The game Bungie makes after Halo: Reach will be huge, on multiple platforms — won't be Marathon-related — and is under Bungie's control, the studio's Brian Jarrard told Kotaku today. With Bungie's future clarified, we learned some new details.
Our interview occurred scant hours after Bungie announced that it has signed a 10-year deal with mega-publisher Activision Blizzard (Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, World of Warcraft) to publish Bungie's next game series, across 10 years
But what's the game?
"This is a brand-new action game universe that we'll be working on," Jarrard told us today. "It's definitely not revisiting anything from our past."
And it'll be grand: "With the scale and ambition of what we hope to accomplish with our next universe — how bold we want it to be and how much time we want people to spend in our universe, and the types of stories we want to tell — it is going to take our best and brightest minds of our studio to make this vision a reality. It is going to take everything we have to pull this off."
As for the genre, Jarrard wouldn't bite on a question about whether it will or won't be a first-person shooter, a la Halo, other than to say: "Looking back on our pedigree we'll definitely be building on the strengths that have helped Bungie to get where we are today."
Initial "seed and discussions" for this new Bungie game/series date back a couple of years, Jarrard told us today. The early work has been overseen by top Bungie creator Jason Jones and has involved work from "a lot of the guys that were on the original core Halo Combat Evolved team."
Gamers can think of the game as being in the pre-production stage for now. It's percolating.
The majority of Bungie is still working on 2010's Halo Reach, Jarrard said, and will likely roll onto the new game after Reach is out this fall. The Halo series is owned by Microsoft, which will continue to make games in that world.
Jarrard said we can expect to hear no further details about the Activision Bungie game any time soon. "It's definitely safe to say you're not going to hear anything about it this year. We want to make sure Reach is our focus and it gets the discussion it deserves."
He said Activision and Bungie do have a production plan in place and are moving ahead creatively.
While Activision is a powerful publisher, and while publishers often call the shots about how games are made, Bungie will retain a lot of decision-making power in this new deal. It will own the franchise, retain independence and even have say-so in how much the game costs — which will ideally avoid the grumblings from fans and Bungie last year about the pricing of Halo: ODST, a full-sized price for what many felt to be a slender game.
Earlier reports from Activision that Bungie's first game with the Call of Duty publisher will be on "all platforms" may have oversimplified things. "To be honest we don't have a 100% plan as to when, where and how our new universe will be accessible," Jarrard said. When pressed if that meant that even handhelds and computers were possible for Bungie's game, instead of just the expected Xbox 360s and PlayStation 3s of the world, Jarrard said that "anything we feel has a creative fit to the game experiences as a meaningful experience for fans is on the table.
"It's our creative vision we're going to execute on," Jarrard said. "It's certainly not going to be the case where we're just going to 'Have to put our games on x number of devices.' It's going to be the ones that make the most sense."
Activision and Bungie sealed their deal after about nine months of negotiation just this past week. The deal was announced today, Jarrard said, "because in this industry you can't keep this kind of thing under wraps." He acknowledged that the negative press Activision has received over its legal battles against the ousted creators of Modern Warfare 2 made the timing "not super-ideal." But the parties wanted to get the news out there, and in front of the publicity push for Halo: Reach, which launches early access to its high-profile multiplayer Xbox 360 beta today." Jarrard said he is confident Bungie has a great deal with Activision.
Deals like this lead to speculation about crossovers. One candidate of the Bungie-Activision arrangement would seem to be the online networking of Bungie's next game. Activision, of course, has World of Warcraft, arguably the most successful online games in history. That allows Bungie access to added expertise, Jarrard said, but Bungie will still have control of how its game operates on every level. "We definitely intend to continue to build on our pedigree for community and social engagement and the online aspects of all the games we built and that's certainly a big part of our future as well." Jarrard said he is excited about meddling Bungie's online know-how with Activision's.
He couldn't go into specifics about who would use whose servers or other online issues, but he did say: "There's definitely not going to be a situation where things are happening that we don't want to have happen."
The Activision deal with Bungie may be for a single franchise from Bungie, a studio currently doing light work on that game while working on Halo Reach, but Jarrard made it clear that Bungie does not want to spread itself thin. "We realize we're at our best when we have everyone aligned with one vision working on one great project."
Jarrard said Bungie will support Halo Reach post-release, but it sounds like Bungie's got a new universe to let us play in, with further details coming beyond 2010.