What started as a rumor earlier this week has now been confirmed in a press release issued today by Bungie Studios: The developers of the critically acclaimed Xbox exclusive "Halo" franchise will become a privately held independent company in which Microsoft will hold a minority stake.

According to reports, Bungie did not want to be tied down to indefinitely making Halo games and so as a result, the company's shareholders bought back the studio name from Microsoft. Bungie is calling this an exciting evolution of its relationship with Microsoft as they will continue its publishing agreement with Microsoft Game Studios for Halo-related titles and other future properties developed by Bungie, but will gain more creative freedom in the game titles they develop.

Microsoft just released the third and supposedly final installment in the Halo franchise for the Xbox 360 on September 25, pulling in over $300 million in sales during its first week.