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Activision's contract with Bungie revealed
Activision's contract with Bungie revealed
May 21, 2012 | By Tom Curtis

May 21, 2012 | By Tom Curtis
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    8 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



As Activision's case against the ex-Infinity Ward heads continues to move forward, a number of once-secret documents have been made public -- including the contract between Activision and ex-Halo studio Bungie.

The two companies first announced a 10-year publishing agreement in 2010, but this newly-revealed contract -- available via the LA Times website -- reveals that Bungie has agreed to develop four "massively-multiplayer-style...sci-fantasy, action shooter games." The first title is due to launch in fall 2013, with subsequent releases following every other year.

In between these major retail releases, Bungie is also contracted to develop four "expansions" that coincide with each game.

For now, this upcoming series is codenamed "Destiny," and the contract notes that the first title will be developed initially for Microsoft's Xbox 360, as well as its yet-unnamed successor (referred to in the documents as the "Xbox 720").

The contract also notes that the first "Destiny" game could also come to PlayStation 3, assuming it is financially and technically feasible to port it over. Future games would be made for the Xbox 360, that console's successor, the PlayStation 3's successor, and the PC.

While it may have been amended since it was initially put into effect, the contract also notes that Bungie would be entitled to $2.5 million in bonuses per year if it meets its budget and quality milestones. The developer would receive an additional $2.5 million if the first "Destiny" game receives a score of 90 or higher on the review aggregate site GameRankings.com.

Meanwhile, Activision has the option to terminate the deal altogether under a number of difference circumstances. For instance, the publisher can void the contract without penalty if the first "Destiny" game does not sell 5 million units in its first six months, or it can walk away at any point after the second expansion pack releases.

In addition, the contract reveals that Bungie is working on another project codenamed "Marathon," harkening back to one of the studio's previous shooter franchises. While Bungie is under contract with Activision, it can dedicate no more than 5 percent of its staff to this "action-shooter" prototype.

The LA Times reports that with this contract out in the open, former Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella, who were fired from Activision in 2010, hope to compare their deal with Activision to Bungie's to prove that they are entitled to further compensation.

Last week, more covert details emerged through the case, as Activision's former director of IT testified that the company used questionable tactics to "dig up dirt" and justify firing West and Zampella. The trial for that case is currently scheduled for May 29.


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Comments


Rob Wright
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I'm sorry, I must have read this wrong....did it say 4 MMOs? Surely they can't be serious, especially given what's going on with The Old Republic and 38 Studios.

Andrew Chen
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Rob, they say "massively multiplayer" but this can be construed as an online shooter...which, following recent glorious traditions, is likely EXACTLY what the games will be.

Thanks for the laugh below, BTW!

Timothy Barton
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I don't understand why Bungie would agree to so many strong dictations as to their directions. Not only an extremely aggressive release schedule (expected for Activision, who follows the "Madden Model" in all their games), but many opt-outs and edicts decreeing what percentage of workers can work on what. Being able to drop Bungie for not selling 5 million units in 6 months (itself an impressive feat) is crazy too. I thought that Bungie would be the developer that would be in hot demand, so I am impressed they agreed to this sort of contract.

Rob Wright
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Agreed. Also, I'm baffled about the GameRankings score bonus. Why would a developer as prestigious and successful as Bungie agree to something like this? You're basically depending on "game reviews" -- and I use that term lightly -- written by 1) unprofessional fanboy bloggers, 2) large outlets with highly dubious ethics, and 3) biased reviewers who dock points because they didn't get pre-release code or dish out points because they got to drink Cristal with the developers at an their E3 party. It's ridiculous.

I mean, seriously -- does ANYONE care about some of these "game review sites" on GameRankings? Do you really put any stock in what CheatHappens or AusGamers think of Diablo III? Are develops really going to allow sites like Quarter To Three -- whose top article today is titled "In Defense of Tentacle Rape," I sh*t you not -- dictate how much money they earn? When will this madness stop?

Andrew Chen
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Yeah, thanks Respawn and the courts for gifting this fascinating info...
Bungie themselves negotiated these terms, so I take it their leaders worked with their teams to develop a clear roadmap of the company's next 5-10 years THEN took this plan and their terms and shopped it around to different big publishers. You could probably bet they would elicit interest from a number of big names.
Seeing how Destiny is given 3+ years of development time, perhaps we can posit that a good chunk of this time is spent developing their in-house engine that they believe will bear fruit for all the games and expansions in this 10-year pipeline.

I think we could also consider that essentially Bungie has secured 5 years of guaranteed funding. Destiny's 5 million sales target is risky though, and if anything reflects GRANDE(Venti?)-sized CAJONES on Bungie's part: they are VERY confident they will deliver something ridiculously awesome, so YAY for gamers I guess.
After that, Activision's next out comes following the second expansion...the timeline would put that at 2016 (Bungie's second game is due in 2015).

Chris Lewin
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This seems like a terrible deal for Bungie, to be honest. Especially since they made the same deal with MS a decade ago and were chained to the Halo treadmill for years as a result.

I just feel they could have gotten a much better deal for themselves without having to sign a contract that basically says 'Make us another COD or we're out and you get nothing'.

Andrew Chen
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I think this is reflective of very high standards and self-confidence on Bungie's part!

Uzoma Okeke
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"Meanwhile, Activision has the option to terminate the deal altogether under a number of difference circumstances. For instance, the publisher can void the contract without penalty if the first "Destiny" game does not sell 5 million units in its first six months, or it can walk away at any point after the second expansion pack releases."

High standards, yes. Self-confidence that allows the Publisher to leave whenever but the developer can't opt out? Yeah I'm gonna have to disagree on that part.


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