Bungie has finally left Microsoft:
Founded in 1991, Bungie was at first a Mac-only game developer. It was snatched up by Microsoft in 2000. Its current release Halo 3 has become the fastest-selling video game ever, grossing over $300 million in its first week.
So why the divorce from Microsoft now?
“Working with Microsoft was great for us, it allowed us to grow as a team and make the ambitious, blockbuster games we all wanted to work on. And they will continue to be a great partner. But Bungie is like a shark. We have to keep moving to survive. We have to continually test ourselves, or we might as well be dolphins. Or manatees,” said Jason Jones, Bungie founder and partner.
This is not a new theme at the world’s largest software company. In 1994 Microsoft bought SOFTIMAGE, one of the most respected 3D/animation software outfits in the world. Only four years later it sold SOFTIMAGE to Avid Technologies for $285 million.
This is how Craig Mundie, then the senior VP of Microsoft’s consumer platform division characterized the sale:
“This deal is a win-win for all involved…Avid gains the benefit of rapid expansion into the 3D market, a video production solution which ideally complements its current offerings, and a stronger alliance with Microsoft. Microsoft gains a strategic ally for continued development on Windows NT and our digital media initiatives.” [Ed. emphasis added]
For Microsoft everything is and has always been about ‘alliance’ and ‘Windows’. The company has a very difficult time absorbing, integrating and maintaining creative teams. In fact, units within Microsoft chartered to have a creative bend are kept as far away from the core Windows blackhole as possible.
Its financially weak but high-visibility game device unit XBox is run practically as a separate company under J Allard. When Microsoft entered the digital music market with its own device, Zune was also placed in the XBox division.
Leaving aside the financial ramifications of the Bungie deal, this is yet another indication of Microsoft’s inability to manage the content side of its creative and entertainment related operations. Its aspirations a decade earlier to become a content/creative player through MSN and various other initiatives also went nowhere.
Now that we know creative sharks can’t survive in Windows-tainted Microsoft waters, will the company give up trying to lure them in?