While the video game industry can at times seem as far away from a traditional business venture as possible, it does have an ugly side that comes with the billions of dollars of revenue being generated from popular titles like Destiny and Halo. Sometimes, like in the case of Peter Molyneux’s series of failures with 22 Cans, the failures and disappointments that can stem from being a high profile employee in gaming are on display for public consumption throughout the entire process.
Sometimes, however, internal conflict remains largely hidden, quietly resolved before arbitrators and judges are brought in or too low-profile for major media outlets to cover. The situation regarding ex-Bungie composer Marty O’Donnell and his former bosses was one such instance, with details of the lawsuit remaining obscure…until today, that is.
A report from Venture Beat released today announced that Marty O’Donnell had won what they termed as the “epic lawsuit” he had filed against his former employer, Bungie. O’Donnell is the composer who created the iconic, haunting scores that characterize the Halo series and Bungie’s more recent project, Destiny. Bungie terminated O’Donnell’s contract without cause back in April 2014, also choosing not to pay him for all his unused vacation time and other benefits he had accrued in his fourteen years of employment. Bungie also stripped O’Donnell of all his shares in the company, stating that his ownership of them would create a “bothersome presence at board meetings and in the company”.
O’Donnell clearly felt he had been wronged, and in the end, the arbitrator assigned to his case agreed with him: Venture Beat reports that O’Donnell is entitled to $142,500 for his share of the profit that he has missed since the case began and the shares he was stripped of, on top of a previous settlement. Essentially, O’Donnell is getting everything he asked for when he began his lawsuit, and in return he has to return all non-gift Bungie property he has accrued, most notably any CD copies of his “Music of the Spheres”, the eight-part soundtrack he crafted for Destiny‘s proposed ten-year lifespan.
Those who suspected there was trouble at Bungie when they suddenly announced O’Donnell’s contract termination were also proven right in the report, although the real catalyst of the situation appears to be Activision. The massive video game publisher was determined to use music other than selections from “Music of the Spheres” for Destiny‘s E3 presentation back in 2013. This upset O’Donnell, who had composed a symphonic suite of eight movements and enlisted the help of Sir Paul McCartney to craft just the right sound for Bungie’s newest franchise.
Although Bungie’s CEO, Harold Ryan, eventually backed Activision’s decision, it was only after O’Donnell angrily took to Twitter during the aforementioned E3 presentation, emphasizing that Bungie had not been able to proceed the way they wished to creatively on the trailer. O’Donnell might have gotten exactly what he wanted with this story going public, as it paints Activision into a corner they’ve been in before and have done well to avoid recently.
Ultimately, however, O’Donnell says he is happy to have the whole thing behind him. With all the legal matters put to rest, he will be able to return his full attention to Highwire Games, the studio he has set up with other ex-Bungie employees.
How do you think the new details of the lawsuit reflect upon Bungie? Is Activision the cold, calculating giant they are made out to be by people like O’Donnell? Let us know how you feel in the comments.
Source: Venture Beat