We had a chance to talk with Alex Seropian, one of the founders of Bungie, and Ed Fries, VP of Microsoft Games publishing concerning the details of Microsoft’s purchase of Bungie that was announced today. And the answers? A lot of packing boxes, no walls, and scary bubbles.
IGNPC: So you’re making the big move to Redmond, huh?
Alex Seropian: It’s going to work out great, assuming house prices don’t go up significantly. One of the things that we’re most excited about is that we’re going to be working with the people behind the making of the Xbox. Hopefully we’re going to help them out with some of the stuff they’re doing, and they’re going to help us out with some of the stuff we’re doing too.
One of the side effects of this is that we have an office in San Jose, and when they’re done with Oni they’re going to come to Redmond, and that’s going to be sort of this great unification we’ve been dying for, where all of the teams are going to be in the same place.
IGNPC: Other than Oni and Myth, which are being published by Take 2, future franchises will be published by Microsoft, correct?
IGNPC: How is the transition going to effect the development of Halo? Are you expecting any delays as you move offices?
AS: We’re probably going to lose a little bit of time moving out there, but our guys are really focused. They really love what they’re doing. Hopefully we won’t lose more than a couple of weeks.
IGNPC: So what’s going to happen to the Bungie lifestyle in the move?
AS: Right. Smoking jackets and stuff…
I’ve been thinking about that a lot. It’s something that it’s very difficult to put your finger on. There are some obvious manifestations of it, such as how we work in an open environment, while Microsoft works in offices. But we’re going to build our space out to match the way that we currently work. And I think that that’s something unique for Microsoft.
Ed Fries: This is really a new thing. We’re going to try and keep the Bungie guys together, and keep it branded, and really keep it as a studio within my [Microsoft Games] group. It’s really more the direction I want to go, with a collection of studios, rather than one big group.
AS: I know that here at Bungie with the three teams, that’s there’s a lot of friendly competition. It’s motivating. And I think if we can provide some of that — if we can take the FASA guys out, and play paintball with them, and wipe them on the field, and inspire them…
EF: You’re all talk…
IGNPC: From Microsoft’s point of view, this is definitely not the first or last company to become a studio under Microsoft’s new games group.
EF: We’ve grown from around 100 people to about 500 people in the last four years, and so we’ve become one big group separated by genre. And when we acquired Access [makers of the Links series], we kept them in Salt Lake City, so they’re basically a studio now. So I’m just thinking more about instead of breaking it down by genre, having the group arranged by personality, by groups of teams that have a focus, and that create games that bring out that energy.
IGNPC: What effects will the purchase have on Bungie.net?
AS: I’m guessing we’re going to have a lot more bandwidth [laugh]… and we’re going to grow that. We’ve got some projects we’re working on that will be pretty cool on Bungie.net.
IGNPC: Let’s talk about the acquisition process. What was behind the decision to bring Bungie into the company, instead of just publishing their titles in the future under the Microsoft franchise, like you’re doing with Relic?
EF: That’s a complicated question about why that works best some times. In this case, Bungie has three incredibly talented development teams. The opportunity to take them and put them very close to the development for Xbox is great, so that the Xbox team can benefit from working very closely with them, and likewise we can get the benefit from building the console and the games at the same time. It’s that whole opportunity. We’re going to be announcing over the next month all sorts of publishing deals we’re doing with people. But that’s not really the same as having a group that’s right here, that’s working every day across the hall from the people building the Xbox.
IGNPC: What about the Mac focus of Bungie? Is that going to change at all?
AS: We haven’t really thought about that much yet. We care about the Macintosh, and we care about PC gaming, we just have some big decisions to make there. We need to spend some time together and look at what our options are, and what we can do. We’re just not ready to talk about it yet.
IGNPC: What about the management structure? How much control will Bungie still have over what gets worked on in terms of projects, and what doesn’t?
AS: I imagine it’s going to be something similar to how we do it now, which is that we come up with a design treatment for something, and we look at it and evaluate it to where it’s going to be something that’s going to be a good game, and whether it makes business sense. I can tell that those are the criteria that Microsoft uses, and so I think we’re pretty in sync with how we do stuff.
EF: The biggest thing that I try to do is make sure that people aren’t running into each other, that different groups aren’t trying to build the same game. Rather than try to tell them what I think they should do, they’re here because they’re the best at what they do. I just want to give them the resources to do what they do best, which is make great games.
IGNPC: You’re currently working on Halo and Oni — what’s the third team working on?
AS: I can give you a little bit of a scoop… perhaps you’ve heard of a product called Bubblets…
IGNPC: If there’s one game that I think people are looking forward to from the Bungie team with the Halo engine, it’s Bubblets.
EF: Now that Microsoft’s involved, it’s Bubblets all the way.
— Vincent Lopez