What the Heck is Bungie Doing?!

Game / Destiny 2
By Tallen Published: 2023-11-08 15:00:00

Alright let’s face it! Bungie is standing on the edge of a cliff and Destiny 2 has started the downfall of games as a service. Ok look I know hot take but if these last few days have proven anything, this has turned into probably the biggest inside look at the gaming industry, and it came from one of the biggest live gaming service publishers. From a ton of layoffs, a negative dive in projected revenue, add in 1 major project canceled and a fan base leaving in droves, what is going to happen to Bungie? I know this intro sounds dramatic but after everything that has leaked and been made public, its safe to say things are heading south faster than superman and the flash racing towards Antarctica.

Now I don’t think its dramatic to state that things are pretty bad for bungie. If you have been online at all in the last few days as of November 1st, then you have probably seen some sort of news regarding bungie. For those of you who have not been online or have not seen anything on your timeline, lets quickly catch you up to speed:

Full credit to Paul Tassi for the inside information. Make sure to check out his article!

First Day

Bungie, while owned by Sony, operates as an independent arm. Most of Sony is going through cuts for reasons different for every area. Bungie decided to lay off about 8% of its workers (or about 100+ people).
These positions were not in one area. It was all over including marketing, communications, engineering and many more. Everyone from new workers to people who had been there since the original Halo days were let go.

Side note: Sony is not replacing their workers to fill these positions. At first many questioned if it was due to sony forcing Bungie’s hand. The more info being released however seems to show Sony is telling bungie they keep spending money and need to cut back.

Employees were locked out of accounts, systems and emails before anyone was told anything. Some found out in person but told to keep quiet. Others found out over phone and some found out over twitter…yikes
Employees were often not even allowed to say goodbye to other team members or exchange contact info. Many team/line managers had no idea who was being cut from their teams until it happened. Some teams only lost a few people, others were decimated.

The company purposefully tried to internally hide just how many people had been fired, and only after outside reporting the 100 number was calculated. Bungie even fired some long standing veterans of the company like its composer Michael Salvatori, there since the pre-Halo days, and Lorraine McLees, who designed the original Halo logo.

What really illustrated how corporate this all felt, some employee benefits expired at the end of the month, meaning being fired on the 30th meant just a single day of additional coverage for those benefits. Healthcare will continue as COBRA coverage for three months (which coming from someone who has not lived in the states for 10 years had to look this up/ ask friends and found out its not exactly good coverage). Finally, it seems severance will continue as well (whatever those numbers are). Many employees had unvested shares as a result of the Sony deal that mandated, they stayed with the company a number of years afterward to collect. For those who don’t know, unvested shares are basically useless unless you stay at the company for x amount of time based on your contract. If you do, then they become vested shares. You can usually sell these for money or keep them as a stake in the company. But that is null if you leave, and that includes being laid off. When that happens, the shares revert back to Bungie, and as such, many employees just involuntarily lost those shares to the company that fired them.

It keeps getting WORSE!

Oh you thought we were done? Not even close. Rapid fire time!

Employees were told that Bungie was on track for a 45% revenue miss based on previous projections for the year. The writer of the main article we are referencing, written by Paul Tassi, heard these projections were unrealistic and the miss also comes with base problems for the series.

Lightfall was a big, negative turning point. While as whole it brought in a lot of players at launch (it was Steam’s highest concurrent count since D2 launch on the platform) it quickly received extremely poor reviews which reverberated through the rest of the year and player engagement fell off hard.

Employees were told player sentiment was at an all-time low, something the employees themselves had been saying for a long while, and they had begged their bosses to make changes that players would come back for, many of which were rejected.

The Final Shape is indeed confirmed from both IGN and Bloomberg, though not Bungie to be delayed till June 2024. Expansion pre-sales are low, and the expansion is looking “good not great” according to insiders, hence the extra time to work on it.

Marathon too is delayed to 2025, and there are reports it may be looking at little rough at present. (talk of content creators being brought to bungie to play an early alpha resulted in being asked if they would buy it and no one said yes) double yikes. Marathon needs to be a smash hit in order for Bungie to have a significant revenue source they can rely on that isn’t Destiny 2.

Additionally, speaking of revenue, many employees have been upset about Bungie’s investment in a sprawling, expensive new 200,000 square foot HQ in Bellevue that has cost tens of millions to build, despite Bungie relentlessly plugging themselves as a leader in remote work.

Finally, there is just bad luck. While this may have been a down year for Destiny 2 no matter what, this is also a wild year for game releases, with dozens of top-rated, extremely good, often very long games being released almost endlessly. It’s a year that offers an enormous number of alternatives to an aging, seven year-old live game like Destiny 2, no matter what content it’s producing.

That is a lot. Plus, this just makes bungie look really bad when you see that the CEO later tweeted asking other places to take the people he just laid off. Like dude seriously. Read the room man.

So, pretty bad spot to be in. Now I know this is corporate America. Happens all the time, especially this year where over 6000 people have been let go during a huge year for gaming and record sales (different from record profit which is all company shareholders care about). That’s why we see things like record sales for things like spiderman 2 and starfield but profit… that could be a different story…

Regardless how you look at it, it would seem destiny is on its last leg and bungie could have daddy Sony come in and break up this section of the company (you know since they own them). It also would track with rumors about sony abandoning the games as a service plan they have under Jim (who is retiring in 2024). I have also seen those who only play destiny 2 feel really conflicted. They want to support the game to support the developers but that means supporting the higher ups firing all these people. If they don’t then everything suffers even more. It can be a tricky position especially if you are sympathetic to others when bad things happen.

