellent counterpoint. Thank you for the logical and intelligent arguments you've brought to this discussion.

          What point and what argument(s)? I'm pretty sure I was stating fact.

            Oh, stating a fact. Funny, there are a lot of "facts" being thrown around today, aren't there...

    I wouldn't expect Bungie to be more harsh with contractors than any other developer, but it would make sense if something like that which was claimed occurred through an agency - especially if contracts simply ran out and they weren't explicitly fired.

    And do we really need to wait 'til next week to hear about Destiny, Mark? Can't you get online tomorrow and give us an update? :P

      well technically speaking telling someone not to come in when they are employed via an agency technically isn't firing them because they are still employed by there agency they are simply no longer wanted/required/needed by the company

      and while it may not be the same in the game division i've found that generally speaking the contractors are expected to do more than the fulltimers are because the full timers can't really be dismissed for stupid reason's

      i mean i got told not to come back a week before i was going to leave(which the company knew already)

      because i made 3 count errors in a single week(crappy unskilled warehouse job over uni break) when the standard that the fulltimers were held to was 10 per 10000 picked which was basically 10 per 3 weeks of work

      yet after 3 months and only making 3 errors albiet in a short period i was told my errors were too high.

      2 other agency contractors were fired for talking while picking and another because he wasn't picking faster than the fastest full timer.

      and this is all done for less than what the fulltimers get paid in most cases even though there was no annual leave and what not because of the agency cut

    Enjoying the hard-hittin', news-breakin', email-firin', source concealin' Kotaku lately. I can smell a Walkley. :P

    I'd tend to take Bungie at their word that there were no lay-offs from either them or their vendors - but the claim about mistreatment of contract workers deserves further investigation.

    I've noticed Volt employees credited on many Bungie games and it's apparent that they have a long history of using outsourced employees for various roles in the production process. It's probably worth investigating to what extent these workers may have been mistreated, if only to exonerate the company if, as they claim, they have done nothing wrong.

    interesting could this be "project titan" from blizzards side?

      That's actually a pretty interesting angle. I think it's more likely that we'd have heard about it by now if Blizzard and Bungie were collaborating, at least in rumors, because the amount of cross-team communication that would be required would be significant enough that someone would have noticed. Also, I'd think Blizzard and Bungie are both capable of creating a new MMO separately - and it works out better on Activision's books if both of them do make successful new MMOs.

    I work as a contractor for an insurance company. I'm treated differently to full time staff because I'm not a full time staff member. The company pays the agency who placed me, and the agency decides my cut - that's stardard operating procedure for contract employees.

    I'd be interested to hear specifics of how contractors at Bungie are mistreated... at the moment it looks like the original story is unverified and the second (100% verified) source is providing information that is really quite vague.

    Also I don't know if I'd call Urk's response "carefully worded". It was probably as minimal as possible because the story got him out of bed. :P

      I have more info, but the source has been very specific with what they want reported. I'm trying to stay within that.

        Well, I respect that, but I reserve judgement on the issue until I have more facts.

        Don't get me wrong, I'm not being critical of what you're doing here and I know you wouldn't report anything you didn't feel comfortable with. Just as a member of the public, the data I have to work with is limited.

      In Australia (don't know about the US etc), but part of the difference with a Contractor is that they cannot be treated as an employee, it is part of the defining line between a contractor and employee.
      Basically a contractor has a job to do, usually with an expected result and deadline while an employee is expected to be at work consistently regardless of whether they have work to do or not.

        not really applicable in some places

        sure when you hire IT contractors to fix your network they have a deadline

        but alot of companies use Agency's as a way of outsourcing recruitment and you have a better chance of going to full time from that.

        at my previous employment you were terminated if you had 2 days off sick in the same week as a agency person and they required a medical certificate even though we have the same deal as a casual would Ie we aren't paid for those days regardless.

        Yet the full timers who worked a 4 day working week instead of our 5 would routinely take extra days off when they felt like it.

        on one of the 40 degree days out of the 10 full timers in our section only 3 showed up and then the company got angry at the casual's because they wouldn't work an extra 4 hours to cover the lost time. Supervisor didn't even say a word the next day at the daily meeting

    I do enjoy ppl saying 'its not like bungie' as if they know them personally. Haha

      Well, actually - lots of Bungie fans do. Heaps of Bungie employees are active members on numerous Halo fansites... halo.bungie.org, Rooster Teeth, the gaming board on NeoGAF... and not as representatives of Bungie -- just as themselves.

      Quick Question Mark, what exactly does 100% verifying a source entail? I mean... does it mean his story is 100% verified or you've verified 100% that he worked for Bungie or...??

      Not strictly true (I'm in Australia in case that wasn't clear) and in my role I am a contractor mainly for logistic reasons - I can't be employed because the company isn't permitted to employ someone for my position due to the global financial crisis (they're an American firm but have to abide by Australian employment law).

      By hiring me as a contractor the money comes from another pool instead of their payroll budget.

