Okay, here's a crazy idea.
Like more than a few people, I was puzzled by Bungie's return to independence following the release of Halo 3. It didn't seem to make much sense.
Sure, it made sense for Bungie to want more autonomy. Even the friendliest chaperon is still something one would rather do without. Why did it make sense for Microsoft, though? Why negotiate for a sweet discount with the goose who laid the golden eggs when you used to own it lock, stock and barrel?
At first I thought perhaps it was about studio expansion. Perhaps Microsoft thought of Bungie as a Halo-only studio, didn't want production on Halo sequels to stop, and didn't want to foot the bill for the expansion that would make working on two titles (one Halo and one non-Halo) possible. That still might be true.
What if there was another reason, though? No one outside of Bungie and Microsoft know the precise structure of the deal that made them independent, much like no one outside of Bungie and Microsoft know the precise structure of the deal that made them part of Microsoft. It was reiterated several times that Bungie got to choose what they developed, and had final creative control over the franchise, and had input into things like Halo licensed products.
Now, with Bungie independent and Microsoft the owner of the Halo property, is that still the case? Might not the motivation to let Bungie go independent have been to get hold of all rights for the Halo property, free of any restrictions that the Bungie purchase deal might have placed on it?
Take a look at this story at Kotaku about Halo 3 branded Nike sneakers, and tell me that last idea doesn't make at least some sense. Did someone at Bungie approve of these? Or is this proof that Microsoft is now free to really start beating the Halo franchise into the ground without interference from Bungie?