Can the games industry please stop with the acquisitions for one second, please, cheers
Hi, nice to meet you. Can I get you anything? A drink, a bite to eat, an acquisition maybe? There are apparently a lot of them to go around, after all. Hear that? It’s Sony buying Bungie. It’s Microsoft buying Activision Blizzard. It’s Tencent accidentally dropping £365 billion down a grate as they stroll down the street and unknowingly buy the Earth’s crust. They were on the phone to me at the time, putting an offer on my flat. I am tired of these big companies buying everything. Can we just slow down for a hot second and chill out a bit, please?
If you hadn’t heard, Sony are buying Destiny devs Bungie for $3.6 billion. President and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment Jim Ryan said that Bungie will “stay an independent and multi-platform studio and publisher”. Give it up for Sony everyone! That’s positive… right?
“[Bungie] will operate autonomously within the Sony Interactive Entertainment organisation, and they will continue to publish on other platforms. We get the importance of this. We have grown studios organically, but we’ve also made a number of acquisitions over the years. Whether it is Naughty Dog, Guerrilla Games, Suckerpunch Productions and most recently Insomniac. We understand how important it is to give these great organisations the space and independence, whilst bolstering that with great support when and where that’s needed,” Ryan said in an interview with our sister site GI.Biz.
Initially, it doesn’t seem so bad. Sony buying Bungie may seem less icky than Microsoft’s mega-merge because of nice words like “autonomy” and “independence”. Instead, they have a “shared vision” with Bungie and that’s all there is to it. Cut to Sony lovingly placing binoculars in front of Bungie’s eyes and carefully steering them towards a pack of crows picking at the remains of Japan Studio. Sony’s oldest first-party studio was responsible for some of their strangest, most ambitious games: Parappa The Rapper, Patapon, Loco Roco… Knack. And yet, poof. Japan Studio underwent a sudden restructure in February last year. While I doubt anything like this would happen to Bungie in the immediate future, I just hope they don’t fall into a similar situation further down the line. If Japan Studio’s demise teaches us anything, it’s that Sony are more than capable of dismantling cool, creative things that don’t fit their plans for the future.
Truth be told, a lot of my thoughts about the buyout echo Alice Bee’s reaction to the Microsoft mega-merge. Bungie had autonomy before, and for all the talk about them remaining independent and such like, I’d imagine they’ll still have less of it in the end. I mean, just look at Worms developer and indie games publisher Team17, who recently announced “environmentally friendly” Worms NFTs. According to Eurogamer, many teams within Team17 either had no idea this was happening, or had argued against it, only for it to happen anyway. Some indie developers have already distanced themselves from the situation, too. That’s not to say that Bungie will suddenly get into crypto and the dreaded blockchain, of course, but they’re under the Sony umbrella now. The corpos in their glass kingdoms call the shots, some of which may come as a nasty surprise.
Indeed, while the buyout won’t affect Destiny 2’s current release schedule – at least until 2024, according to one of Bungie’s FAQ – there’s no telling what’s going to happen after that. What happens once 2024 ticks into 2025? Will Destiny 2’s future expansions become PlayStation exclusives? In truth, that’s probably more of a concern for Xbox players than it is for us on PC. If anything, Sony’s been making bigger and bigger moves into PC lately, what with the likes of God Of War’s excellent PC port, and there’s more to come, too, with Uncharted: Legacy Of Thieves Collection later in the year, and Katharine’s favourite Death Stranding: Director’s Cut at the end of March. Although, if Sony do eventually pull Destiny’s PC plug, I will personally hunt Xur down and tell him to stick his legendary gear where the sun don’t shine.
Personally, the most surprising thing to me is that Sony are still hungry to acquire more studios. In fact, they are starving. “We are by no means done”, says Ryan, “we have many more moves to make”. Goodness, Sony, you already bought five games studios in 2021 alone (with another one pending), how can you still need more of them? I wonder who’s next? Or rather, who’s left? Under the guise of autonomy and shared passions, big publishers and platform holders like Sony make it seem like expansion is a good thing. They acquire, so we, the players, may profit. But really, corporate takeovers mean one thing. A gradual lessening of liberties in favour of the moola, the dollar, the dinero. So I say again, can we please just hold the phone for one second and let everyone catch their breath a bit? At this rate, we’ll get to the end of 2022 and there will only be five big companies left in the entire industry. And we don’t want that. We, the players, deserve better.