Marty O'Donnell admits Bungie's Destiny deal with Activision was "bad from the start" - Dexerto

Former Destiny dev admits Activision deal was “bad from the start”

Published: 7/Jul/2020 8:50

by Brad Norton


Activision assumed control over the Destiny franchise for almost five years until their split from Bungie in 2019. Now former franchise dev and composer Martin O’Donnell has just revealed how troubling the initial deal truly was.

Initially pitched as an evolving multiplayer project spanning a full decade, Bungie’s follow up to the Halo series was its most ambitious undertaking yet. After shopping the idea around to big-name publishers, the developers eventually settled with Activision. In January 2019 this relationship came crashing down as Bungie assumed full rights to the Intellectual Property (IP).

O’Donnell, an iconic gaming composer that just so happened to work on the first iteration of Destiny, has now shared his explosive take on the deal. Even outlining how developers at Bungie “knew it was a risk right from the get-go.” 

In a July 6 interview with popular Halo YouTuber ‘HiddenXperia,’ O’Donnell vented his frustrations with the agreement, and offered his first thoughts on the matter since his messy firing from Bungie in 2014.

Destiny promotional artwork
Destiny released in September 2014 but has since seen radical changes to its original form.

Initially close to signing a new deal with Microsoft, O’Donnell explained why Bungie turned it down. The corporation owns the Halo IP. Despite Bungie developing games in the franchise all throughout the 2000s, it was Microsoft’s franchise through and through. They wanted to take Destiny in a different direction and maintain control of the property.

“The reason we went with Activision, as part of the contract, they didn’t own the IP,” he explained. “Microsoft owns the Halo IP. We wanted to make sure that whoever we worked with next would not own the IP.”

While many offers were on the table following the success of the Halo franchise, they signed with Activision to keep Destiny as their own. Unfortunately, this didn’t quite pan out as many of the higher-ups at Bungie had envisioned.

Destiny Ghost intro mission
Bungie even replaced Peter Dinklage as the voice of your Ghost companion soon after release.

“It was bad from the start,” O’Donnell explained. Activision didn’t have “the legal right to mess with the IP.” The only way to keep that rule enforced was for all of the leaders at Bungie to agree and outright say that “you can’t mess with the IP.” Ultimately, there was a difference of opinion, and “that’s not what happened.” Certain Bungie developers sided with Activision on the direction of Destiny while others did not. That’s why they fired me,” he said.

“That was probably my biggest disappointment. We worked for a decade to make sure we could be in a position where we could stand up to the publisher and say, no, we own the IP, you can’t mess with it. And I was overruled and eventually let go.”

The topic begins at the 1:38:30 mark for mobile readers

It’s no secret that development on Destiny was extremely scattered before release. Iterations of the game were scrapped and much of the story was altered last minute. Most simply ended up on Grimoire cards instead.

There’s no telling how much of this was down to the clash between Bungie and Activision, though it certainly seems to have been the main factor behind Destiny’s sloppy launch.

Reflecting on the end of the relationship in 2019, O’Donnell thought to himself that it was “about time.” Much of his work on the Destiny soundtrack alongside Beatles member Paul McCartney was kept under wraps by Activision. Though you can listen to their efforts on Music of the Spheres thanks to recent leaks.


How Bungie is taking Destiny 2 back to the very beginning in Beyond Light

Published: 29/Oct/2020 5:11 Updated: 29/Oct/2020 5:20

by Isaac McIntyre


Bungie is taking a bold step in Destiny 2 expansion, Beyond Light ⁠— when Year 4 of the long-running space fantasy series finally begins, the devs are aiming to bring the “feeling of Destiny 1” back, all while keeping the franchise fresh.

Destiny is one of gaming’s longest-running modern franchises. The original title launched in 2014, before an Activision-backed sequel dropped in 2017. Bungie’s series has had a rugged run, however, with plenty of missteps along the way.

According to the fanbase ⁠— and, in parts, Bungie developers too ⁠— the biggest misstep came in the sequel switchover. Destiny 2 had too many cooks in the kitchen, and that led the series off the beaten track that had sold the franchise to millions in the first place.

That’s a mistake Bungie wants to fix in Destiny 2’s new expansion, Beyond Light.

Beyond Light, releasing on Nov.10 after delays, should go some distance to right the wrongs Destiny made back in 2017, director Luke Smith has promised: “We’re trying to get back a little bit of that feeling of Destiny 1, but in an updated way.”

New Destiny 2 enemy absorbs power in Beyond Light.
Beyond Light is set to take Destiny into a “new era,” Bungie has promised.

The way they’re doing that? Well, they want to give players “more freedom” in creating their characters, as well as designing their abilities, guns, and Destiny builds.

“What we’re trying to do with Stasis [the new element coming in Beyond Light] and wielding the Darkness is to show you, as a player, more freedom,” Smith explained while speaking to EDGE magazine about Destiny’s fourth year.

“There’s also a meta-statement that we’re making about the difference in power between light and dark, but there’s this other part, which is the fantasy of ‘This is my Guardian, there are many like it, but this one is mine’.

“I think we’re trying to get back to the feeling of Destiny 1… but we want to stick with how we think about the game now, and keep those systems that we’re using today in Destiny 2.”

Destiny 2 Fallen uses new Stasis element in Beyond Light.
The Darkness is granting Guardians a brand new elemental power in Destiny 2: Beyond Light.

Then there are the stories Bungie is finally digging up. The next season, confirmed as “Season of the Hunt” will reportedly bring Uldren Sov back into the narrative nearly two years after his shock Guardian resurrection back in 2018.

Destiny will put him by your side in Beyond Light, where players will be tracking down Oryx’s sister, Xivu Arath. The 24-month wait to see where his story goes has been pretty long so far, and that’s finally getting chopped down in Year 4.

And lastly, there’s the new Year 4 leaks uncovered the other day; leaked PlayStation 4 artwork has seemingly confirmed the old Destiny Tower might even be back in Beyond Light ⁠— just another way to get that “Destiny 1 feeling” back.

Even the old Destiny tower, destroyed in the Red War, could be back in Beyond Light.
Even the old Destiny tower, destroyed in the Red War, could be back in Beyond Light.

All in all, it’s an exciting time to be a long-term veteran of the franchise, or a newcomer. Year 4 expansion is set to turn Destiny 2 on its head all over again, if Bungie’s promises hold true, and act as a soft reset for the popular series.

Beyond Light is set to drop on Tuesday, Nov. 10. The new expansion will kick-start “Season of the Hunt” and Year 4. Stick with Dexerto for all Destiny news.