Ex-Bungie board member and composer Marty O’Donnell has given his take on the Destiny deal Bungie had with Activision – which lasted from 2010 to 2019 – calling it “bad from the start.”
In an interview with Halo Youtuber HiddenXperia, O’Donnell explained that he was part of the board of directors who made the initial decision back in 2010, but that it wasn’t “a marriage made in heaven.”
“We knew it was a risk right from the get-go, and then it turned out to be exactly as we thought it was going to be,” O’Donnell explained. “Everybody who no longer works for Bungie is gonna say, ‘Yeah, it was bad from the start.'” He added that those still at Bungie who say that the partnership worked are being “political”. “That’s BS,” he explains. “There are so many scripted answers out there that I hear.”
Later in the interview O’Donnell shares an anecdote about a dinner with Activision executives before the partnership deal had been signed. During the dinner, O’Donnell says he was talking to the Activision CFO about a saying, “Be nice to the goose,” (with Bungie being the goose laying golden eggs for Activision). According to O’Donnell, the CFO told him that he liked the analogy, “but sometimes there’s nothing like a good Foie Gras” (the controversial food made by force-feeding geese before slaughter). “I get a chill even telling that story,” says O’Donnell, “the red flag went off.”
Bungie split from Activision in January 2019 after a nearly ten-year partnership that produced Destiny and Destiny 2, allowing Bungie to retain full publishing rights for the franchise. O’Donnell himself was fired without cause from Bungie in 2014, and successfully sued the company for damages. In the interview, he puts that firing down to his problems with Activision’s control over the Destiny IP: “The reason why we went with Activision was not just the money, but it was because as part of the contract, they didn’t own the IP,” something that O’Donnell explains was non-negotiable after the developer’s famous separation from Microsoft.
He claims that, despite the terms of that agreement, Activision was allowed to mould the IP due to the actions of Bungie leadership. “Activision not only didn’t have the legal right to mess with the IP, but the only way they would be prevented from messing with the IP is if all the leadership at Bungie said you can’t mess with the IP. And that’s not what happened. And that’s why they fired me,” O’Donnell told HiddenXperia.
Interestingly, O’Donnell adds that other publishers were in the running to partner with Bungie during this process, but none of them would allow Bungie to retain the IP as Activision did. In fact, O’Donnell mentioned that Bungie “almost went back to Microsoft” after becoming independent from its former owner in 2007.
Destiny 2 is now entirely self-published, and will be coming to Xbox Series X and PS5. In other Bungie news, the studio’s new IP will apparently be “comedic” and feature “whimsical characters” according to a job listing.
Jordan Oloman is a freelance writer for IGN. Follow him on Twitter.