As a destiny player with almost 2 thousand hours (I know, I know, send help), I have two pieces of advice:
First, play other games. Its ok to play something else. Infact its healthy. Experience new games, play indie games, try out older games you can find on sale. I know many love free to play and will only do that but there are so many good sales out there. Take a chance. Do the research and trust me you will find something you like.

Second, its ok to feel sympathy. I personally hate the corporate world and how things work. Yes, I know that if someone enters it then they should know fully well what to expect if things go south. But come on. Call me naive but I always prefer to think of others. Maybe its living in Japan for 10 years where that is the norm. Like anything it’s all balance. With all of that being said, it’s not our job to worry about bungie the company. If destiny 2 was to fail tomorrow and the company crumbled, then it happens. It’s their job to make a product we want to jump into and play. Worrying about the developers though and other workers, 100% ok to sympathize and help them in any way you can. Even if giving them encouraging words. Trust me, it helps a lot.

Seriously? EVEN MORE!

Now right as I was about to wrap up this video/article, more news was released thanks to Paul.
Management said other levers were looked at to avoid layoffs. When employees asked if one lever was executive compensation aka their bonus, they were told no, and that it would not happen at the company. (Update: Post-publication, Bungie responded saying that CEO Pete Parsons and some other executives previously forfeited annual bonuses before the layoffs. But staff was not informed this happened until yesterday. The sum total of the bonuses given up is not clear). A CEO or board member losing a bonus is nothing compared to losing your full job.

Internally, no one is blaming Sony for this, even management. Some employees were told that if the Sony buyout did not happen, that with current Destiny 2 performance the studio itself would have been in jeopardy if they were still independent.
Cannot be fully confirmed among every employee but at least to some, D2 director Joe Blackburn is not really considered to be one of the corporate culprits here for how things went down.

The expensive new building was a separate project that likely would not have saved jobs given the context of when that was drafted and when work started. Similarly, the $1.2 billion in employee retention from Sony was spent long ago, often on buying out employees’ Bungie shares which then went to Sony. There’s nothing left in that pot to avoid layoffs, which wasn’t what it was meant for this late in the transition.

The trendline of spending on the game over time made the current year’s revenue estimates somewhat logical, so yes, the 45% miss is important, and was not necessarily some wildly inflated projection, however nearsighted it ended up being. There has been a real, damaging drop post-Lightfall in terms of player engagement/spending even though Lightfall sold very well.
Employees are extremely angry with leadership now and have often communicated that publicly in meetings. Bets were made that did not pay off, but those who made them remain in the company, a fact lost on no one. (again, typical corporate America)

Destiny Overall

The Final Shape delay was known by some a couple months ago. But it is happening late enough where there cannot be a 30th Anniversary size drop to split the season, as that took around eight months to build. There will be something in the season 23 gap, though no specifics. They want The Final Shape not just to be as good as Forsaken or The Taken King but better. Hence the “good not great” feedback that will be polished during a delay. It needs to be the best, and it’s viewed as the key to turning things around. The Final Shape campaign and features are reportedly quite solid even in its current state, ahead of planned future work. But they want to go even further, and there is some concern about the crunch to make that happen, even with a delay.

Part of the new PvP Strike team was impacted by layoffs, but significant progress has been made on the map pack already and it should not be cancelled. (Update: Have heard player security teams were hit heavily as well. Don’t expect any changes Trials mains)
No significant changes have been announced to staff for the longer term future of Destiny 2 plans because of these layoffs and the delay yet. No known plans to reduce support for D2 below old, already planned levels. No new info about the long, long term or something like Destiny 3 (which I did not get the sense was really on the radar).

In-game LFG has been tremendously difficult from a tech perspective and reportedly was announced to the community before the devs themselves. It is far more complicated than players will understand even if it seems like it’s an obvious thing the game should have. It’ll launch, but it’s been a tough road.

There have been many meetings about microtransactions where many devs wanted to reduce them, but they were always given the reply that they are necessary given how expensive Destiny is to operate. And complaints about new ones don’t always reflect reality. Event Cards may seem lame, but they sell well, for instance. Or you’d be surprised how many people are still buying the oldest expansions that we always say should be free by now.
The ultimate goal is very much for Bungie to be a multi-IP studio with multiple games and revenue streams. But even if Marathon is a success there are likely not plans for some huge mass migration from the Destiny team to the Marathon team, abandoning the franchise.

Now I know this was a lot of information to throw your way, but it goes to show that even bungie and its “legendary” games as a service game destiny can fail. Now do I think destiny 2 servers are shutting down tomorrow? No obviously. But it has exposed why Bungie has been doing all of these price changes, monetization overhaul (and by overhaul, I mean going completely crazy), and being all greedy. It’s also clear we can’t just point a finger at a single person to blame. All these findings and insider information show that there are a bunch of people at the top of this company calling the shots and we don’t know who they are (most likely shareholders). It just really sucks to know this is how things are and probably won’t change unless the entire industry joins a union or something to protect themselves. Otherwise, this will continue. I guess one good thing came out of this: not one single live service game is safe and it’s time to move away. Hopefully that rumor of Sony ditching early is true.

Alright I know we threw a ton of information your way that has been happening. Now I want to ask one more time: What are your thoughts on all this? Are you mad? Will you cancel your Final shape preorder if you pre ordered? Are you stopping destiny 2 forever? Let me know all your thoughts. We will keep you up to date on everything as more information is revealed.

Are Bungie’s true colors showing or have they always been like this? Is this the end?