Destiny was a frustrating game to review – there are hints of greatness that struggle to break through the repetitive action and leveling up.
But more than Destiny’s limited gameplay, I’m disappointed by the news of upcoming expansion The Taken King.
Set for a fall release, The Taken King weighs in at $39.99 (the same price as a full game); with a Legendary Edition at $59.99 that includes the original Destiny and previous expansions The Dark Below and House of Wolves; and a Collector’s Edition – at $79.99 – that includes the same core game and expansions, plus hard copy collectibles, and exclusive content: three class specific “emotes”, three armor shaders, and three exotic class items.
Because here’s where it gets interesting.
Recently Bungie received stiff criticism for the pricing, and that in order to access the Collector’s Edition exclusive extras players would be required to re-purchase titles they already own. Those emotes and shaders proved to be a sticking point, leading to this exchange between Bungie’s Luke Smith and Eurogamer:
Eurogamer: Taken King costs £39.99, which is almost same as base game. Does its content justify that?
Luke Smith: I’m going to use American dollars, because British pounds are just foreign to me…
Eurogamer: Literally foreign.
Luke Smith: Indeed, an ocean away. So, purchasers get a big, rich campaign. Fully voiced cinematics and the story of what happens when an angry alien god wages war on a solar system, all with a satisfying conclusion. You also have a new subclass to pursue and unlock. We also have a bunch of new strikes – we’re not yet talking about how many – and a new raid. We’re showing two new PVP modes and four PVP maps this week, and it’s a fairly safe bet we’re not done yet showing things off. So I’m fairly excited about the value proposition. We’re calling this a major expansion because it is. We’re giving people a whole new place to go, that new destination…
Eurogamer: I get that it is big but it is also the same price as the base game. That had four areas rather than one and more missions than the Taken King. Why is it the same price?
Luke Smith: All I can do is answer that with the same thing I just gave you… We’re really comfortable with the value we’re giving to players this autumn. I believe that once we begin to share more, players will be even more excited. And for existing players it also comes with the Founder’s pack with a new Sparrow, shader and emblem.
Eurogamer: Just not the emotes.
Luke Smith: It doesn’t because they come with the Collector’s Edition.
Eurogamer: Final question on prices –
Luke Smith: Is it also the final question on the emotes?
Eurogamer: I’m not going to mention them again. I can’t get them.
Luke Smith: But you can if you buy the Collector’s Edition.
Eurogamer: I’m not going to buy the game and the two DLCs all over again.
Luke Smith: Okay, but first I want to poke at you on this a little bit.
Eurogamer: Poke at me?
Luke Smith: You’re feeling anxious because you want this exclusive content but you don’t know yet how much you want it. The notion of spending this money is making you anxious, I can see it –
Eurogamer: I do want them. I would buy them –
Luke Smith: If I fired up a video right now and showed you the emotes you would throw money at the screen.
Eurogamer: What I’m saying is that fan frustration is not because they don’t understand the proposition. It comes regardless of how cool the exclusive content is. The frustration – and mine as a fan – is that the method of acquiring it requires me to re-buy content I bought a year ago.
Luke Smith: [Long pause] It’s about value. The player’s assessment of the value of the content.
(Here is the link to Eurogamer’s interview, for full context).
That question of value is key. How much would a Destiny player be willing to pay for some extra bits and pieces?
Is it worth the money to re-purchase a game you already own just to get a few emotes? Given Destiny’s dependence on leveling up, I suspect there may have been a few fans who would have acquired the full Collector’s Edition for those extras.
Though roundly criticized, Luke Smith did not go off script, nor did Bungie mess up its marketing campaign for The Taken King. Fans saw enough value in the emotes to demand that Bungie give them what they want – the option to buy the extra content separately. And in an apologetic blog post, Bungie announced just that – now the shaders, emotes, and extras will be available for $20.
Whether or not this counts as a “backtrack” for Bungie is debatable, given that the company has now generated additional hype – and diversified its revenue stream for The Taken King.
Get comfortable with this. Because as long as gamers are willing to shell out for expansion packs, downloadable content, season passes, and add-ons that add nothing to core gameplay, publishers will continue to charge more and deliver less.
Taken for a Ride
Bungie has come a long way from the indie developer carving out a cult following back on the Mac in the 1990s, but it still appears to be a company that cares about its fan base.
Even so, Bungie and other developers and publishers are testing the limits of gamers’ loyalty – and wallets. Destiny is a game that requires so much investment (in every sense) that the whole concept becomes off-putting.
You can choose your own destiny, and I’m off to play Marathon 2: Durandal.