This is surprising, and smells like another precursor to a much-hypothesised industry bubble burst. Phil Spencer also vaguely implied that Microsoft is or will be backing them financially:A surprise announcement out of Activision reveals that it is parting ways with Destiny 2 developer Bungie. The studio will retain control of the shared-world sci-fi shooter going forward.
Tensions between Bungie and Activision have been simmering for awhile, as evidenced late last year when Activision said that Destiny 2: Forsaken wasn't "performing as well" as it it had hoped. Game director Luke Smith responded publicly by saying, "We are not disappointed with Forsaken. We set out to build a game that Destiny players would love, and at Bungie, we love it too."
Fast forward to now, and this statement from Activision: "Today, we’re announcing plans for Bungie to assume full publishing rights and responsibilities for the Destiny franchise. Going forward, Bungie will own and develop the franchise, and Activision will increase its focus on owned IP and other projects.
"Activision and Bungie are committed to a seamless transition for the Destiny franchise and will continue to work closely together during the transition on behalf of the community of Destiny players around the world.”
Bungie issued a statement of its own, thanking Activision for "a successful eight-year run" during their Destiny partnership.
"With Activision, we created something special. To date, Destiny has delivered a combination of over 50 million games and expansions to players all around the world," it said. "More importantly, we’ve also witnessed a remarkable community – tens of millions of Guardians strong – rise up and embrace Destiny, to play together, to make and share memories, and even to do truly great things that reach far beyond the game we share, to deliver a positive impact on people’s everyday lives."
"The planned transition process is already underway in its early stages, with Bungie and Activision both committed to making sure the handoff is as seamless as possible."
Bungie also said that it will continue to move ahead with the planned Destiny 2 development roadmap, and that "exciting announcements about what lies beyond" are also on the way. It also tacitly acknowledged that fans will no longer be able to lay Destiny's various problems, such as yesterday's Niobe Labs fiasco, at Activision's doorstep.
"We know self-publishing won’t be easy; there’s still much for us to learn as we grow as an independent, global studio, but we see unbounded opportunities and potential in Destiny," it wrote. "We know that new adventures await us all on new worlds filled with mystery, adventure, and hope. We hope you’ll join us there."
The news leaves plenty of unanswered questions, including what will now happen to the game's support developers, Vicarious Visions and High Moon Studios, both of whom have worked extensively on Destiny 2, and perhaps even more importantly, what this mean's for the game's position on the Battle.net launcher. For now, at least, it will remain on Battle.net: Blizzard said via its customer support Twitter account that "Destiny 2 will still receive full support on BattleNet and we do not anticipate any disruption to our services or your gameplay experience."
Bungie has confirmed via a longer blog post that "We’ll continue to deliver on the existing Destiny roadmap, and we’re looking forward to releasing more seasonal experiences in the coming months, as well as surprising our community with some exciting announcements about what lies beyond."