Sony Group Corp.’s videogame unit said Monday that it is buying videogame developer Bungie Inc., the studio that created the Halo and Destiny franchises, in a deal valued at $3.6 billion.
Bungie is known as the original creator of Halo and Destiny, popular first-person shooter franchises. Today Halo is owned by Sony rival Microsoft Corp. and the series is available through Microsoft’s Xbox system and not Sony’s PlayStation. With the deal for Bungie, Sony would gain control of Destiny, which is already on both PlayStation and Xbox.
Sony’s announcement comes after Microsoft said in mid-January that it is buying videogame company Activision Blizzard Inc. in an all-cash deal valued at roughly $75 billion.
The recent deal activity gives big console makers additional ways to compete against each other by acquiring content they could offer exclusively to their customers at launch, through subscription services or other means.
Microsoft stands to gain one of the most popular shooter franchises, Activision’s Call of Duty, once those companies merge. A Call of Duty title has been the best- or second-best-selling game in the U.S. every year since 2010, according to market-research firm NPD Group.
Sony’s and Microsoft’s planned acquisitions, which are pending regulatory approval, would give the console makers additional ways to compete against each other by adding more content to their portfolios that they could offer exclusively to customers.
"Sony and Microsoft have been in a multiyear arms race of sorts for talent and developers," said Jefferies analyst Andrew Uerkwitz. "Being at a critical juncture in the console cycle and on the cusp of bigger subscription services, first-party titles have never been more important."
After the deal closes, Bungie will be an independent subsidiary of Sony Interactive Entertainment and will continue to be run by its board chaired by Chief Executive Pete Parsons and Bungie’s current management team, Sony said.
"Bungie has created and continues to evolve some of the world’s most beloved videogame franchises and, by aligning its values with people’s desire to share gameplay experiences, they bring together millions of people around the world," said Sony Group Chairman and Chief Executive Kenichiro Yoshida.
Parsons said in a separate release that the deal will help grow Bungie while preserving the studio’s creative independence.
"Today, Bungie begins our journey to become a global multi-media entertainment company," he said.
In 2000, Microsoft acquired Bungie to develop games for its then-forthcoming Xbox console. The studio found success in the early 2000s before it was split off from Microsoft in 2007. Microsoft’s Xbox Game Studios has continued to produce new Halo games since then and the company owns the intellectual property behind the franchise.
In 2010 the Bellevue, Wash.-based Bungie signed an exclusive 10-year publishing deal for its Destiny franchise with Activision. The tie-up ended a year early in 2019, with Activision saying the shooter series didn’t meet its financial expectations.
Sony said Monday the Bungie team will remain focused on the long-term development of "Destiny 2" and work on expanding the Destiny universe and creating new properties.
Analysts at Cowen estimate that Bungie generates annual revenue from Destiny in the mid-$100 millions range. While Destiny’s "trajectory has been bumpy at times, it is still one of the most popular franchises in gaming," the firm says in a note to investors.
In addition to Sony’s deal for Bungie and Microsoft’s deal for Activision, Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. said in January that it had agreed to acquire mobile game maker Zynga Inc. for $11 billion. The activity comes after mergers-and-acquisitions deals within the game industry at large nearly tripled to $26.2 billion in 2021 from $8.9 billion in 2020, according to data from PitchBook.
Last year global consumer spending on game software rose 1.4% to about $180.3 billion, according to industry tracker Newzoo BV. In 2020, such spending jumped about 23% from the previous year, as the pandemic’s social-distancing restrictions prompted people to turn to online entertainment, the analytics firm said.