It didn’t take long for the incredibly stupid price structure of Destiny’s next DLC installment, The Taken King, to make waves. In a recent interview with Eurogamer, Luke Smith fumbles just about every ball possible. It’s hard at this point to not look at the entire situation with an eye of suspicion as it’s difficult to accept someone could be so inept and arrogant all at once. I have my own theories about what is going on, which I won’t go into here, but I highly encourage any fan or potential future fan of Destiny to go read the interview. It sends a pretty loud and clear message that being a long time player of Destiny comes with derision and a lack of appreciation. So take note potential buyers of the alluring bundled Destiny packages, below I will show how the interview betrays a serious underlying problem both with how Bungie views their community and their own game. I already have posts and videos about how the House of Wolves was basically one step forward and eight steps backward. For the most part my concern was the casual players, but now Bungie has doubled down on frustrating its player base by asking hardcore fans to literally buy the game a second time if they would like special edition perks. Paul Tassi at Forbes has already predicted there will be damage control by the end of the week with respect to giving something to legacy players, and I hope he’s right. If Bungie doesn’t act fast their decreasing fan base won’t just shrink, it will vanish. And the desperate price point to draw in would-be fans won’t be enough to convince enough to jump into such a caustic and toxic pool, especially with so many other next-gen games coming out. Yes, Deej has said there is an announcement coming about how year one players can’t get the special edition content without re-buying the game, but that they will get “something better”. This interview, however, is very telling about why so many of us feel a rift with Bungie that continues to widen with every interview and press release.
The most damning part of the interview is Luke Smith’s insistence that there is value in the new content while offering almost no specifics as to why. And when pressed on how small the DLC sounds in comparison to the launch title he responds with, “We’re really comfortable with the value”. He then insists that once they share more information players will be more excited and then tacks on that year one players get a shader, sparrow, and an emblem (all cosmetic stuff to put in an already bursting vault). Now pay close attention to how he answered. He didn’t say, “Once players engage with the content they will see how expansive and massive it is, connecting the value to the $40 price point.” No, he said once they give us more information we will get more excited. Do you see where, in his mind, the emphasis is? It isn’t the game that is going to excite the player, but the information they share. And this is right in line with what so many of us have experienced. A massive amount of hype, a surge of excitement surrounding trailers and twitch reveals, and then the content is received with a roaring “meh”. And I actually don’t even have much to say negatively about the amount of content in both House of Wolves and The Dark Below. I do, however, have strong criticisms about player incentivization, reward, and de-incentivized engagement levels that are worsened by both DLCs. So this is more about delivered value then perceived value, and Luke Smith’s answers clearly show where the value has been and continues to be: in the hype.
Bungie thinks very highly of their content, and you can see it in the way they boast about long engagement numbers and even in the way Luke Smith answers a few questions. He told Eurogamer that if he fired up footage of the new emotes legacy players can’t get without re-buying the game that the interviewer would “throw money at the screen”. This kind of confidence and arrogance isn’t the best tone to take when being pressed on why certain content isn’t even available for such a type of purchase. It’s this cross armed, grinning, smug attitude that will sink a game, especially when it is directed at your most loyal fans. “You love our game so much, if we show you simple non-game impacting emotes you will literally throw money at the screen, you mindless addicted lemmings.” This is linked to what I talked about in my post and video entitled, “Destiny is like Candy Crush“. Bungie looks at behavior and bases a lot of their decisions, mechanics, and marketing around it. It fuels their ego and arrogance, and you see it seeping through the cracks in this interview. They think their fan base is rock solid, not because of value heavy content, but because of player behavior and how they can surge excitement with announcements. You can see this on full display in the way they’ve handled the House of Wolves loot pools and lack of community focused mechanics and how Luke Smith handled this interview. They focus so heavily on behavior that they do more to manipulate players to increase engagement levels rather than build content that is alluring and fun. And they focus more on perceived value than actual value so they give information crafted to foster excitement rather than convey actual information. It is all about manipulation because the content can’t speak for itself.
Too Little Too Late
At this point I can see the writing on the wall. I could sense it when their reveals whiffed during E3, and it’s shouting in the background of the Eurogamer interview. The Taken King is going to be another over hyped piece of content that when analyzed and weighed in hindsight will look very empty and very bland. I already said in my thoughts about E3 2015 that both Call of Duty and Destiny fell incredibly flat because next-games are here and they look mind blowing while Bungie and Treyarch just keep dialing it in with minimal innovation and vague marketing double speak. The Eurogamer interview is the perfect display of how Bungie has nothing to offer. They can’t justify the content’s price point or they would. And they certainly can’t defend the pricing structure with respect to new comers and collector’s editions. So they punt. They barely say anything, which communicates volumes. And the little they do say betrays an arrogance and a misdirected view of where the value truly lies. If you’re a year one player or someone considering buying, you need to really analyze the mindset that Luke Smith let out of the bag. The excitement and value is in their announcements, not in the content. And they think their community will keep throwing money at the screen, even for something as poultry as a cosmetic character flourish. I hate to feel so right about how inevitable this game’s implosion seems, and I fear they don’t have time to course correct the PR fumble and they almost certainly don’t have enough time to inject the content with enough to justify the price. This interview could potentially be the readying of the hammer that The Taken King will use to firmly plant in the coffin of what was supposed to be a ten year game.
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