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June 30, 2011 at 12:00 AM

Bungie Aerospace takes flight, goes mobile

A mysterious new venture by Bellevue game studio Bungie – creator of the blockbuster “Halo” franchise – is being revealed today.

The name Bungie Aerospace surfaced in 2010, setting off all kinds of speculation about whether it was the company’s next big game.

But fans will have to keep waiting to learn about the “big action universe” that Bungie’s creating with support from Activision, the publisher it signed with after splitting from Microsoft in 2007.

It turns out that Bungie Aerospace is the name of a side venture helping smaller game studios develop and publish mobile and social games.

Bungie_Aerospace_4C.png

Bungie will lend its expertise to smaller studios and connect them to the millions of fans using its Bungie.net site. In turn, the studios will help Bungie learn more about different platforms as it continues building capabilities beyond the Xbox.

Pete Parsons, Bungie’s chief operating officer, said it’s a “small, focused venture” that will work with small, independent teams of mobile developers.

“It’s a great opportunity for us – an opportunity to partner with some fantastic talent, help them bring their dreams to life,” he said.

Parsons didn’t specify the business arrangements but said Bungie will support developers, providing services such as quality assurance, usability testing and exposure “to our fan community.”

Eric Osborne, Bungie community manager, said it will help studios by “launching them into orbit” with Bungie’s “proprietary rocket fuel.”

The first studio to sign on is Seattle-based Harebrained Schemes, a new mobile game company led by Jordan Weisman, a serial game entrepreneur who has had ties with Bungie since they were based in Chicago. Weisman later worked with Bungie at Microsoft where he was creative director of the games business.

Harebrained plans to release a mobile game called “Crimson” this summer for Google’s Android platform and Apple’s iOS platform.

There are numerous companies offering services and tools to mobile developers. But Weisman said Bungie Aerospace stands out, largely because of Bungie’s stature.

“It fills a really interesting space,” he said. “Right now the role of traditional publisher in mobile and even in social can bring debatable benefits but I think being able to team up with an uber developer with a dedicated audience brings with it a unique set of opportunites.”

There’s no geographic limit for the venture but it’s likely that many participating studios will be in the Seattle area, where it’s easiest to interact directly with Bungie and where numerous developers already have connections to the company.

Although Bungie Aerospace sounds vaguely like the name of another company in Seattle, Parsons said the main inspiration came from the team’s interest in space, technology and science. The name was chosen after a group of employees returned from seeing a Space Shuttle launch, he said.

Aerospace sequences were a highlight of “Halo: Reach,” Bungie’s last version of the game. But Parsons denied that the name is a clue about the direction Bungie’s heading with its next game.

“This is a separate effort from our next universe,” he said.

Parsons wouldn’t say anything about that project, but confirmed that the “vast majority” of the more than 200 employees are “super focused” on building it.

Comments | More in | Topics: Bungie, Games & entertainment

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