Part of that deal reportedly has Microsoft retaining rights to the Halo franchise and also having the first shot at publishing future Bungie titles. We could very easily see every (or almost every) employee leaving the studio to start a new company (see: Wideload Studios, Certain Affinity, Giant Bite, Double Aught, etc.), but how much is the Bungie name worth? To Microsoft, probably a lot, but to the employees, would the incredible amount of money required to pay Big Daddy Gates really be worth it? Wouldn't they be better off using that money to build a nice developer environment?
We're still receiving the stock response from Microsoft: "There's been no such announcement. We continue to celebrate the tremendous success of the global phenomenon that is Halo 3." Here's how some other sites have weighed in on the rumor: