never say never.
Bungie has just announced that they've "reached an unprecedented and exciting agreement" that they'll "branch off" from the Microsoft Game Studios mothership and become Bungie, LLC, an independent company, starting ... today (well, technically October 1, but effective immediately)! Worried about Halo going to another, less competent developer? No need, the studio will retain a long-term publishing agreement with Microsoft Game Studios for Halo titles. Other titles? All they're saying is that they "will continue to develop with [their] primary focus on Microsoft's platforms." With Microsoft holding a minority equity interest in the company, that's not surprising.
Unsurprisingly, Microsoft is also retaining ownership of the Halo property (MGS chief Shane Kim calls it "our Halo entertainment property") as well as reserving first crack at publishing any Bungie-developed IP. We're left wondering if Marathon counts as a Halo property or a Bungie property ...
What are the immediate repercussions of this division? According to Bungie, "Practically speaking, nothing has changed and you guys won't see much, if any difference, for a while ...." We hope it means that somehow they'll be able to bring the same level of skill to a project besides Halo.
Read - Bungie Studios Becomes Privately Held Independent Company (Bungie press release)
Read - Microsoft and Bungie Studios to Evolve Relationship (MS press release)
[Update: GameDaily spoke with Bungie's Frank O'Connor about the "evolution" which, he says, has been in the planning stages for "about a year." He confirms they're not through with Halo yet; they're still working on the Peter Jackson project and DLC for Halo 3. As for Marathon, despite its close ties to the Halo universe, Bungie retains the rights to that property, while MS owns Halo and Take-Two owns Myth and Oni.]