Marathon reboot gets a surprise game director replacement as Bungie is once more denied a moment's peace

Marathon cinematic still
(Image credit: Bungie)

A new game director has been appointed on Marathon, the upcoming reboot of Bungie's classic Macintosh shooter series. As reported by IGN, Joe Ziegler, hired by Bungie in 2022 after departing his role at Riot as Valorant game director, has replaced previous Marathon game director Chris Barrett, best known for his work on Destiny 2's critically acclaimed Forsaken expansion. Barrett's updated bio on X now reads: "Executive Creative Director @Bungie."

Ziegler also confirmed his new role as Marathon game director on X, where he said that he's been working on the game for the last nine months. "We’re still baking, but I’m excited to share with you more info on the game as we get closer and closer to bringing it to all of you," Ziegler wrote. In an email sent to PC Gamer, a Bungie rep confirmed separately that work on Marathon is continuing.

The shuffling of Marathon leadership is the latest addition in an ongoing series of disruptions at Bungie. Since its acquisition by Sony in 2022 and the unfavorable response to its Destiny 2: Lightfall expansion, the studio has endured repeated reorganizations, layoffs, delays, and departures of senior leadership. In its October 2023 layoffs, the studio cut 100 employees, including composers and long-time Bungie veterans Michael Salvatori and Michael Sechrist. Alongside the layoffs, Bungie announced that The Final Shape, the next Destiny 2 expansion, would be delayed until June 2024, while following reports indicated that Destiny 2 was falling short of revenue projections by as much as 45%. More recently, January 2024 saw the departure of Joe Blackburn, who'd been the game director on Destiny 2 since 2020.

Impressions from Bungie sources in IGN's reporting paint a bleak picture of studio morale, with staff expressing growing concerns that The Final Shape's release will be followed by another wave of layoffs. Those rumors echo ongoing fears of a complete Sony takeover at the studio, while just last month PlayStation chairman Hiroki Totoki stated a desire to see Bungie improve in its handling of "business expenses and assuming accountability for development timelines."

IGN also reports that Marathon is undergoing a shift in direction alongside its leadership change, with sources saying the game will now feature a roster of hero characters in place of a customizable, player-specific character. The change is a significant departure from the focus on player identity that the Marathon developers emphasized in a short documentary video released with the game's announcement in 2023. With Bungie's performance clearly under substantial scrutiny from management at Sony, the long-term fate of Marathon feels precarious—which is certainly a pity for a game that placed 10th on our Most Wanted list last year. 

Lincoln Carpenter

Lincoln spent his formative years in World of Warcraft, and hopes to someday recover from the experience. Having earned a Creative Writing degree by convincing professors to accept his papers about Dwarf Fortress, he leverages that expertise in his most important work: judging a video game’s lore purely on the quality of its proper nouns. With writing at Waypoint and Fanbyte, Lincoln started freelancing for PC Gamer in Fall of 2021, and will take any excuse to insist that games are storytelling toolkits—whether we’re shaping those stories for ourselves, or sharing them with others. Or to gush about Monster Hunter.