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Wednesday, October 03, 2007, 03:50 pm PT (06:50 pm ET)

Possible Bungie departure would open door to Mac games

Even as copies of Halo 3 have barely reached gamers' hands, reports have claimed that its developer Bungie may jump ship from Microsoft to pursue other games, and potentially other game platforms.

A source speaking with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer fueled discussion by alleging that Bungie had already declared its intent to leave its parent company, making the public announcement only a formality. Microsoft had reportedly agreed to the decision and had already been removing Bungie staff from its official roster as of Monday, with only concerns over affecting quarterly results (due October 6th) keeping either side from making a full announcement.

The decision by the game developer to walk away from what many have described as a lucrative partnership was not trivial, the insider claimed. Rather, the issue for Bungie was control over its own fate, which became more and more elusive as the firm's Halo games grew in popularity and Microsoft saw the game house as a dependable source of revenue.

"Apparently MS just wants Bungie to make Halo for the rest of their natural days," the source wrote in an e-mail message. "Bungie doesn't like how MS is constantly trying to 'handle' everything they do; the way they market their games, the way they interact with their fans [...], and how stingie [sic] they are with the profits (comparable to the rest of the industry)."

A separate tip handed to GameInformer appeared to corroborate the story and added that Microsoft's compensation was to earn both the rights to future Halo games and the right to first refusal, which would let the Xbox 360 maker become the first possible candidate to publish any future Bungie title.

Microsoft did not refute the claim outright, instead telling Kotaku that it had not publicized any agreement. "There's been no such announcement," said a spokesperson from Microsoft's public relations firm, Edelman. "We continue to celebrate the tremendous success of the global phenomenon that is Halo 3."

In spite of the conditions that would be attached to the deal, the departure would effectively return Bungie to the independent status it held before Microsoft's acquisition of the studio in June 2000 and would free the company to pursue games for non-Microsoft platforms, including the Mac, PlayStation 3, and Wii.

Bungie's shift in allegiance has often been cited as a prime example of Apple's inability to support gaming in recent years. While the game developer had started as a Mac-only company and continued to produce Mac versions of Oni and the first two Myth games virtually side-by-side with their Windows equivalents, the company was successfully courted by Microsoft, which put a halt to Mac development soon afterwards.

Whether the changes in the game industry over the past seven years would encourage a return to development was strictly a matter of speculation. Bungie itself refrained from commenting on the situation and instead redirected members of the press to Edelman, which again refused a definitive statement on the matter.