Interview: Bungie’s Brian Jarrard
Bungie’s not the first core Microsoft developer to break away from the fold to go multiplatform with Activision. Bizarre Creations made the jump too, but Bungie has taken a step further, retaining its precious independence, its creative control and its ownership of the IP it’s going to spend the next ten years developing with the publisher.
We speak to Bungie community director Brian Jarrard about the deal, what he can reveal of the new game – could it really be some sort of platform-agnostic MMOG? – and what it all means for the next ten years of the Bungie story.
You’ve been working on this deal for nine months – that’s a long time to negotiate. Why did it take so long?
We had to wait until all the pieces were in place. This is a big partnership for them as well. It’s big business – we talked to a lot of partners over the last year or so but only recently, at the end of March, the terms were basically agreed on and just this week our long-form contract was signed and we thought we should go ahead and make this announcement. It’s not something we can keep under wraps for long and frankly we want to make sure we can get back to focusing on Reach and not distract or take away from our upcoming beta and all the things we have planned now and for launch.
Everyone else is asking you this, too, but what was your reaction to the situation at Infinity Ward? Has it affected feeling at the studio about the deal?
You know, there’s two things. One, it doesn’t impact our discussions with Activision or the deal itself. All of it predated the things we’ve been reading about on the web. On top of that we’re confident that we have a tremendous deal that puts Bungie in a great position – we’re still an independent studio and retain control over our IP and to have the creative control and execute our vision for our next game. We couldn’t be more happy in that regard. We’ve got everything we asked for that was important to us. My only moment for pause is the unfortunate timing of the announcement in terms of what the landscape is right now and just the inevitable reaction that will mean from our fan community. It’s to be expected and we’ll just move forward, and we want our fans to know that Bungie’s future is secure, we have a great partnership and we’re going to do what we do best and focus on making a truly incredible game universe for the next decade. I’m pretty confident that once we can start talking about the game it will speak for itself and I don’t ultimately think people will care how the game is brought to them other than they should have the opportunity to experience Bungie’s universe on multiple platforms, which we’ve never been able to do before.
What were the main points of what you wanted to get out of the deal?
The most important things to us are actually articles from our constitution for the studio when we went independent from Microsoft. It’s really at the core of our culture, and one of the number one items was that we own what we create. That goes back to lessons learned and our experiences of working on Halo and the impact that has on creative people who bring something so big to life but don’t have a creative stake in it. So it was very important to us. That might be the most unprecedented part of this whole partnership – you don’t see many situations where developers will get this sort of deal and still have their IP and still be independent and have creative control over what they’re doing. Those are the three biggies for us, but we also wanted to pick a partner who was best in class in terms of marketing expertise, global distribution and certainly bringing our stories and universe to the largest possible audience across a variety of platforms and devices. That was important to us as well. All of those summed up, Activision emerged as the best possible fit, and we couldn’t be more happy with it.
Was it only Activision which was prepared to do a deal like this, in which you remain independent and retain control over your IP? Where there any other viable offers on the table?
We talked to a whole bunch of other great partners and it just boiled down to being that they were the only people who met the terms that we weren’t willing to budge on, and we had tremendous confidence in their ability to make sure that when we commit to a decade’s work, a tremendous undertaking, the most ambitious universe we’ve ever tried to build before, we had to know that it could be brought to market in the best and biggest possible way, and Activision’s track record in managing big entertainment and launches and global reach, it was all very appealing to us. Even beyond that, looking at their experience with multi-platforms and their experience running online businesses, in terms of their experience with large-scale online worlds. Online’s always been a huge, important part of Bungie games and it will be going forward. Just the added bonus of being brothers in arms with Blizzard was also something we felt pretty cool about.
How much potential is there to be working with Blizzard?
Well, you know, I’m not sure, I don’t know yet, it’s probably too early to say. But across all of Activision there’s a lot of different expertise that we don’t necessarily have internally, so we’re definitely looking towards tapping into that and helping educate and inform where we’re heading and how we implement our next game.