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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Game On: Amid shifting shooting game landscape, Bungie to reboot Marathon

Bellevue-based developer Bungie, best known for creating Halo and Destiny, recently unveiled Marathon, an upcoming extraction shooter based on an old dormant IP that saw its last release in 1996.  (Bungie Inc.)
By Riordan Zentler For The Spokesman-Review

May’s PlayStation Showcase saw the announcement of Marathon, the next game from Bungie, the Bellevue-based developer best known for creating Halo and Destiny. A reboot, the original trilogy was released in 1994-96 exclusively for Mac OS and largely flew under the radar. However, it was well-received critically and set the stage for Bungie to create the Halo franchise.

While the teaser trailer didn’t reveal much, Bungie announced that the new Marathon will be a team-based extraction shooter – a player vs. player environment similar to Escape from Tarkov and Hunt Showdown. Curiously, there won’t be a single-player campaign, which is exactly what Marathon was once renowned for.

Marathon epitomizes the shifting landscape of shooters. Its original iteration was released at a time when nearly all first-person shooters were dismissed as mere “Doom clones” regardless of their own merits. Nearly three decades later, Bungie is bringing the IP back to capitalize upon the emerging trend of “extraction shooters,” which are similar to battle royales like Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, but with a twist.

Instead of fighting it out in last-man-standing fashion, Marathon will allow players to pillage the map by eliminating opponents or by finding treasure. According to Bungie, gamers will be able to “compete for survival, riches, and renown in a world of evolving, persistent zones, where any run can lead to greatness.”

Shortly after acquiring Bungie early last year, Sony announced its plans to release no fewer than 10 live service games by 2026. It’s no surprise that Bungie is one of the developers contributing to that lofty goal – I’m just relieved the result sounds a little more interesting than the Fortnite clone I was expecting.

Marathon’s far-future setting has always been fascinating, and although the emphasis on world-building will likely be diminished somewhat by virtue of being a multiplayer experience, I’m excited to see the IP in action again. Color me cautiously optimistic.

Whether Marathon – or any of the other nine-or-so live-service games Sony plans to release within the next three years – will be a success remains to be seen, however. While the demand for such titles is massive, there are plenty of well-established competitors like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Apex Legends and Call of Duty.

And for every live-service game that’s been a runaway success with years upon years of additional content under its belt, there’s two or three others that were dead and buried in mere months. Even promising titles like Scavengers, Lawbreakers, Anthem and Rumbleverse shut down before their time because the player bases quickly became too small for their developers to turn a profit.

I worry about the Marathon series adapting this business model because I’d prefer it didn’t go on another 20-plus-year hiatus. That said, Bungie seems to know how to run a live-service game better than most – Destiny 2 fluctuates in popularity, but content updates are steadily released and Sony plunked down a cool $3.6 billion to acquire the studio.

Surprisingly, despite being owned by Sony now, Bungie is developing the game not only for PlayStation 5, but also Windows PC and Xbox Series X|S. Additionally, it’ll offer full cross-play and cross-save between platforms, so Marathon will have a unified player base across all systems. With Sony consistently leading console sales with each hardware iteration, they’ve historically been protective of their exclusives and reluctant to offer cross-play.

Although Destiny has a player vs. player “Crucible” mode, it’s always felt a bit tacked-on, especially compared to the legendary multiplayer of the Halo series. Bungie parted ways with the Halo IP after Halo: Reach released in 2010, and they haven’t created another competitive game since.

If Marathon manages to live up to the frenetic action of multiplayer Halo, it could be an excellent game and breathe fresh life into the shooter genre. With Bungie being tight-lipped on specifics surrounding gameplay, it’s safe to say Marathon is quite a ways out – I’d estimate 2024 at the earliest. I look forward to it.

Riordan Zentler can be reached at