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Microsoft buys Myth maker Bungie

Acquisition to focus on X-Box work - so will the Mac developer's promised Mac support end?

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Microsoft has bought a Mac games developer to kickstart the development of games for its upcoming X-Box console.

The Beast of Redmond's target is Bungie, best-known for its Myth family of fantasy combat games, but which achieved fame and fortune for the Marathon trilogy, a sequence of Mac-based first-person shooters release in the mid-90s and probably the only games of their kind to win critical acclaim for out-Dooming Doom.

Bungie is currently developing Halo, a massive third-person co-operative online multiplayer game, and Oni, a third-person shooter-cum-beat 'em up title. The developer has two offices, its Chicago HQ and the satellite Bungie West operation in San Jose. The Chicago office will be relocated to Redmond.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, beyond Microsoft's acquisition not only of Bungie itself but the 20 per cent stake in the games developer held by its distributor, Take-Two Interactive. Take-Two is getting Oni in return, and presumably Bungie West with it. Microsoft gets Halo.

Privately-held Bungie was founded by Alex Seropian in 1992. Seropian was soon joined by lead programmer Jason Jones, both of whom hold the majority of the 80 per cent not formerly owned by Take-Two Interactive.

"Bungie is going to... create great games for the PC and X-Box and really help us shape X-Box as the games platform of the future," said Ed Fries, VP of Microsoft's games division, of which Bungie will now become just another sub-division.

Mac users will note that their platform is missing from Fries' list, essentially ensuring that Bungie has reneged on promises made by its founders when the company released its first cross-platform title, Myth, to always develop titles for the Apple platform.

As for Microsoft, do Fries' comments imply the company isn't as entirely confident of the wider games industry's support for X-Box? Given X-Box is fundamentally about getting PC-oriented titles into a new high-performance console market, you'd have thought PC games developers would be overjoyed at the prospect of developing for it.

Microsoft clearly has to get a number of top-notch titles ready for the console's launch - it's due late 2001 - to showcase its features, but we wonder if it has made the development channel quite as easy as first thought. X-Box is a Microsoft-only product, and it's entirely possible that the company is imposing the kind of strict royalty regime that Sony places on PlayStation developers. And there may be technical hurdles that make the porting of a PC title to X-Box trickier than its has previously seemed. ®

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