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Sony’s Bungie acquisition shows it’s serious about a Game Pass rival

OPINION: Sony shocked us all this week by announcing that it’s acquiring Bungie, the studio behind Destiny and the original Halo trilogy. 

It’s not a huge surprise to see Sony making a major acquisition, following Microsoft’s spending spree on Zenimax Media and Activision Blizzard, although few would have suspected that Bungie would have been a target given its previous history with Microsoft. 

But the even more peculiar aspect of this acquisition is that Sony’s President and CEO, Jim Ryan, has confirmed that Bungie will remain as a multi-platform studio. 

“First off, I want to be very clear to the community that Bungie will remain an independent and multi-platform studio and publisher,” Jim Ryan explained. “As such, we believe it makes sense for it to sit alongside the PlayStation Studios organisation, and we are incredibly excited about the opportunities for synergies and collaboration between these two world-class groups.”

But why would Sony spend a reported $3.6 billion if it wasn’t going to make future Bungie games exclusive and encourage more players to purchase a PS5? As the profit made from game sales alone is unlikely to be enough to make such a major acquisition worthwhile, it’s likely Sony has something else up its sleeve. 

The most likely answer is that Sony is beefing up its offering for its future Game Pass rival. It’s worth mentioning that Sony already has PlayStation Now, but it is mostly made up of old PS4, PS3 and PS2 games rather than any new releases. That’s a major difference compared to Xbox Game Pass, which has made the likes of Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 available from launch day. 

Rumours suggest that Sony will launch ‘Project Spartacus’ this year, which is said to replace PlayStation Now and be a fiercer rival to Xbox Game Pass. We don’t know whether that would mean big-budget blockbusters such as Horizon Forbidden West and God of War Ragnarök will be included from day one, but it will certainly need some new releases in order to make Spartacus a more compelling alternative to Game Pass. 

Maybe this is where Bungie steps in. While Destiny 2 is free to play, it also has several expansions that require separate purchases. It would make a lot of sense if these expansions were included in the PlayStation Spartacus subscription, especially since this is a live service game that encourages long-term play. 

Destiny 2 Witch Queen
Upcoming Destiny 2 expansion: The Witch Queen

Destiny 2 could remain available on other platforms such as Xbox, PC, and Stadia, but you’ll be getting far better value on PlayStation consoles. That would give Sony the best of both worlds: high sales figures, while still making the PS5 a more appealing console. 

Of course, a monthly subscription service can’t rely solely on Destiny, PS4, PS3 and PS2 games, especially with the ever-growing library of Xbox Game Pass. But it doesn’t look like Sony’s acquisitions will stop at Bungie. 

In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Jim Ryan hinted that Sony could be making further acquisitions in the near future. 

“We should absolutely expect more,” Jim Ryan said. “We are by no means done. With PlayStation, we have a long way to go.”

It’s impossible to know which studios Sony will acquire next, but the likes of FromSoftware, Capcom and Square Enix have all been touted as possible options. This could give Sony ownership of the likes of Dark Souls, Monster Hunter, Resident Evil and Final Fantasy – any one of those studios would significantly bulk up PlayStation’s subscription service. 

Of course, that’s just idle speculation on my part, and it remains to be seen whether Sony has enough IPs to go head-to-head with Microsoft for the best subscription service, even with such acquisitions. But the acquisition of Bungie seems to suggest that PlayStation is serious about its upcoming Game Pass rival, especially if it won’t be making Destiny a PS5 exclusive. 

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