Destiny, Is It Yours?

By Jonathan Barnes, 3 years ago
This past weekend, Bungie pulled back the curtain on Destiny, their new game which is coming to multiple platforms and being published by Activision. In addition to the ViDoc announcement, they also released a handful of nice-looking concept art images and a few early details on what gamers might be able to expect from their new IP.

Now that we’ve had a few days to let the excitement of a new IP announcement wash over us, let’s take a step back and look at what we really know, what we think we know, what wild speculation we can somewhat justify.

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1 – What We Know

The game is being published by Activision as the keystone of their 10-year contract with Bungie. As part of this contract, Bungie is retaining the rights to Destiny (meaning that, unlike Halo, they don’t have to hand over control at the end of the deal), furthermore the contract (parts of which are excellently broken down by Joystiq’s Xav de Matos) speaks of multiple game releases, expansions, and DLC packs.

As every plugged-in gamer is aware, Activision loves nothing more than annualized games with predictable (and high) profit margins. The cost on the back end of Destiny (creating the online infrastructure and the tech to power it) has to be astronomical, meaning that Activision is really going to want bang for their buck, especially since this tech is (reported to be) proprietary to Bungie and not going to be used by other Activision studios.

The first step to profit was to make sure that Destiny would be a multi-platform release. While it is already guaranteed to come to the Xbox 360, the PS3, and the PS4 (smartphone functionality was also teased in their ViDoc), it is the safest bet on Earth that Destiny will be a big part of Microsoft’s next-gen platform as well. With a 10-year plan in place, and new consoles expected no later than 2014, the future is now for console game development. While the current gen is guaranteed to get a version of Destiny, smart money would bet that most of the content (and the best version(s) of the core game) will end up on the PS4 and whatever console Microsoft announces next. Regardless, the broad install base that this current gen provides, as well as the shifting gamer sentiment (in a positive way) towards the next generation, coupled with Bungie’s track record for excellence, mean that a lot of gamers are going to be able to get their hands on Destiny. More potential gamers equals more potential profit.

The next step is making sure that new, quality content is available regularly so that gamers don’t see the need to go get another game. The contract mentions “comets” (major downloadable expansions) as well as smaller DLC releases. It doesn’t make sense for Bungie to put out a new, retail version of Destiny every single year… in fact, that seems almost impossible while maintaining quality. On the other hand, if Bungie were to release a new, retail title every other year (or every three years) while creating yearly (or biyearly) expansions and quarterly DLC releases, the path to steady content (and profit) could be laid out like a yellow brick road to Oz.

Make no mistake, publishers and developers have always looked for “the next Call of Duty” or “the next World of Warcraft” (more on this in a minute). This initial contract with Bungie gives Activision a good chance to corner the new market while still retaining the previous one.

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2- What We Think We Know

The biggest feature that Bungie/Activision were hammering home was the “perpetual online world”. While the contract with Activision outlined a “massively-multiplayer-style” (further clarified as “client-based mission structures with persistent elements”), the one phrase that was consistently avoided during their press presentation was “MMO” and there was no mention of subscription fees.

Let’s be perfectly clear about this, nothing would make Activision shareholders happier in the pants than charging monthly fees for the hottest shooter that is going to be available on every major platform. If it came out tomorrow that the game was going to have a $15 monthly fee in addition to costing $60 (or whatever next-gen retail titles will cost), Activision’s stock would go up three points. That being said, you me, and every gamer out there would probably have an aneurism. Boycotts would occur, bad word-of-mouth would circulate, and Activision’s stock would probably drop two points in two weeks because of deflated sales expectations. Again, as much as gamers love games, they are a business to publishers, and those publishers want to make the most money possible. Without charging a monthly fee, Activision probably sees the road to highest profit potential as: “Release a $60 game. For each $60 game, release two-to-five $25 expansions and four-to-eight $10-$15 DLC packs.” A plan like that can make money and keep gamers at an acceptable level of rage/happiness.

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3- What Wild Speculation We Can Somewhat Justify

This game could be awesome.

The comment thread for our initial Destiny coverage was/is littered with comments like, “This looks like a combination of Halo and Mass Effect.” If you’re anything like me (and who’s to say you’re not), a game like that would be the equivalent of someone combining pizza and buffalo wings and having it served by a hybrid of Christina Hendricks and Kate Upton. For those of you who don’t enjoy savory man-food and beautiful women, I’ll clarify the simile by saying, “That would be a good thing.”

However, if there’s one thing that the recent Aliens: Colonial Marines /Gearbox debacle has taught us, it’s that preview coverage isn’t worth the bandwidth that it’s brought to you on. Developers have the ability to make a game sparkle and shine like the Hope Diamond, but we (quite literally) have NO idea how finished games will look, sound, feel, and play until after they’re released. While Bungie has a sterling track record of quality, there’s no way for us to be sure that this game is going to be “the next big thing” until it’s spinning in our disc trays/loading from our hard drives.

In short, it’s so incredibly early in this game’s development that Bungie could pull a Peter Molyneux and promise us The Godfather and end up delivering Analyze This.

Fortunately, no one is forcing us to put money down on Destiny (although you can toss a few bucks and pre-order the game already, if that’s your thing) and we have plenty of time to let the grapes age before tasting the wine. While I may not want to invest in the vintage just yet, this vineyard certainly has made a few bottles that I’ve enjoyed.

And that’s the story as I see it (tl:dr - “Feel free to get excited while still being skeptical."). What’s your take?
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.