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As I continue to investigate this past week at Bungie, and the circumstances that led up to mass layoffs and reported delays , I’ve learned new information to paint a clearer picture. After a lengthy conversation with someone with inside knowledge of the situation, there’s new info about how the layoffs happened, staff reaction since then and the state of Destiny 2 and The Final Shape.
Here’s additional context to everything that’s happened this week, and what’s potentially ahead, though of course there are no guarantees with everything in flux now.
- Management said other levers were looked at to avoid layoffs. When employees asked if one lever was executive compensation, they were told no, and that it would not happen at the company. ( Update : Post-publication, Bungie responded saying that CEO Pete Parsons and some other executives previously forfeited annual bonuses before the layoffs. But staff was not informed this happened until yesterday. The sum total of the bonuses given up is not clear).
- Internally, really no one is blaming Sony for this, even management. Some employees were told that if the Sony buyout did not happen, that with current Destiny 2 performance the studio itself would have been in jeopardy if they were still independent.
- Cannot be fully confirmed among every employee but at least to some, D2 director Joe Blackburn is not really considered to be one of the corporate culprits here for how things went down.
- The expensive new building was a separate project that likely would not have saved jobs given the context of when that was drafted and when work started. Similarly, the $1.2 billion in employee retention from Sony was spent long ago, often on buying out employees’ Bungie shares which then went to Sony. There’s nothing left in that pot to avoid layoffs, which wasn’t what it was meant for this late in the transition.
- The trendline of spending on the game over time made the current year’s revenue estimates somewhat logical, so yes, the 45% miss is important, and was not necessarily some wildly inflated projection, however nearsighted it ended up being. There has been a real, damaging drop post-Lightfall in terms of player engagement/spending. And Lightfall sold very well.
- Employees are extremely angry with leadership now, and have often communicated that publicly in meetings. Bets were made that did not pay off, but those who made them remain in the company, a fact lost on no one.
The Final Shape:
- The Final Shape delay was known by some a couple months ago. But it is happening late enough where there cannot be a 30th Anniversary size drop to split the season, as that took around eight months to build. There will be something in the season 23 gap, though no specifics.
- They want The Final Shape not just to be as good as Forsaken or The Taken King but better. Hence the “good not great” feedback that will be polished during a delay. It needs to be the best , and it’s viewed as the key to turning things around.
- The Final Shape campaign and features are reportedly quite solid even in its current state, ahead of planned future work. But they want to go even further, and there is some concern about crunch to make that happen, even with a delay.
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- Part of the new PvP Strike team was impacted by layoffs, but significant progress has been made on the map pack already and it should not be cancelled. ( Update : Have heard player security teams were hit heavily as well)
- No significant changes have been announced to staff for the longer term future of Destiny 2 plans because of these layoffs and the delay yet. No known plans to reduce support for D2 below old, already planned levels. No new info about the long, long term or something like Destiny 3 (which I did not get the sense was really on the radar).
- In-game LFG has been tremendously difficult from a tech perspective and reportedly was announced to the community before the devs themselves. It is far more complicated than players will understand even if it seems like it’s an obvious thing the game should have. It’ll launch, but it’s been a tough road.
- There have been many meetings about microtransactions where many devs wanted to reduce them, but they were always given the reply that they are necessary given how expensive Destiny is to operate. And complaints about new ones don’t always reflect reality. Event Cards may seem lame but they sell well, for instance. Or you’d be surprised how many people are still buying the oldest expansions that we always say should be free by now.
- The ultimate goal is very much for Bungie to be a multi-IP studio with multiple games and revenue streams. But even if Marathon is a success there are likely not plans for some huge mass migration from the Destiny team to the Marathon team, abandoning the franchise.
Again, this all seems very self-contained within Bungie and at least in this conversation, Sony and its own goals/live service plans rarely came up at all. Though I don’t know what’s happening at the highest levels at this point.
The general mood of most remaining at Bungie is one of anger, sadness and fear. Anger over how the layoffs were handled, sadness over who departed, fear that there may be more layoffs to come and essentially no one feels safe. However, there is a lot of faith there is some genuinely cool stuff coming with The Final Shape that hopefully players will love.
Everything seems to point toward The Final Shape being a (sigh) make or break moment for Destiny. But yes, it really may be that this time. I didn’t hear anything new about what may be past the Episodes which will still make it out, but the playerbase and revenue has to recover, and new IPs like Marathon will have to deliver.
It’s an extraordinarily tough time, for those that lost their jobs, clearly, but also for those who remain. Some in the studio believe players actively want them to fail at times with all the negativity, but I don’t believe that’s true. If the game delivers, it will recover, but the current situation is going to make the road ahead extremely difficult if the goal is to reverse player retention and spending losses. To me, it feels like pinning everything on The Final Shape is too many eggs in one basket, but we’ll see. I have reached out to Bungie for comment, and will update if I hear back.
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