The marriage between Bungie and Activision wasn’t the smoothest ride, for a number of reasons that have been well documented. But who could have seen it coming?
As it turns out, former Bungie Composer Marty O’Donnell could have. In 2007, O’Donnell was on the board of directors for Bungie, making him a part of the negotiations with Activision, and he was recently interviewed by YouTuber HiddenXperia on a number of topics related to Bungie in general, including some candid insights about the deal and what went down during its critical stages.
A key part of the deal in 2007 was that Activision wouldn’t own the Destiny IP, something that every other major player that Bungie was talking to wouldn’t agree to — including Microsoft, which had owned the Halo IP rights and the Bungie name (since 2000) and was “given” Halo 3 in exchange for Bungie.
Even so, things didn’t go smoothly. When asked, “What were your thoughts when you heard Bungie were leaving Activision?” O’Donnell responded that it was “about time.” As a member of the board of directors at the time Bungie was acquired by Activision, he accepted “part of the blame,” as the deal turned out to be “exactly as bad as we thought it was going to be.” He related a tale from when he was having dinner with “the head folks at Activision” just before the contract was signed:
“I’m sitting next to this Austrian guy, and he said, ‘Hey Marty, I hear that you have this saying, “be nice to the goose.”‘ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, be nice to the goose,’ and he goes, ‘Well, tell me what that means.’
“And I told him, you know, it’s important to be nice to the goose, because the goose is where the golden egg comes from, and so the goose is the team that made it. Sometimes it’s hard to identify, but if you’re nice to them, you’ll get more golden eggs. But if you’re not nice to them, you won’t get golden eggs.
“And he goes, ‘Yeah, I like that story. Golden eggs, the goose … but sometimes, there’s nothing like a good foie gras.'”
Foie gras is “a specialty food product made of the liver of a duck or goose.” O’Donnell said that he should have “stood up, flipped the table, and told all the other Bungie guys, ‘We have to get away from here, now.'”
How might things have turned out if that had happened? As O’Donnell previously mentioned, no other publisher was willing to give Bungie even the slightest bit of independence, including the rights to the Destiny IP, so maybe things turned out about as well as they could have. Plus, now Bungie is on its own, having survived the Activision storm for a decade, and still doing a good job with Destiny 2. While everything didn’t work out perfectly, it might have been worse.