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A full recap of the Bungie layoff situation and what it means for players

The only thing that could kill Destiny was Bungie itself.

This past week has unquestionably been the worst week in history for Bungie, its staff, and Destiny 2. Even worse is that, at the time of writing, it's only Wednesday. How could so much have gone so catastrophically wrong within 48 hours?

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In a report by Rebekah Valentine of IGN this Monday, it was revealed that roughly 8% of Bungie's employees woke up without a job. Following that devastating punch to the gut, inside sources leaked to Bloomberg's Jason Schreier that Destiny 2: The Final Shape and Marathon had been delayed. On X, Bungie CEO Pete Parsons has so far expressed gratitude for the contributions of those who were let go, but broader official statements have remained scarce, leaving us to piece together the story from various sources. Here's what it appears happened at Bungie and what it means for players.

What's going on with Bungie and the layoffs?

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Bungie, the beloved Washington–based developer of mega-hits like Halo and Destiny, laid off an estimated 8% of its workforce, roughly 100 people, early on October 30, 2023. According to reports by Forbes' Paul Tassi and Bloomberg's Jason Schreier, this was not done in a clean, uniform manner.

Some realized something was amiss when they found their internal access and email had been revoked. Others noticed strange 15-minute meetings had been added to their calendars and that said meetings were them losing employment. To rub salt in the wound, the decision to lay off employees was not relayed to managers or other staff that had been retained. This left some departments finding teams either short-staffed or utterly gutted with no prior notice.

For a company that has touted family values and close relationships among staff, it hurts even more that Bungie leadership told those laid off not to tell others and that corporate would be handling it. This led to many finding out that friends and coworkers had been laid off via social media. Due to the abrupt nature of the layoffs, employees were unable to exchange contact information with one another.

No one was deemed safe or untouchable from the layoffs as artists, community managers, marketing, and more from all departments were impacted. Employees one would think safe, like Community Manager Lianna (Hippy) Ruppert or longtime Halo and Destiny composer Michael Salvatori, were also let go.

The layoffs on October 30 left those who were affected with only one more day of benefits before they ran out at the end of the month. The only benefit that wasn't impacted was Bungie-paid COBRA health insurance for three additional months, alongside severance pay for the same duration. Additionally, employees would receive any eligible prorated bonuses. Otherwise, employees were scrambling for things like reimbursed expenses. Those who were part of the vested shares plan since the acquisition by Sony would forfeit any unvested shares to Bungie.

In an effort to obfuscate the total number of those impacted, Bungie leadership internally hid the number employees laid off. It was only through staff, both former and current, that it was determined roughly 100 had been let go.

A final, comparatively minor consequence: it was leaked that Destiny 2: The Final Shape would be delayed from February to June 2024, and the in-development extraction shooter, Marathon, has been pushed to 2025 despite never having a public release date.

Related: Destiny 2 Codes – Emblems, shaders, & more!

The full timeline of events

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  • Weeks to months before and up to October 30, 2023
    • A "noticeable" number of employees in the QA department continued to be let go amid many additional responsibilities and PIPs (Performance Improvement Plans). The number of terminated employees was so great that Bungie's head of QA sent an email to staff to alleviate concerns. It claimed the dismissals "were not layoffs and not a result of cost cutting in any way...if we ever did layoffs, we would be very upfront about it. [sic]"
      • After what transpired at the end of October, this statement doesn't seem entirely honest.
  • Week of October 16, 2023
    • Bungie held an internal meeting where it was revealed that revenue was 45% below expected projections for the year.
    • Bungie CEO Pete Parsons said this was due to the poor reception of Lightfall and the subsequent Seasons.
    • Also impacting the lack of revenue was far fewer preorders than expected for the upcoming expansion, The Final Shape.
    • To help right the ship, Bungie would begin cutting costs by limiting travel in addition to putting salary and hiring freezes in place.
  • Sometime between October 16 and October 30, 2023
  • October 30, 2023
    • Around 1pm ET, various employees began posting on social media that they had been let go from Bungie and were now seeking employment.
    • At 4:08pm ET, Bungie CEO Pete Parsons released an incredibly tone-deaf statement.
    • After the initial wave of layoffs happened, more stepped forward like acclaimed composers Michael Salvatori and Michael Sechrist, who both updated their personal sites to reflect the changes.
  • October 31, 2023
    • Pete Parsons addressed the layoffs in an internal meeting, allegedly saying that Bungie had kept "the right people" to work on Destiny 2.

