Microsoft and Bungie LLC, as the privately held company will be called, will continue to work together for "the continued success of the 'Halo' franchise," the game studio said in a statement Friday. The companies said they will expand the partnership to include future games.
Microsoft acquired Chicago-based Bungie and its "Halo" concept in 2000, ensuring that the Xbox would be the only game console to run the multiplayer first-person shooter. The first installment of the trilogy launched in November 2001.
In a statement, Bungie said its primary focus will still be developing for Microsoft's platform.
"Working with Microsoft was great for us, it allowed us to grow as a team and make the ambitious, blockbuster games we all wanted to work on," said Jason Jones, Bungie founder and partner. "But Bungie is like a shark. We have to keep moving to survive. We have to continually test ourselves, or we might as well be dolphins. Or manatees."
Gamers have already plunked down more than $300 million for "Halo 3" since it was released less than two weeks ago, and Microsoft has said the game's launch also goosed sales of the Xbox 360 console.
The final "Halo" version costs between $60 and $130, depending on special features and commemorative packaging.
"While we are supporting Bungie's desire to return to its independent roots, we will continue to invest in our 'Halo' entertainment property with Bungie and other partners," said Shane Kim, corporate vice president of Microsoft Game Studios.
Matt Rosoff, an analyst for the independent research group Directions on Microsoft, said the move isn't likely to hurt Microsoft's plan to report a profit in the division responsible for the Xbox in the current fiscal year.
"The sales figures have been excellent so far. I'm sure that this quarter and next quarter they'll sell enough copies to drive that division into profitability for the whole year," Rosoff said in an interview.
"I don't think Microsoft wanted to do this," he added. "This is probably about Bungie wanting to have a little more control over kinds of games they're making, and not wanting to answer to Microsoft for everything."