Another week, another massive and completely unexpected acquisition in the video game industry. Just recently, it was Microsoft trying to buy Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion, a bid that’s likely to experience regulator scrutiny in the next year, and now, it’s Sony buying Destiny developer Bungie for $3.6 billion. In both cases, that’s a lot of billions.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/bvnd9v/sony-paid-billions-for-bungie-and-destiny-but-what-are-they-buying
I’m really curious about the culture of work and working conditions underp Bungie following this acquisition. Rebekah’s reporting over at IGN very much seemed like their leadership had been hammered by complaints from a team who had years of shipped products and “Bungie” on their resumes, so they were scrambling to find concessions that wouldn’t impact their control over the workplace.
Sony has obviously overseen manifold abuses by the hands of Naughty Dog’s culture and leadership, but I have no idea what Sony’s own reputation is. As a tech support agent, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Microsoft, but have no insight into Sony’s approach and how/if that differs depending on which regional arm of Sony you fall under.
As someone who has worked in a few acquired companies acting as overseas outposts for a multinational, they tend to be run like their own private fiefdoms. To entice the original leadership to stay on - besides all the retention clauses and share options - there’s an implicit promise that they will get their way more often than before, because the restraints of capital have now been removed.
This just a roundabout way of saying is that I don’t expect any of these acquisitions to improve behaviours, in many ways, I think it’ll exacerbate them as they provide extra cushioning from the fallout of key people leaving.
I don’t quite know what to think of this whole situation yet. As someone who has played a ton of D2 in the last few years, especially during the pandemic, it’s been amazing to see what the teams at Bungie have been able to turn out despite the world turning upside down and the deep running issues that were recently revealed within the studio.
I really don’t expect the Destiny to change in the short term, and this could very well open up opportunities to make Bungie’s games better in the future with a pool of less risk averse capital coming consistently from a company like Sony.
The big elephant in the room then is what that workplace will be like after the acquisition. I still think the only way to create significant change for workers in games is to collectively organize on a wide scale. As the industry continues to consolidate, it makes the likelihood of that happening less and less likely. In that way, every deal like this should probably be looked at by developers and players as a negative for the industry as a whole.