What does the Destiny community think?

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To put it bluntly, the community is all over the place at the moment on this issue. First, there are those who are oblivious to what's going on with Bungie; they just get home at the end of the day and boot up their favorite looter shooter. Some are indifferent, noting that this is simply how business works or who are waiting for Bungie to make an official statement. Then there are those, like me, who are piecing together the clues and behavior of Bungie like Charlie Kelly in the Pepe Silvia meme and who believe that this may be a death knell for Destiny 2.

Casual Players

It's a bit tricky to gauge the casual players' feelings. By nature, casuals are...casual, and seldom vocal. Looking at the data from SteamCharts, Destiny 2 was at its highest point for PC on January 30, 2023, roughly a month before the release of Lightfall, at 316,651 players. Since then, it has steadily dropped to 40,196 for the week of October 30, 2023.

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Lightfall was riding on the goodwill that The Witch Queen and subsequent year had built. Unfortunately for players and Bungie, this goodwill was squandered by a disappointing expansion and Seasons (excluding Season of the Witch). Additionally, 2023 has been an absolutely stellar year for game releases. Not only was there been an obscene number of great games coming out, but many of them, like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Baldur's Gate 3, were huge time-sinks. Players had a veritable feast available to them while Bungie was still trying to win them over with reheated leftovers.

Invested Players

This is where a lot of the vocal players fall. These are the ones posting on social media about Destiny 2 and Bungie while following information about both. They have a wide range of dedication and opinions on what happened.

In my personal circles, I've seen a lot of people sitting on the fence and waiting for Bungie to address what's happened. When speaking with friends outside of Destiny and fellow clan members who regularly play, it has been brought up that this is normal for corporations. If they overhire or their current business model isn't sustainable, they cut staff. It's simply how the world works. I'm not at all okay with that belief, but that's a discussion for another day.

While some are reserving judgment following official word from Bungie, morale across the board is at an all-time low. Across Discord servers, Twitter replies, Reddit threads, and more, the community isn't happy. Following Bungie's treatment of its staff and how Lightfall landed, players have even started refunding their preorders for The Final Shape.

The Prophets of Doom

These are players like me, who believe the writing has been on the wall for some time. Destiny was originally a 10-year-long project, and we're coming up on the end of that. Unfortunately, over the past few years, it's become clear that Bungie never had a full outline for the story and is laying down tracks as it came up to them.

Following the 2022 GDC panel by Destiny 2 General Manager Justin Truman where (slide 70) the infamous "Beware of overdelivery. You're creating patterns!" image was released, things really went downhill. The context is that Bungie isn't making a singular game like Halo any longer, but instead, a game that is continually delivering. As such, should a developer continue to outperform and "overdeliver," it sets a dangerous precedent where players expect more than can be realistically delivered.

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Unfortunately, Bungie seems to have invested fully in this belief by continually recycling content. From reprised D1 content to the gameplay loop and Seasonal activities to holiday events, everything "new" is simply old content or mechanics with a different veneer.

This led to employees at Bungie begging upper management to make changes to existing models as player sentiment was at an all-time low. Based on the current state of the game and how the Festival of the Lost event was a copy-and-paste of previous years, it's safe to say that was ignored.

This has led some players to abandon the game except for the weekly story beats, which only take 30 minutes to complete, if not dropping it entirely. In my own clan, we've gone from three to four groups running on raid night to struggling with making a single team of six.

This has all been suspected for a long time, and the reports from Bloomberg, Forbes, and IGN do nothing but confirm what we've feared. With indirect confirmation that Bungie leadership is only interested in delivering a minimum viable product, it's only a matter of time before it shuffles off a cliff.

The Personalities

Paul Tassi, one of the more respected voices in the Destiny 2 community, has expressed his frustration with Bungie repeatedly. Since the layoffs began, Tassi has been boosting the voices of the employees impacted while also working to shed light on what happened. His tweet below from November 1 sums it up well.

Aztecross, a notable Destiny 2 streamer, released a video that has since been made private, going over a Paul Tassi article in addition to providing his own information from inside sources. According to Aztecross, Bungie invited many Escape from Tarkov players to test the upcoming Marathon. After the play session, Bungie asked the players if they would play Marthon should it be released tomorrow. Not a single player raised their hand.

