There’s been a lot of talk about Destiny, Bungie, and why Activision might be to blame for some of the frustrating things that have recently transpired. On the other side of the coin, CD Projekt Red continues to receive praise for their consistent injection of free DLC into their game The Witcher 3. Ollie Barder over at Forbes just wrote about how CD Projekt Red was able to develop The Witcher 3 and why they are able to keep giving away free DLC: they self-published the game. A quote that really landed the “Why is Destiny so frustrating” plane for me was this: “The fact The Witcher 3 was self-published also meant that CD Projekt RED didn’t scalp gamers with exploitative DLC or pad out in-game content.” So what does this mean for the future of Destiny? But first, why am I comparing these two games?
In some games the size and scope isn’t as important as other mechanics or features, but in games like The Witcher 3 and Destiny, size is intrinsic to the game itself. RPG’s by their nature come with the expectation of skills trees, leveling mechanics, and stories that offer depth and long engagement hours. The reason I am comparing the two games is because they both offer a story for the player to embark on that on the outset promises a wealth of choices, customization, and journeys to far away places. So why is The Witcher 3 undeniably and significantly larger than Destiny? What could have caused one game to remove content to monetize as DLC while the other gives away content for free? What could have caused one game to rely on repetition and re-purposing areas and enemies while the other has hundreds of ares, enemies, and characters to interact with? I believe it is in large part due to the way the games were published. CD Prokekt Red self-published their game and have largely been able to do whatever they want with their intellectual property. While on the other hand, Destiny is connected to Activision, a company known for it’s ruthless ability to dilute and ruin one of the best and most successful franchises in video game history: Call of Duty. So why do I suspect Activision being to blame?
If developers don’t have to keep injecting a game with requests and changes from a publisher who is completely disconnected from the process it can help keep things moving and keep production costs down. But money talks, and if a big publisher like Activision says put this in or take that out those wishes have to be honored. What many people believe we are seeing with Destiny is the man behind the curtain, Activision, continuing to sabotage the development and distribution of the game. This is probably why the big PR disaster with the Eurogamer interview didn’t result in year one players getting the Collector’s Edition in-game perks for free, but instead are being given the option to purchase them. Contrast this to CD Projekt Red giving free DLC for a game that is already substantially larger than Destiny.
Now to be clear, we don’t know if Activision is the cause of all the fan frustration and strange behavior with respect to Destiny. But when you consider how completely different the size and DLC treatment is in The Witcher 3 combined with the fact that they are self-published it’s hard not to start connecting the dots. And CD Projekt Red readily admits self-publishing kept their budget small and development smooth which is directly linked to all the free DLC. Also, keep in mind, this is the same game company that told people not to buy their DLC until you played their game. I actually praised them for this as that type of communication is refreshing to see in the midst of hype and alongside what seems like overpriced DLC and over monetized cash grabs. So what does this mean for the future of Destiny?
I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my concerns with respect to Destiny’s future, and looking at the publishing reality for The Witcher 3 has brought some perspective. Activision wants return on their investment which is totally acceptable, but they may be the leading cause for Destiny feeling like an unrealized product with massively wasted potential. You can sense the solid development in the graphics, the engine, and the mechanics. And you can even sense it in the innovation and creativity put into the Raids. But then the game feels butchered, chopped up, sold in pieces, making the story seem incoherent and the content bland and stretched beyond what it should be. This is why the Raids can seem like such a sharp juxtaposition against the rest of the game, which is in part to blame for so many players never beating a Raid. Activision should take note at the size, development efficiency, and DLC of The Witcher 3 and see what can be assimilated and replicated. Bungie needs to be more empowered for future content development as many in the fan base already have wavering confidence in the sustainability of the game. The pattern at this point is set, lots of hype and exciting details, and then lack luster content with little depth and a lack of vibrant re-playability. Games and their communities are ever changing so there is time for Destiny, Bungie, and Activision to evolve and grow in a way that can be good for everyone involved. Let’s just hope Activision feels some of the pain monetarily because honestly that’s the only thing that will change their mind. If they continue to get good return on their investment, altering their current course and trajectory is incredibly unlikely. So if you’re a fan of Destiny and want to see the game improved it really does come down to you and how you chose to spend your money.
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