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Fired composer of Destiny, Halo themes wins case against Bungie

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Martin O'Donnell, the composer of the Halo theme, has prevailed in his case against the studio following his abrupt dismissal in April 2014.

The ruling, by a court-appointed arbitrator, restores O'Donnell's stock holdings in Bungie (a privately held company), awards him $95,000 in unpaid wages, and another $142,500 in profit sharing for work he performed in 2014 before he was fired. The value of O'Donnell's stock position is unknown but it is likely the biggest piece of the total award.

Of greater intrigue in the court order, however, is a detailed look at what led to the rupture with Bungie. O'Donnell (pictured at work above), along with the former Beatle Paul McCartney, recorded an original suite of music to be used throughout Destiny, the studio's highly successful space adventure published by Activision. However, according to the suit, Activision replaced his music with a soundtrack it had developed for a trailer to be shown at E3 2013.

Though Bungie protested on O'Donnell's behalf (and was rebuffed by Activision) this still touched off an acrimonious relationship between O'Donnell and the studio, in which he was accused of threatening others at Bungie to keep the trailer from being posted and was disruptive at news briefings. O'Donnell said he was pushing back against what he felt was Activision's corrosive presence in Bungie's otherwise collegial culture.

Bungie, for its part, felt O'Donnell was insubordinate and was intent on publishing the music he had recorded for Destiny, titled Music of the Spheres, over the orders of his superiors including Bungie CEO Harold Ryan. Ultimately Bungie set in motion the process by which O'Donnell was terminated.

The full ruling can be read here, and VentureBeat has an even more detailed narrative of O'Donnell's dismissal, his arbitration hearing, and the money in play. Of particular note, a court filing said that Destiny's sales in Activision's third fiscal quarter total $47.5 million, roughly 6.3 million units.

Previously, Activision has disclosed only that Destiny sold $325 million worth of product in the first five days after its launch nearly a year ago, with later statements focusing on the game's number of registered users and how many hours they've played, per capita and collectively.

Destiny launched Sept. 9, 2014. On Sept. 15, its next expansion The Taken King will launch, closing out the first year of offerings for the massively-multiplayer shooter.

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