PlayStation has no major multiplayer games, so Sony spent $3.6 billion to buy a successful one

Business Insider US
A promotional image for Bungie's biggest game, "Destiny 2."
  • Sony just dropped $3.6 billion on the video game developer behind the "Destiny" franchise.
  • Despite the timing, Sony's purchase isn't a response to Microsoft's recent acquisition Activision.
  • Sony doesn't have any big multiplayer franchises, so it's buying one.
  • For more stories visit Business Insider.

Sony announced on Monday that it's buying the veteran game development house Bungie — a studio that's most notable for having created the "Halo" franchise, which Microsoft now owns, and more recently creating the "Destiny" series.

Sony paid $3.6 billion for Bungie — approximately 5.25% of the $68.7 billion Microsoft just paid for Activision last week, the company said.

Despite splashing out billions on Bungie, PlayStation leader Jim Ryan said in the announcement the studio is going to "remain independent and multi-platform." That means current and future Bungie games are likely to come to the PC and, more importantly, to the Xbox, rather than be exclusive to PlayStation consoles. 

But why would Sony spend $3.6 billion on a video game studio if it didn't intend on making that studio's games exclusive to its own devices? Because Sony needs big multiplayer games, which are sorely lacking from its portfolio.

And the only way to do that is by allowing Bungie to keep making the kinds of games it makes: So-called "live service" games like "Destiny," or Activision's "Call of Duty" and Epic Games' "Fortnite," which draw huge audiences of players across several competing game platforms.

"This is a strategic step towards continuing to evolve the gaming experiences that we build," PlayStation's Ryan said in the announcement. "Bungie's expertise in delivering a world-class service approach and long-term community engagement is extremely compelling and will support the development of several future live services titles from PlayStation Studios."

Like Nintendo, Sony's primary draw with PlayStation consoles is big exclusive games. 

"Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales" is the most recent entry in the PlayStation-exclusive game series.

Also like Nintendo, big exclusive PlayStation games tend to be single-player blockbusters developed in-house or with close partners.

"God of War," "Spider-Man" and "The Last of Us" are just some of the many huge franchises exclusive to Sony's PlayStation. 

Unlike Nintendo, however, Sony is in direct competition with Microsoft — a company with much deeper pockets and a recent history of gobbling up major video game companies.

Microsoft owns "Minecraft" and the studio that makes it after a $2.5 billion acquisition in 2014. It owns Bethesda Softworks, the gaming giant behind recent "Fallout" games, the "Elder Scrolls" series, and the "DOOM" franchise after a $7.5 billion acquisition in 2020. And, if approved by regulators, it will own "Call of Duty" and "World of Warcraft" gaming powerhouse Activision after a $68.7 billion acquisition announcement in January.

With well over 100 million monthly players across platforms, "Minecraft" is a multiplayer gaming powerhouse unto itself. That's before taking into account the "nearly 400 million monthly active players" Microsoft said it will acquire if the Activision acquisition is approved.

By purchasing Bungie, Sony gets a much-needed addition to its competitive portfolio: A major multiplayer video game franchise in "Destiny," and a world-class multiplayer game studio that "will support the development of several future live services titles from PlayStation Studios."

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