He also speculated that Bungie's upper management views Marathon as their new golden child. As such, the developer has been using Destiny 2 to funnel money into Marathon's development, in addition to moving staff there from the D2 team. Going further, creative leads have been shifted away from D2 to other titles in development. Anyone left on D2 who pitches an idea for something different is either rejected or the request is left to languish.

Further, there are no plans for an expansion after The Final Shape, and Destiny 3 is incredibly unlikely to happen unless Marathon is a total flop. The planned episodes are simply meant to "keep the lights on."

My Name is Byf, heralded lore master for Destiny, expressed similar sentiments regarding his disappointment in Bungie's decision to let go of so many talented staff. Aside from that, he has refrained from making a more lengthy statement, as Bungie has not addressed the matter.

Related: When does Destiny 2 maintenance end?

The current state of Bungie and Destiny 2

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Right now, things are looking pretty grim. No matter how you slice it, Bungie did a lot of their former and current employees dirty with this layoff. Based on Bungie's past, it's hit-or-miss if they even publicly address the layoffs. Everyone is waiting for the next TWID (This Week in Destiny) to see if anything is said. I don't think anything about the layoffs will be mentioned, and if so, it will be heavily sanitized PR speak.

The general sentiment seems to be that players will come back for the story content when Season 23 drops, dip out for the duration of the delay, and then come back for The Final Shape before dropping the series entirely. Others are viewing this as their stop and don't care to see where the train is ultimately headed.

Destiny 2 has been bleeding players for years now thanks to a lack of content. The core gameplay loop is great in the way that flour is. It's a great base, but that's it. However, by adding ingredients and creativity, this base can become many different exciting things that attract and retain a larger audience.

It's felt like Destiny 2 has been on autopilot for some time and everything coming out serves only to confirm these fears. As of right now, it sounds like Bungie is in panic mode as they try to right the Marathon ship. That means additional time must be devoted to both it and The Final Shape. With all hands on deck (fewer than before), don't expect anything outside of what we already have in Destiny 2.

This can be fine for those who don't want anything more substantial out of Destiny 2. For players who don't mind repetition and have been playing for years, this train is running smoothly. For new players, it's been nothing short of awful as Bungie shelved over half the game and does a poor job of explaining what's going on.

What the future holds

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Given what we know and what has leaked from various sources, it's looking increasingly likely that Bungie has no intentions of continuing the Destiny franchise if Marathon meets expectations. This tracks, as the studio has historically only worked on one game at a time. Despite the rich lore and love the community has for Destiny, it appears Bungie gave up on it years ago and has only been using it to develop Marathon.

However, one has to ask why the studio can't do both. Sony just handed Bungie a check for $3.6 billion dollars. Red Dead Redemption 2 cost Rockstar Games an estimated $540 million to make. Aside from building a new studio in Bellevue, WA, and opening an office in Amsterdam, just where did all of that money go? Let's not forget that Bungie has been boasting about its work-anywhere position, making the need for a new office questionable.

As I've stated above, there are some players, including myself, who are going to stick it out for The Final Shape. However, like the Marvel audience, we're dipping once this decade-long saga is over. I don't have any confidence that Bungie is going to nail the landing, as it has been more or less sabotaging the game for years now.

As for Marathon? I couldn't care less, and it sounds like those interested in the genre share a similar sentiment. If Marathon is a flop and Bungie kills Destiny, I don't know if the studio will have the capital to buy its freedom from Sony. It could very well be cannibalized if this risky maneuver doesn't pay off.

However, it's this very same gambit that has soured much of the community. Whatever goodwill Bungie had with its community has all but evaporated now. Upper management desperately needs to right the ship, but it may have already taken on too much water.

I'm going to be honest with you: this was one of the more difficult articles I've had to write. Destiny 2 means the world to me. I found it at one of the lowest points in my life, and it's been with me ever since. By the time The Final Shape comes out, it will have been a 10-year investment for myself and many others. Ever since Lightfall, I've had doubts about Bungie's ability to bring Destiny to a satisfying conclusion. Now? Those doubts have been hammered in with long, iron nails.

For more things Bungie, check out Most Used Weapons in Destiny 2 on Pro Game Guides.

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Image of Christian Dawson
Christian Dawson
Christian has been playing games since he could hold a controller in the late 80s. He's been writing about them for nearly 15 years for both personal and professional outlets. Now he calls Pro Game Guides home where he worships at the altar of Destiny 2.

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A full recap of the Bungie layoff situation and what it means for players

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