      I used to work in Worker's Compensation and I am what is referred to under WorkCover legislation as a "deemed worker". Although I am paid by a third party agency, my directions are given by the company directly to perform in my role as per the employees I sit alongside who were employed prior to the GFC. I am employed on an ongoing basis, basically permanently, because I am sitting in what should be a fulltime role.

      As a contractor though, I do not get paid for any days I do not work so I am out of pocket whenever there's a public holiday. I have to use my "higher" rate of pay to offset against any personal needs such as sick leave or annual leave - of course it's harder for me to do that because a bunch of that extra pay I'm allegedly earning falls into the hands of the tax office.

      Until a position opens up they're allowed to employ me into, I will never enjoy any kind of career advancement - hopefully this is only a short-term arrangement.

      There are numerous other perks I do not get to enjoy as a non-employee, although my manager does his best to make me feel like I'm part of the team.
      While what you say is true about short-term contractors in general, not all cases are identical.

      All of that aside though, your assessment is probably still accurate. My guess is that Bungie's contractors are of the short-term variety. That means they're probably brought in to work hard on something really grindy, and then dismissed when the job is complete. That's the arrangement they would have signed up for. I know a lot of contractors in similar positions might expect taking a contract role is a foot in the door but the fact is if they were qualified to work at Bungie full-time, they'd have been accepted for one of the 29 positions that are currently open.

        Oops, this was meant to be a reply to dunk who replied to my comment thread a little higher up the page.

    This is an interesting topic either way. I think its time for some investigative reporting Mark!! Not into this issue specifically, that seems to be already happening, but a feature on the nature of contract work in the development industry seems in order. It would appear that a lot of people here are unfamiliar with the concept of contract work (bar the people who are contractors putting their 2cents in!) generally.

    Would be interesting to see how much of this sort of thing (which we've heard before) is true, or if its simply sour grapes from disappointed contractors not being picked up full-time.

      You're right - but I can only report what I've been told. 'I'm' not claiming anything - the sources are.

        Yeah which is why any kind of feature on the subject would/should be more broad and investigated separately. Even if this is the obvious inspiration for such an investigation, protecting one's sources is the only way to encourage them to come forward with information we actually want to read about.

          I think this story is beyond Kotaku's resources to cover. Time to call in the big guns and hand it over to A Current Affair or Today Tonight. I want to see the CEO of Bungie getting chased across the carpark by a camera crew before trying to shut the front door while the reporter blocks it with his/her foot.

            Lol!

            Serrels you must do this....Pantsless!

              Great.

              Now I've got an image of a pantless Serrels chasing after Jason Jones (wearing only his boxers) while a camera crew stands around watching with astonishement.

              Eventually, Serrels catches Jones and...

              Note: The resulting altercation cannot be detailed because it was refused classification by the ACB.

              ...I've never seen anything so beautiful :')

    As I said recently on the previous "Destiny" post.

    It's not unusual at all that Bungie have mentioned nothing about Destiny. They have a policy to "not comment on rumor or speculation" and they do this for good reason.

    The only reason they've commented at all is because of the termination of contractors part of the story, and they need to defend their reputaion.

    Defending one's reputation is entirely different to refuting leaked information (which may or may not be true).

    They are essentially casual workers. I have employed many a casual, and they do get better pay that FT workers, just no sick pay or Holidays and no set rosters. Thats the nature of a casual worker. Its more volatile than a FT position (you could be told to go home and not come back at anytime), but you are supposed to be compensated with a higher rate of pay. If ths is not happening, then the beef should be with the contractor, not Bungie. But seriously, casuals that cry foul about this sort of stuff need to wake up, thats why you are a casual. You want stability and a real place in a company? Go FT and take the pay cut or move onto something else.

    Dont be slandering on Mr Serrals, because I know for a fact he is as a bigger fan of bungie and their work as the next person. He wouldnt be REPORTING on this story if he didnt think it was in the interest of the public.

      I second this.

    For the people defending the situation with contractors being treated differently because they are contractors and not full-time staff. You are correct with the contractor providing a capability or skill allowing a set required amount of work to be done, often independently.

    However...

    Games production is a creative and collaborative process. A positive environment and good team ethics allow for the best work to be achieved. Being "mistreated" does not necessarily point to the difference in the contractor to the full-timer, but in the way in the manner of communication, and work requirements. Not to mention that if the contractor gets to work in house right next to the full-timers, then friction could start.

    It wouldn't surprise me if Bungie have created an arrangement where they can squeeze the most appreciable work out of the contractors with as little cooperation with them as possible, and then if this misdirected work is sub-par and the contractor has a beef, well too bad, the agency will get their negative report then.

      As an edit, I'd like to point out that I'm NOT saying Bungie have done what I thought up above, just that a situation like above can likely exist, and that I don't consider such acts to be beneath any large company. I only participated in slinging around Bungie's name since that is the company this article is addressing. When it gets updated with the real truth, then that's how things are.

        Other than getting website hits and negative attention, what does Kotaku have to gain from all this? What is the purpose of attempting to besmirch a business they don't compete with? Why the vendetta against Bungie? Why stoop so low as to be like a seedy tabloid? This like school on Saturday, no class!

