There have been an awful lot of layoffs across the game industry in 2023, but against that bleak backdrop this week's cuts at Bungie came as a shock. Fans are mourning the loss of a number of long-term employees, particularly composers Michael Salvatori, who wrote countless memorable tracks for both Destiny games as well as earlier Bungie projects going all the way back to Myth: The Fallen Lords, and Michael Sechrist, the composer of Deep Stone Lullaby, which we called "the most gorgeous piece of game music that you've never heard."
Salvatori's layoff was confirmed by an update to his website. What was originally an extensive biography detailing his long history with Bungie and the numerous awards his work on the Destiny games have won, has been replaced with a simple, two-word message: "Gone fishin' :)"
🚨BREAKING: Michael Salvatori's website no longer includes any descriptions of his work at Bungie. Now says: "GONE FISHIN' :)" https://t.co/niT6ram9jY pic.twitter.com/WcjjjUjHGgOctober 31, 2023
The brevity of the note suggested to some that Salvatori was angered by the cut, but in a message shared with Paul Tassi of Forbes, he graciously said that he's merely "sorting through my feelings."
"Many of my good friends were also let go, and I feel awful for them," Salvatori wrote. "My heart goes out to everyone who lost their job yesterday.
"Regarding myself, the overwhelming feeling I have is one of gratitude. Beginning in 1997, Bungie provided me the opportunity to contribute music to some of the most amazing games ever made. I've been truly blessed to work with so many awesome, creative people over the years. I've learned so much from them, not only as a composer, but as a human being, during my time there."
"I truly wish the best for my friends who are still there, and I have no doubt that they will be able to right the ship. To the fans, please don't hate on them. Give them a chance to blow you away, like they've done so many times before."
Despite Salvatori's warm words, an awful lot of fans are concerned about Bungie's future in the wake of the layoffs. Salvatori and Sechrist have been focused on because of the very front-facing impact on their work on the overall Destiny experience—our resident Destiny obsessive Tim Clark described Sechrist's Deep Stone Lullaby as "single-tear-rolling-down-your-cheek levels of beauty"—but the cuts run deep, impacting writers and editors, social media reps, QA workers, HR reps, and more: Details on the number of employees put out of work haven't been released but the layoffs are clearly significant.
The layoffs also sting because they come less than two years after Bungie leadership assured employees that Sony's purchase of the studio would result in "absolutely no layoffs," and in fact that Sony had spent an estimated $1.2 billion to ensure that everyone stuck around.
That salt in the wound was reflected in the response to the layoff confirmation posted on Twitter yesterday by Bungie CEO Pete Parsons, who did his best to present himself as an innocent bystander rather than a well-paid, still-employed studio chief. It's not clear who was ultimately responsible for deciding to make these cuts at Bungie, but Sony has also recently laid off employees at its Naughty Dog and Media Molecule studios.
"Bungie's executives deserved to be put on full blast for this," one redditor wrote. "They signed themselves over to Sony for a fat check, promised no layoffs, then double crossed and supremely fucked over their employees while enjoying that Sony money for themselves. But of course, they're not going to face any consequences and it'll just be business as usual." That's harsh, and speculative, but reflects a common mood among fans: Bungie didn't need to do this, but did it anyway.
Bungie hasn't revealed the number of employees let go in this round of layoffs but a Bloomberg report says roughly 100 jobs, out of a total of 1,200, were eliminated. The cuts come in the wake of a reported sharp decline in Destiny 2 numbers since the release of the Lightfall expansion: Executives reportedly said Destiny 2 revenues are running 45% below projections for the year.
The studio also still hasn't commented on reports that Destiny 2: The Final Shape, which is currently slated to launch in February, has been delayed, but the expectation is that Salvatori and Sechrist have likely already completed their work on it. That's cold comfort for some fans: A last hurrah from great composers to enjoy, but also the literal end of an era beyond it.