Just to preface this article, I have no inside information nor have I spoken to anyone at Bungie about this specifically. Most of this is just speculation. That said, I still think this aspect of Destiny is worth discussing, if for no other reason to see what other gamers are theorizing about the much ballyhooed title.
Anyway, on to why this game is causing me to lose sleep at night. Destiny is really looking good so far. I say that as someone who enjoyed the Halo series, but I haven’t been overwhelmed with positivity by the latter entries. While the trailers and gameplay demos do look gorgeous, Destiny also seems to have an updated shooting system that includes a fine aim. This is definitely a departure from the core Halo system, but my concern doesn’t revolve around anything we have seen or heard so far.
The mystery that has my interest piqued revolves around the business side of Destiny, and by that I mean specifically what will be monetized and how. It has been said that the title will be an MMO, and Bungie has repeatedly refuted that statement, calling Destiny a shared-world game. My worries stem from the fact that keeping a game of that nature updated, from both a technical and content standpoint, takes money. More money than a $60 price tag can afford, especially if we go along with all of Bungie’s promises about an ever-evolving world.
So this is where it gets really sticky for me. If $60 dollars won’t be enough to finance all of the glorious online action in the long term, then what are the options? I think a monthly subscription is probably out of the question, so rest easy on that front. That leaves two of the most distasteful options (to me anyway): micro-transactions or pay-wall-locked content (Warcraft-style expansions).
Micro-transactions in essence aren’t terrible. If a game does them right, they can not only add to the experience but give players the ability to vote with their dollars by supporting the features they want and panning the rest. A specific example of this is Digital Extremes’ Warframe. While this example is a free-to-play title, it still has found a way to keep the business side of the game out of players’ faces. Warframe has a market place, and you can spend your hard-earned cash to either get customization options or take a shorter path to leveling by purchasing upgrade mods and higher-level weapons outright. But Warframe is a co-op game, and PVP , at least right now, is not a part of the game. That aspect could easily produce a terrible imbalance in a PVP game like Destiny, but if buying level upgrades and weapons with real cash to unlock them sooner is left out, then another issue presents itself.
You are buying “hats.” If you have played Team Fortress 2 (another free-to-play game), you know what I mean. If not, well, you are basically buying aesthetic options with real money. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but what are we getting for $60 bucks then? The most basic items and weapons with a possibility of earning new stuff through random drops and grinding? That is my biggest problem with this whole scenario. If all we are left with is the ability to buy weapon and player skins, will that be enough to finance the dream of a continuously evolving game world? Probably not.
If we were to scrap the micro ideas in favor of large paid expansions, what would that produce in a game like Destiny? Well, imagine this. You and your friends are on a mission, traveling through the wasteland fending off aliens or whatever, and you come to a gate. You walk through, then your friends begin to venture forward as well. Now the last one of your buddies, let’s call him Johnny, steps up to the gate, and all of a sudden the gate slams closed in his face. Johnny screams out in terror when the words “Content Unavailable Please Purchase DLC” appear on his screen.
Forgive my colorful hypothetical, as I am just trying illustrate a point. When a developer walls off large sections of content through expansions, they effectively divide the player base. In the world of Destiny, as we have been told at least, community is the driving force behind the experience. If one or more of your preferred gaming crew hasn’t purchased the expansion, for whatever reason, be it affordability or personal values, that community experience is broken.
Of course, there are ways around this. Dota 2, for example, allows some sharing of purchased or owned items, which not only serves as a really slick advertisement to other players but also allows members of your team to experience the extra content at no cost as long they are on your team. Will Bungie allow a group of players to experience the whole of an expansion that only one team member has purchased? Again, probably not.
In closing, the monetization options we have explored in this article are not the only ones out there, just the ones I think will most likely happen. Regardless, I am still excited to see more of what Bungie is cooking up, and even if there are strange monetary strings attached, I will still play it. But with the whole gaming industry watching the launch of the first new titles for next-gen, I can’t help but be a little worried. If Bungie is able to ask 60 bones for a game while still charging for anything and everything within the game world itself, you can bet other developers and publishers will do the same. Again, this conclusion is based on my speculation, but I still feel that some type of post-launch monetization, beyond the known standards of DLC, is inevitable for a game of this scope.
What do you think? Are you up for whatever Destiny throws at you monetarily, or will an attempt to squeeze more than the price of the game out of your wallet turn you off to this shared-world experience? Be sure to let us know in the comments.