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Destiny: What we know now vs details in the Activision-Bungie contract

Xav de Matos, @Xav

As part of the litigation between Activision and former Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella, the publishing giant was forced to reveal terms of its publishing agreement with Bungie to launch its new franchise, Destiny.

While it's possible the contract has since been altered from its original signing date of April 16, 2010 – considering elements such as the industry's further knowledge of the next generation of consoles – we wonder how closely it resembles what Bungie and Activision have finally revealed to the public.

Using information received during our recent meeting at Bungie's Washington headquarters, we compare what we now know about Destiny and what the 2010 contract promises.

Examining the 'Destiny' contract between Bungie and Activision
Although the contract mentions multiple titles and downloadable-content expansions to be released during the 10-year contract between Bungie and Activision, neither company was willing to discuss the future of the Destiny franchise.

Comparing each planet in the game to a book on a shelf, Bungie says that playing through these areas will have their own stories to tell. Completing each area is much like finishing a book of your own adventures. New adventures and territories (or books, if you will) could point to additional content releases and completing any overarching story that brings massive change to the galaxy could point to a future game release; however, this is only speculation.

With a 10-year deal in place and Activision's nature of publishing multiple games in its universes, it seems unlikely Destiny would be housed in a single retail product.

Examining the 'Destiny' contract between Bungie and Activision
During the Destiny reveal event, Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg stated that the publisher's 2013 guidance does not include any releases from the Bungie contract.

Activision-Blizzard's guidance for the year ending December 31, 2013 [PDF], shows an outlook of Net Revenues (GAAP) of $4.08 billion. The 2012 outlook called for net revenues (GAAP) of $4.5 billion [PDF]. These numbers suggest we won't see a Bungie game in 2013, since Activision would include revenue from the launch in its guidance.

Examining the 'Destiny' contract between Bungie and Activision
During the event, both Activision and Bungie noted they wanted to bring Destiny to as many platforms as they could.

Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg sidestepped questions about the next generation of consoles, stating that Destiny is scheduled to arrive only on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. With rumors of the next generation of consoles coming to market this fall, it seems unlikely Activision would not capitalize on bringing the game to new platforms.

Hirshberg further ignored questions about platform exclusivity; however, the original contract notes that the first game in the series will be a timed exclusive for Microsoft platforms.

Examining the 'Destiny' contract between Bungie and Activision
The commencement of the agreement between Activision and Bungie is listed as April 16, 2010, in the original contract; however, Destiny was in development prior to the agreement.

At the event, Bungie Audio Director Marty O'Donnell stated that the first music he composed for Destiny was sometime in 2009. Bungie also teased Destiny in Halo 3: ODST, a spin-off title in the Halo universe that hit stores on September 22, 2009.

In the 2007 split between Bungie and Microsoft, documents revealed that Microsoft reserved first crack at publishing Bungie's next title.

According to Bungie at the Destiny reveal event, developing the technology to allow the persistent-world shooter's online features to function was pricey.

The original 2007 split agreement also specified Bungie would retain a long-term publishing agreement with Microsoft for more Halo titles. Though Bungie released two additional games after the split – Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach – the Halo franchise has since been handed to Microsoft's internal 343 Industries.

Examining the 'Destiny' contract between Bungie and Activision
When asked about the ownership of technologies developed for the purpose of bringing Destiny to market, including the proprietary network code and graphical engines, Eric Hirshberg told me that other studios within Activision will not utilize those tools for other products.

"Bungie creates technology for their projects, just like other companies create the tech they need to make their own experiences," he said. Bungie President Harold Ryan further confirmed this to me, explaining the engines used to develop Destiny are owned by Bungie.

Bungie also retains rights to Destiny; however, Activision owns publishing rights to the game on all platforms for the duration of the 10-year contract.

Examining the 'Destiny' contract between Bungie and Activision
With a game so heavily focused on online play – in fact, requiring an always-on connection to play the game at all – there will be substantial data to mine from players. As part of the original contract, Bungie agrees to share all of the data it captures with Activision. With this data, Activision can decide release timing of future content and subsequent launches.

Activision and Bungie would not go into detail as to how the companies plan to use data.

Examining the 'Destiny' contract between Bungie and Activision
Bungie and Activision are dedicated to Destiny for the next decade, unless the agreement is broken for a number of possible reasons from the publisher side. After the term is up, Bungie is under no obligation to develop more titles in the franchise.

Bungie is no stranger to keeping its team dedicated to one series for an extended period of time. When Bungie first joined Microsoft on June 22, 2000, the team was well on its way to developing Halo, which would become a launch title for the Xbox. Halo was first revealed during 1999's MacWorld. Though Bungie became independent in 2007, it continued to work on the Halo franchise until it handed over control of Halo: Reach to 343 Industries on March 31, 2012.

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