Ex Bungie dev: Apple got close to buying us

Ex Bungie dev: Apple got close to buying us

By Rob Crossley and Michael French

October 27th 2010 at 12:00AM

Jobs â??initially declined an offer' to acquire the Halo studio

Steve Jobs’ Apple Inc was just days away from buying Bungie when Microsoft sealed the deal at the eleventh hour, an ex-developer from the Halo studio has claimed.

Tuncer Deniz, once a project lead at Bungie, believes the studio’s bosses “asked Apple if they were interested in buying us”.

His account of the circumstances was that Phil Schiller – Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing – then had a meeting with Steve Jobs to discuss if the Macintosh manufacturer should proceed with acquiring Bungie.

“Schiller asked Steve, who said no,” Deniz tells Develop. “[But] after a week, Steve said yes. Schiller calls Bungie, but Bungie had already consummated the deal with Microsoft”.

Deniz (pictured) contacted several media outlets with the information after it was revealed that Jobs clashed with Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer as the Bungie buyout was announced.

Now the owner of a Macintosh games e-commerce portal, Deniz had been working at Bungie from 1996 to 1998 – a period which predates the acquisition talks between Microsoft and the studio. He insists the story is accurate, citing a well-placed Bungie executive as his source.

The account of the situation from Ed Fries – former vice president of game publishing at Microsoft, and the man central to Microsoft’s acquisition Bungie – appears to correspond with Deniz’s claim.

As part of an upcoming interview with Develop, Fries recalls: “One day I got a call from Peter [Tamte, Bungie co-founder] and he told me Bungie was in a bit of financial trouble, and he was looking to sell the company.

“He told me another company was interested, and asked might we [Microsoft] might be interested.

“That was at the same time when I was starting to look around, quite desperately, to figure out how to get this launch line-up for the Xbox within two years. At the time Bungie was showing around this concept and trailers for a game they had called Halo, and it looked pretty cool.”

Fries adds that Bungie was “going through financial troubles when asking us to buy them”, and recalls how publisher Take-Two already owned a third of the studio when Microsoft looked to make a bid.

“The deal we had was complicated, because Take-Two owned a third of them, so what we did was split the company up; we got all the people, all the developers, and Halo, and Take-Two got everything else, their whole back-catalogue of games. We also agreed to finish developing Oni for Take-Two, which was being made by a branch of Bungie down in California.”