    Other than getting website hits and negative attention, what does Kotaku have to gain from all this? What is the purpose of attempting to besmirch a business they don't compete with? This is a very bad move on Kotaku's part and it's in very bad taste. It's like school on Saturday, no class. Why the vendetta? Why the besmirching? Why stoop so low to that of a seedy tabloid?

    Contractors treated differently than fulltime workers!!! OMG that happens EVERYWHERE AT ALL COMPANIES!!!! Tell them to stop crying and look for another job. The whole point of hiring via an agency is so you can let them go at anytime. Nothing out of the ordinary here except some people that lost their jobs and think making a stink over it will fix something that isnt broken.

    Mark, I hope this isn't just a load of bull to get more traffic. I'm definitely getting that vibe.

      Yes, because it's so much better in the long term to get a couple of unique viewers to the site than having one of the biggest developers boycott any future interviews with the site.

    This isn't news this is Gossip. Unless this second source was actually at bungie and let go, there is nothing added to this story.

    This is what separates blogs and journalists. This screams as a follow up to justify the initial badly sourced article, neither of which is corroborated with any actual evidence.

      "This isn’t news this is Gossip. Unless this second source was actually at bungie and let go, there is nothing added to this story."

      Feom the article: This morning, however, another source contacted us giving us more information on what he claims is a history of poor treatment of contract workers at Bungie. The source has been 100% verified

      From the comments: When you say “verified source”, what have you verified exactly?

      Are you talking about the identity of the source, or the information they have provided to you?

      Mark's reply: The identity of the person, the fact they’ve worked at Bungie.

      -Facepalm-

        Look - I've had to hold back. I'm stuck between a rock and hard place - I understand why you would be cynical. If I reveal more info, that would be a betrayal of the second person's confidence. I've had three people now confirm to me that Bungie has been treating contractors poorly. What is it you want me to say exactly? Why would these people lie?

        Anyway. Kinda looking forward to just moving on from this story and getting on with things. It's been a pretty stressful situation, and I've been very careful to try and do the correct thing at all times, with a lot of different people shouting a lot of different things whilst trying to manage it.

          Mark,

          I think you owe Bungie an apology.

          THIS is exactly why everyone is questioning you. Not because we're Bungie fanbois, but because this is what "journalistic integrity" has devolved into.

          You said you had more to come, but now you just want to back away from the story because it's gotten too hot for you to handle.

          You, and these articles, is exactly why the world rejects "anonymous sources" now.

          "Journalist" and bloggers like yourself prove to us everyday that you aren't willing to back up your claims, so you shouldn't be believed.

          I mean, we're talking about the video game industry here... not world peace or someone's mortality.

          Way to let down the community.

          -Guy

    if this turns out true, then i am going to loose a lot of respect for bungie...

    People get hired and fired all the time in the private sector. If you can't handle it, work in the public sector. It's a lot less stressful. Why is this such a big deal?

    I think the major issue here is that you've validated your sources but not the information itself.

    I agree that its improbable they would lie, and do not doubt their or your sincerity, and personally probably think its true as its very common in contracted work.

    However, they are big claims, and so the source wanting to stay confidential is fine, but it means you need some kind of evidence to anchor it to, or an event you can literally point at(one of the fired or a letter drawing a contract to a close).

    I understand Kotakus budget isnt really equipped for such journalistic 'adventuring' but unfortunately with a story of this gravity its required.

    Because ultimately if you cant tie your story together with 100% accuracy you will be ripped apart.

    I dont doubt this is true, but this is purely sensationalist and sloppy right now. If your to become a better writer, Id just chalk it to being human and a passionate gamer like us and learn from it.

    As this is its half a story, think you maybe just needed to sit on, and think this out a little more.

    Kudos all the same, if you were in a really tight spot and thought this had to be aired, and are sitting on irrefutable evidence.

      It would only be 'sensationalist and sloppy' if they ignored Budgie's responses and ran with "Oh, Budgie definitely fired over 30 people", instead they're making it clear that may not be the case, and are still running the story down with other sources.

    From here it looks like Bungie called Mark Serrels bluff.

      What Bluff? Mark posted a story from someone who worked at Bungie after verifying that they were there at the time of the supposed incident. He also posted Bungie's responses to the claims. Mark then received further clarification and confirmation from a second source who he also verified as having worked at Bungie at the time, and posted that sources claims and details that clarified the story later and contacted Bungie for more information. He then, once again reported Bungie's response. Kotaku don't have the resources to do a full-blown investigation, but Mark has shown journalistic integrity all the way down the line, far more than the mainstream media tends to.

    Sorry, no he didn't. Im not slamming him, or Kotaku, and think they are a great read, but integrity he did not show.

    If you dont have the funds, dont do it. If you dont know 100% dont report it. Which is the opposite to how many rags work in Australia and around the world but when and if they break something risque they take a major gamble.

    If he had done the same to a politician or anyone with an agenda opposite to the story or believed it to affect their business, they would have sued Mark into the ground.

    Which is a reason why big newspapers have massive chunks of cash to cover their journo's.

    A lot of us are just trying to point out things that can be learnt through first year journalism.

Join the discussion!