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Friday, October 05, 2007, 09:45 am PT (12:45 pm ET)

It's official: Bungie breaks free of Microsoft

The rumors were true — Microsoft Corp. on Friday announced a plan for Bungie Studios, developers of the "Halo" franchise, to embark on a path as an independent company.

Under the terms of the deal, Microsoft will retain an equity interest in Bungie, at the same time continuing its long-standing publishing agreement for the Microsoft-owned "Halo" intellectual property as well as other future properties developed by Bungie.

"While we are supporting Bungie’s desire to return to its independent roots, we will continue to invest in our 'Halo' entertainment property with Bungie and other partners, such as Peter Jackson, on a new interactive series set in the 'Halo' universe," said Shane Kim, corporate vice president of Microsoft Game Studios. "We look forward to great success with Bungie as our long-term relationship continues to evolve through 'Halo'-related titles and new IP created by Bungie."

In a press release issued by Microsoft, Bungie studio head Harold Ryan said the move will enable the game developer to expand in its mission to "create world-class games," but said his team "will continue to develop with our primary focus on Microsoft platforms."

"[We] greatly value our mutually prosperous relationship with our publisher, Microsoft Game Studios," he said, "and we look forward to continuing that affiliation through 'Halo' and beyond."

Rumors earlier this week of Bungie's desire to break free of Microsoft, which acquired the studio back in 2000, brought hope that Bungie would again be free to pursue games for non-Microsoft platforms, including the Mac, PlayStation 3, and Wii.

In speaking to Macworld, Brian Jarrard, franchising director at Bungie, said a return to the Mac could indeed be a possibility.

"But sure, now that we’re branching of and controlling our destiny, that puts us in a position where we could put ourselves back on the [Mac] platform definitively again," he said.

Bungie was originally conceived as a Mac-only game company back in 1991 under the name Bungie Software Products Corporation by two undergraduate students at the University of Chicago. For nine years it produced hit titles for the Mac such as Marathon, Myth, and Oni, before being courted by Microsoft, which eventually put a end to Mac development.