Today, as many of you are probably aware, the gaming industry was rocked by the announcement of an "alliance" between Activision and Bungie. Under the agreement, Activision gains the exclusive publishing rights to Bungie developed games for the next ten years. According to the statement, the deal will allow Activision to "distribute all future Bungie games based on the new intellectual property on multiple platforms and devices." The makers of Halo have been closely associated with Microsoft and Xbox since 2000, so the implications of this deal are huge - such as Bungie games coming to PlayStation 3, Microsoft closing one of its staple developers, and Activision's position in light of this.
Before getting too far into console war territory, lets first clarify that the announcement of multi-platform Bungie development doesn't hurt Xbox gamers in any way, who will still be getting the new IP. PlayStation players will get the chance to experience Bungie developed games on their console. Expanding to a boarder audience is good for all gamers. However, things are slightly different on the corporate side. For Microsoft this deal diminishes their ability to use Bungie games as system sellers, conversely, Sony's marketing benefits from the expanded software library.
While the announcement doesn't specifically confirm Bungie's new IP is headed to PS3 it's all about guaranteed after signing with Activision - a publisher that doesn't believe in exclusivity. Sony has also gone out of their way to promote Bungie's next project. Patrick Seybold, Director of Corporate Communications at SCEA, congratulated Bungie and welcomed them to the family. "Marrying their creative minds and incredible talent to the power of PS3 will be like giving PS3 fans Halo on steroids," he said gleefully. The deal will benefit Sony greatly by adding a top tier developer to their platform free of charge. I'm sure they'll be quick to send Bungie development kits.
On the other end of the spectrum, Microsoft stands to lose some ground from this alliance. As mentioned previously, the lose of Bungie's exclusivity hurts their chances of selling systems based on their first-party software offering. However, Bungie fans are Xbox 360 consumers so they're next project is likely to sell through at a much higher rate on Xbox, only time will tell.
As for Activision, the publisher has been on a whirl wind tour of gaming headlines recently. First, the firing of the Infinity Ward leadership and subsequent implosion of the studio. Next, after pushing one developer away, they make headlines again by pulling another huge developer into their fold. This alliance definitely strengthens Activision's position atop the publishing hierarchy, and saves the company some face. However, it doesn't absolve them from past dealings. Activision's Chief Operating Officer, Thomas Tippl, saying, "this alliance underscores our long-standing commitment to foster the industry's best creative talent," still rings hallow based on their record.
Ultimately, what does this alliance mean for gamers? Well, everyone will be able to reap the benefits of Bungie, a high quality studio, taking a break from Halo and trying something different - there's no down side to that. From an industry perspective, Activision comes up a huge winner securing a cash cow for ten years, and Sony wins by having a triple A franchise land in their lap. Microsoft lose in the sense that they are less able to sell systems based on Bungie's products, but it's not a substantial lose. It will be very interesting to finally see what Bungie comes up with post Halo.