Bungie’s Destiny: Much Ado About Nothing (Yet)

destiny-teaser-posterNot surprisingly, Bungie’s unveiling of their in-development Destiny to an assembled group of gaming press was massive news. After all, Bungie developed the Halo franchise, produced five well-received games in the series and have moved on to a much-anticipated new IP that will be published by Activision.

If you checked any of the major gaming blogs or news sites, Destiny’s unveiling wasn’t a one post piece of news. Writers dedicated multiple posts to news about the game but all those posts had one thing in common. Bungie didn’t unveil anything of substance about Destiny.

We did learn a couple of things about Destiny that could be considered newsworthy. First, after being a Microsoft owned studio since 2000, Bungie’s Destiny would be a multi-platform release under its new publishing agreement with Activision. More interesting than that was that the game would be released on PS3 and Xbox 360 despite a launch targeted for after 2013. They also announced a PS4 version during Wednesday’s PS4 announcement so an Xbox 720 release is likely.

Releasing on what would effectively be an old console doesn’t make sense from the perspective of the longevity of the game, especially if the world isn’t shared between consoles. Now I’ll get to why they’d want this game to have a short lifespan in a moment. Some publishers are looking for ways to keep players in games for longer periods of time in order to generate revenue over the long-term through DLC or future purchases on the back of multiplayer features. If people quickly move on from the PS3/360 gen to the PS4/720 gen consoles, that means they’d quickly lose focus on a last gen copy of Destiny.

And that’s what makes the current gen copies odd. If it’s releasing in 2014, why not make it just a next-gen title? It seems as though Bungie is sinking a lot of time and money into developing a version of Destiny for the PS3 and 360 even though many gamers will have moved on by then. Sure, there will still be people on the old consoles waiting for a price drop before getting a new consoles but how many of those people will buy a game that seems to be built to be played over a long period of time? I think the majority of their sales will be PS4/720 games rather than the current generation PS3/360.

destiny-concept-art-01The other big surprise out of the Destiny announcement was that Bungie is developing this as an MMOFPS. The bosses at Bungie like to  call it a shared world shooter with a persistent world that requires the gamer to be always online and allow you to create and customize your character. You know what other type of game allows other users to create characters, affect the world around them and require gamers to play online? MMOs.

It looks as though the focus groups and marketing department got to Bungie and Activision on this one and the press let Bungie get away with this one. Bungie was allowed to describe Destiny using those terms above without any writers forcing the term MMO on it. Kotaku drew that comparison in their preview but said that Bungie asked them not to call Destiny an MMO so they dropped the term for the preferred “shared world shooter.” (And you wonder why people question the integrity of the gaming media.) There’s talk about players undertaking quests, exploring the world, gather loot and a co-op element that sounds a lot like grouping with other players. No, doesn’t sound like an MMO at all.

All of these gameplay elements that Bungie explained to the press make Destiny sound like an MMOFPS (with RPG elements) so why is it allowed to be called a shared world shooter? It has to be because there’s some sort of negative connotation to saying MMO. After all, MMOs require a much larger time investment than your standard FPS and we’re very used to MMOs requiring subscription fees, despite what ArenaNet did with Guild Wars 2. That can be intimidating to someone who likes the short single player campaigns of FPSs and would rather just pwn noobs in multiplayer. That’s a much tougher sell when you say MMO.

This brings me back to my earlier point about why Bungie and Activision would want to kill off Destiny quickly. A persistent world game probably isn’t cheap to maintain for the developer/publisher. If people quickly move on from it, costs will drop to maintain the game. Given the length of time multiplayer servers have stayed up for the Halo games (Halo 2’s servers were up for six years), it’s not like Bungie has avoided long-term multiplayer support. One would speculate that this means that MMO-like microtransactions will be a part of the game but that’s something Bungie hasn’t talked about yet.

destiny-concept-art-02So that’s what we do know. Apart from the consoles and game genre, we don’t know anything else of substance about what to expect from Destiny. We know it’s a post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure and has some pretty concept art. Gameplay footage is surprisingly lacking for a game that’s been in development for at least two years. I find it odd that the big reveal of Bungie’s next big franchise (their publishing agreement with Activision calls for multiple Destiny titles) doesn’t come with a gameplay demo or walkthrough video. With this being a current gen game, I can’t see it coming out any later than fall 2014 which would still be after most of the industry has moved onto focusing on next-gen games.

The game sounds very impressive but that’s all it can do right now. Bungie can throw out all the PR buzz words it wants and have the press gush all it wants but at the end of the day, that’s all Destiny is. It’s buzz words and vague preview articles. Aliens: Colonial Marines was a pretty heavily hyped release and that turned out to be fantastic right?

If you’re a Bungie fan, and many people are, I can understand being excited for Destiny. For everyone else, there is nothing to get excited about. At least, not yet.

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