Bungie’s success with Halo catapulted the developer to global fame, with the space-shooter swiftly becoming one of the gaming industry’s most recognised franchises. After the glorious swansong that was Halo Reach, Bungie departed the beloved series in 2010 to start work on its MMO-style FPS Destiny. Unfortunately the Destiny franchise has since been met with a far more metered reception, with critics and gamers alike having expressed somewhat mixed feelings towards the game’s loot and grinding based online-only dynamic. In light of Bungie’s 10-year publishing agreement with Activision Blizzard expiring in 2020, a new $100 million investment from Chinese internet and gaming company NetEase hints at a new direction for the developer.

NetEase, who have partnered with other major online game developers including Blizzard Entertainment (Overwatch, World of Warcraft) and Mojang AB (Minecraft), currently hold the largest portion of China’s premium gamer segment and expressed plans to expand their international presence by investing in “Bungie’s passion and creativity [for] online games development”. NetEase now hold a minor stake in Bungie Inc. and expect their partnership will allow the games developer to “transform from a single franchise development team into a global, multi-franchise entertainment studio.” Bungie, likewise, state their new partner’s industry experience will “empower us to build new worlds…[and] bring our newest ambitions to life.”

In their statement, Bungie declared their long-term ambition is “to become an entertainment company that sustains many worlds simultaneously”, and later told the Wall Street Journal they intend to place a marked focus on self-publishing future titles.

This would represent a significant step away from the dependent relationships they currently hold with Microsoft and Activision. In spite of this, Bungie adamantly state their new partnership will not impact Destiny players and assure they are fully committed to maintaining their working relationship with Activision: “We’ll continue to work with our partners at Activision to foster this global community and turn new players from all over the world into Guardians. Our commitment to that world is not diminished by this announcement.”

The developer has reaffirmed that they have ‘exciting plans’ for the Destiny franchise which they intend to unveil details about ‘in the weeks to come’ – Destiny 2‘s big September expansion, for one, is set for reveal in a Twitch livestream on 5 June. But more interesting perhaps is precisely where Bungie’s ‘new ambitions’ will take them, and more importantly where their ‘new worlds’ will take us. Will E3 provide some answers?