Bellevue-based video game creator Bungie, whose titles include Halo and Destiny, is more than doubling its downtown headquarters with a new office slated for completion in fall 2022.
The expansion coincides with company growth and new projects under development, its chief operating officer said Tuesday during an online event with the Bellevue Downtown Association (BDA).
“We’re preparing for that future and we’re also consolidating into one headquarters,” Patrick O’Kelley said in a virtual discussion with BDA President Patrick Bannon as part of BDA’s Downtown Talks series.
The 208,000-square-foot project will be located at the Bellevue Connection building across from Paccar’s headquarters on 106th Avenue NE and designed by Seattle architecture firm NBBJ. The plan is to move people from multiple buildings downtown to that location to improve collaboration and contribute to what has become a large video game industry locally.
“Literally, we’ve got in the hundreds of game companies, big and small, working around here,” O’Kelley said. “So for us, it’s just a great resource to have a community of people pursuing the same craft, people who you can collaborate with — and we do. I mean, we’re competitors, but we also share our art, we share our craft, we work together on platforms, we have partnerships. So that’s a wonderful aspect of being here versus isolated in some other city, being part of this community.”
According to a company news release last week, “a primary driver of the expansion is to increase the commitment to the long-term development of Destiny 2, tell new stories in the Destiny Universe, and create entirely new worlds in to-be-announced Ips (intellectual properties).”
The new space will consolidate Bungie operations that include a streaming studio for streaming on Twitch or YouTube, motion-capture space to prepare game animations, audio-recording facilities, and play-testing labs.
Play-testing is big at Bungie.
“I know this is every kid’s dream when they imagine going to work for a video game company is that I get to play games all day,” he said. “And in fact, for people who are involved in the design of our games, it’s really important — a big part of the process is iteration.”
Play-testing labs will be a core part of the new building and its culture, he said.
“The gathering spaces in the core of the building feature a number of these labs as well as labs for outsiders to come into when we do outside testing with external people,” O’Kelley said.
The types of jobs at Bungie include more than engineers, O’Kelley said. There are roles for artists, musicians, designers, animators, audio engineers, and more.
Bungie also is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. After forming in Chicago, the company moved to the Pacific Northwest after its acquisition by Microsoft, then became independent again.
O’Kelley tells kids interested in the industry, “Do what you love first. Don’t try to put yourself into an engineering field because you think that’s how to get into video games. Find the thing that you love to do, and then find the path for that in the game industry.”
O’Kelley said Bungie likes its downtown location for the proximity to a new light rail station, restaurants, shops, and parks.
Bungie takes its community connection seriously. Currently, it has a partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bellevue, and its foundation continuously looks for partnership opportunities, O’Kelley said.
Bungie is part of a video game industry in Washington that ranks No. 2 nationally in size of its economic impact, according to a study shared in December by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). Many of the companies making video games are located on the Eastside.
In 2019, the industry generated $11.6 billion in annual economic output in the state, while supporting nearly 48,800 jobs, according to findings made by TEConomy Partners LLC in the study prepared for ESA. The jobs number includes more than 15,000 people directly employed by the video game industry and more than 33,700 indirect or induced jobs. Total economic impact also includes direct, indirect, and induced output.
Washington has 151 publisher, developer, and hardware company locations, according to the study. California ranked No. 1, with $51.8 billion in annual economic impact. Texas was third at $4.2 billion.