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Former Destiny composer Marty O'Donnell admits Bungie-Activision deal was "bad from the start"

“We knew it was a risk right from the get-go... it turned out to be exactly as we thought it was going to be."

Marty O’Donnell is a well respected composer within the game community having worked on such monumental soundtracks as Halo and the original Destiny.

It came as quite a shock to the fanbase when Bungie decided to suddenly let O’Donnell go during the early development of Destiny 2 which culminated in a legal battle due to Bungie refusing to pay O’Donnell for his work on Destiny.

O’Donnell would go on to win this legal battle in 2015 but since then has remained fairly tight lipped about the case and his interactions with Activision

In a recent tell-all interview with Youtuber HiddenXperia, O’Donnell finally gave the Destiny community some solid information about Bungie’s relationship with Activision and how the split finally came to be. Apparently it went how much of the gaming community expected it to go.

“We knew it was a risk right from the get-go, and then it turned out to be exactly as we thought it was going to be," O'Donnell said to HiddenXperia. "Everybody who no longer works for Bungie is gonna say, 'Yeah, it was bad from the start.'"

O’Donnell would then go on to recount a dinner function between the Bungie and Activision executives that, at least for himself, would cause “the red flag to go off.”.

O’Donnell describes a conversation with the CFO of Activision and using the phrase “be nice to the goose” to relate how Bungie was laying golden eggs for Activision. The CFO would then go on to say how much he liked that analogy “but sometimes there's nothing like a good Foie Gras”.

Foie Gras is a specialty food made by force feeding duck or geese and can be quite damaging to the bird. It is usually only done before the bird is due for slaughter.

The deliberate use of the above phrase by the CFO gives insight into Activision's view of the Bungie studio, they were simply a tool to make them money and then to be discarded when they were no longer of value.

“I get a chill even telling that story", O’Donnell would then add.

O’Donnell was one of seven on the Bungie board of directors when they were searching for a publisher for Destiny.

“The reason why we went with Activision was not just the money, but it was because as part of the contract they didn't own the IP..." he explained.

"We wanted to make sure that whoever we worked with next would not own the IP, we would own the IP, and that was non-negotiable for me personally. I just kept saying we need to own and control the IP.”

In the interview O’Donnell describes his split with Bungie and how a lot of the tension between them was actually caused by Activision’s meddling in the development of the Destiny franchise, something that went against their contract and O’Donnell’s personal ideology.

“Activision not only didn't have the legal right to mess with the IP, but the only way they would be prevented from messing with the IP is if all the leadership at Bungie said you can't mess with the IP. And that's not what happened. And that's why they fired me”, O’Donnell said.

As O’Donnell tells it he was one of the main bulwarks against Activision attempting to control the Destiny franchise.

Evidently, Activision wasn't happy with their lack of input which created tension amongst the leadership of both parties. This would lead to the eventual firing of O’Donnell from Bungie to appease Activision.

Once Bungie split with Activision in January of 2019 they decided to take an independent path and not partner with any other publishers, instead choosing to do it themselves.


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4 weeks ago

Originally, to Bungie, the whole point of signing with Activi$ion was to gain the rights to the Destiny IP because they wanted to become a company that owned their IPs and didn't sell out to publishers like they did with Halo. However, somewhere along the road, something changed, and suddenly the majority of Bungie was fine with Activi$ion intervening in the creative process of the franchise. Marty was the roadblock that prevented this... until they fired him.

It really did look like Activi$ion was trying to meddle with the franchise from the start, especially when they openly rejected Music of the Spheres, a musical masterpiece that Marty put his heart and soul into. Activi$ion only wants money, not talent or creativity that wouldn't give them any profit. It disgusts me that some of the D2 community thinks the game would have been better off if Activi$ion was still partnered with Bungie.

I'm not certain on all of the events that transpired and led up to Marty's termination, except that he: threatened employees to prevent the E3 2013 Destiny trailer from being posted online and disrupted press briefings. From there, he was "terminated without cause", which Bungie later established was unruly behavior. At the same time, Bungie also refused to pay him for his work, which cost Bungie a lot in court losses. (Not very bright trying to use someone's work and not pay them for it, Bungie.)

Anyway, to FIRE someone who was passionate about their work and worked with the company over a decade, is downright disgusting and contradictory of Bungie's philosophy. I understand if there were some behavioral issues, but in the end, it really either comes down to matters inevitably getting entangled in legal issues or company discretion. I haven't really seen any interviews about employees who were threatened by Marty, but I'd be inclined to believe that Bungie was willing to use any dirt they could to get Marty fired and ultimately let Activi$ion have complete creative control over the franchise.

It's ironic though that Bungie re-obtained the rights to the franchise, but they probably only did it because Destiny 2 was their only current release and Activi$ion would have just pulled the plug. Now, Bungie is starting pull some of the same crap that Activi$ion is doing: season passes, overpriced microtransactions, etc.

Keep in mind that I'm not a fanboy of Marty, but I'm starting to see what he was opposed to. He didn't want corporate publishers having creative control over a franchise and only making decisions in the interest of money. He was the only person in Bungie's leadership circle that objected to allowing a corporate overlord to control all of the creative aspects of the franchise. This might even be why Joe Staten ended up leaving after his original story literally got cut up and spliced together to form a new story. This is not the same Bungie that made Halo, or even D1, but rather a shameful display of what was a dignified group of people who wanted to make their games with passion and the community in mind.