After a week of rampant speculation, Microsoft has officially announced that Halo developer Bungie has embarked "on a path to become an independent company" but will continue its Microsoft Game Studios publishing agreement for Halo and other properties.
Microsoft Game Studios president Shane Kim said that Microsoft would support Bungie's "desire to return to its independent roots," but made clear that the move didn't mean an end to the Halo franchise.
"We will continue to invest in our Halo entertainment property with Bungie and other partners, such as Peter Jackson," said Kim, "on a new interactive series set in the Halo universe. We look forward to great success with Bungie as our long-term relationship continues to evolve through Halo-related titles and new IP created by Bungie."
In its latest news post, Bungie said that while the changes are significant for the company, the difference won't be so apparent to the consumer.
"Bungie has long been built on creativity, originality and the freedom to pursue ideas," reads the post. "Microsoft agreed, and rather than stifle our imagination, they decided it was in both our best interests to unleash it. We'll continue to make Xbox 360 games, and we'll continue to make amazing games for MGS. In that regard, nothing has changed."
"All that has changed is that now Bungie Studios is once again, the property of the folks of Bungie Studios," the post continues. "Microsoft is and will continue to be, a brilliant, inventive and creatively collaborative publishing partner. Practically speaking, nothing has changed and you guys won't see much, if any difference, for a while."
Bungie studio head Harold Ryan called the new independence an "exciting evolution of our relationship with Microsoft," adding that it would "enable us to expand both creatively and organizationally in our mission to create world-class games."
Ryan concluded, "We will continue to develop with our primary focus on Microsoft platforms; we greatly value our mutually prosperous relationship with our publisher, Microsoft Game Studios; and we look forward to continuing that affiliation through Halo and beyond."