Bungie's October 2023 Layoffs and Destiny 2 Delay: An Inside Look

The recent upheaval at Bungie, including mass layoffs and a delay in the highly anticipated Destiny 2 expansion "The Final Shape," has sent shockwaves through the gaming community. As we continue to investigate this tumultuous week at Bungie, we aim to provide a clearer understanding of how these events unfolded, the reactions of the staff, and the current state of Destiny 2.

Layoffs and Their Impact

Management at Bungie has stated that they explored various options to prevent layoffs, but it was revealed that executive compensation was not one of the levers considered. In a post-publication update, it was clarified that CEO Pete Parsons and some executives had previously forfeited annual bonuses before the layoffs. However, this information was not communicated to the staff until recently, and the total amount of bonuses relinquished remains undisclosed.

Surprisingly, no one within Bungie, including management, seems to blame Sony for the layoffs. Some employees were informed that if the Sony buyout had not occurred, and given the current performance of Destiny 2, the studio might have faced a precarious situation if it were still an independent entity.

D2 director Joe Blackburn is not widely considered a corporate culprit for the layoffs, at least by some employees. This suggests that the blame for the recent events does not fall squarely on the shoulders of any one individual.

The costly new building and the $1.2 billion allocated by Sony for employee retention are separate projects that may not have prevented the layoffs. Most of the Sony funds were used to buy out Bungie employees' shares, which subsequently went to Sony, leaving no financial cushion for late-stage employment preservation.

The drop in player engagement and spending after the release of Lightfall has been a significant concern. The revenue projection for the current year, despite being a 45% miss, was not necessarily an unrealistic estimate given the spending trend on the game over time. Lightfall, however, sold well, but it still marked a turning point in player engagement.

Staff at Bungie are currently harbouring extreme discontent towards the leadership, and this sentiment has not been confined to private conversations. The company's leadership made decisions that did not pan out as expected, yet the individuals responsible for these choices remain within the organization.

The Final Shape Delay

The delay of "The Final Shape" was known to some insiders a couple of months ago, and it is occurring late enough that there cannot be a 30th Anniversary-sized content drop to bridge the gap. However, there will be something to fill the void during Season 23, although specific details remain undisclosed.

Bungie's goal with "The Final Shape" is not merely to match the success of previous expansions like Forsaken or The Taken King but to surpass them. Feedback thus far has been described as "good, not great," and the delay is intended to allow for further polishing. The expansion is seen as pivotal to rejuvenating Destiny 2.

The current state of "The Final Shape" campaign and features is reportedly solid, even in its unfinished state. However, the development team aspires to take it even further, leading to concerns about potential crunch even with the delay.

Destiny 2's Future

The recent layoffs impacted part of the new PvP Strike team, but significant progress has already been made on the map pack, and it is not expected to be cancelled. Additionally, player security teams were reportedly heavily affected by the layoffs.

As of now, there have been no significant announcements regarding the long-term future of Destiny 2 due to the layoffs and the delay. There are no known plans to reduce support for Destiny 2 below previously established levels. Moreover, no information has surfaced regarding the long-term outlook, such as the development of Destiny 3, which does not appear to be an immediate priority.

Introducing an in-game LFG (Looking for Group) system has proven to be a challenging endeavour from a technical standpoint. The community was made aware of this development even before the developers themselves, highlighting the complexity of the feature. Nevertheless, Bungie remains committed to implementing it.

Microtransactions have been a topic of discussion among developers, with many advocating for their reduction. However, they have been deemed necessary to support the high operational costs of Destiny. Surprisingly, inevitable microtransactions, like Event Cards, have proven successful, as have sales of older expansions that are still generating revenue.

Check out our podcast for our take on it when the news broke.

Bungie's recent layoffs and the delay of "The Final Shape" have undoubtedly left a mark on the Destiny 2 community and the gaming industry. The internal dynamics and challenges the studio is currently facing are complex and multifaceted. While the delay of "The Final Shape" demonstrates a commitment to delivering the best possible expansion, the discontent among staff and the unanticipated issues are clear hurdles to Bungie's vision of being a multi-IP studio with multiple games and revenue streams. Destiny 2 and Bungie's future remains uncertain, and only time will reveal the outcome of these events.