The story of Marty O’Donnell and his final years with Bungie, the company he co-founded, has been one filled with anger and bad decisions between all of the parties involved. Now, roughly five years after the final legal struggle, he’s speaking out over his role in forging the deal between Bungie and Activision.
In an interview on YouTube channel HiddenXperia, O’Donnell describes at length the circumstances surrounding the partnership which produced the Destiny franchise. At the time, in 2010, Bungie had recently split from Microsoft and was forced to leave the Halo franchise behind. “I kept saying we need to be able to own and control the IP,” said O’Donnell in the interview. “And Activision agreed to that, and all of the other big players during that period would not agree to do that, including Microsoft, who was very close to making a serious [offer]. We almost went back to Microsoft, if you can believe it.”
Shortly after the deal was struck, however, O’Donnell accused Activision of meddling with the franchise in regards to the 2013 E3 trailer, as well as disputes over Music of The Spheres, the soundtrack which O’Donnell himself composed and elements of which were ultimately incorporated into the first Destiny game. O’Donnell became increasingly disaffected and disruptive within Bungie, leading to his firing in 2014.
However, as part of that termination, O’Donnell’s shares in Bungie, as well as his participation in their profit-sharing program, were revoked. O’Donnell sued Bungie, claiming the termination was wrongful. The case went to arbitration, and the arbitrator determined that Bungie had wrongfully deprived O’Donnell of what he was owed. As part of the arbitration settlement, O’Donnell was required to surrender all rights to Music of The Spheres and any existing copies of the soundtrack in his possession.
In 2019, Bungie and Activision dissolved their partnership, with Bungie keeping control of the Destiny franchise. After the split, Bungie’s communication director David Dague stated, “I think we need to dispel the notion Activision was some prohibitive overlord that wasn’t letting us do awesome things. We launched this franchise with Activision, naturally, and over time we both decided we had different goals for what we wanted it to be, so we both went our separate ways.”
O’Donnell disputed the official position in his interview. “That was not a marriage made in heaven at all.”