Destiny: mmo money, mmo problems

Once again I, like most people writing about videogames at the moment, will be talking about Destiny. You might have read about just how successful Destiny has been, shipping $500 million on the first day alone. Who needs high metacritic score when your game sells this much in just one day.

However that’s not the whole picture, as “shipping” does not mean sold to consumers, rather what the publisher has delivered to retailers. The actual number of units sold to consumers was $325 million, and this took five days to achieve. Still a very impressive number, but it doesn’t have the same ring as $500 million, which is half a billion. That doesn’t mean Activision was lying, or even bending the truth, but it was the purest form of PR speak. Then again as far as Activision is concerned “shipped” may as well be “sold” as they have a revenue of $500 million, it’s now up to the retailers to make their money back.

Although with an alleged budget of $500 million, claiming to generate the same amount of money on day one is great publicity and makes the investors very happy. Whether Destiny actually cost $500 million is still unknown, even if it did it is important to note that the amount also incorporates a very large marketing budget.

Some have jokingly remarked that Activision’s marketing department made a great game, for the careful marketing campaign can be seen as a key contributor towards the game’s success. Usually reviews can have an impact on how well a game does, but this time no formal reviews came out during the first week of release. But with a game of this nature how could they? Whilst reviewers did receive a copy of the game just before the games release in readiness for when the servers first went live, there was no way they could produce a fair and accurate review in time for the public release date.

Many produced what equated to essentially diaries of their experiences so far with the game, which helped to provide some indication to those still on the fence (myself included). By the time the full reviews came out, the scores weren’t great, but by no means were they bad, just less than what many people were expecting, especially from the creators of Halo.

The problem with Destiny is that it is not an easy game to review, for it is a mix of different types of videogames, and for some people the types didn’t blend in a way that they like or in a way that they were expecting. There have been comparisons with Borderlands for quite some time, and whilst that isn’t entirely inaccurate, it is very much MMO-lite. I and many others have found there to be plenty of gameplay to be found after reaching the soft level cap of 20. The “story” might be finished, but the quest to to get more light (the resource needed to go beyond level 20) containing items is when the game truly begins to feel like an MMO.

Activision and Bungie have both spoken about how they have a ‘ten year plan for Destiny’, for a while this seemed like more PR speak and was also reminiscent of Ubisoft’s talk regarding how Watch Dogs is just the start of a new franchise. Yet already Activision and Bungie’s words no longer seem hollow, for Destiny has already received little updates such as the (as of writing) current Queen’s Emissary bounties and items. This has given me an incentive to go back and play certain missions again. But more importantly it further shows the direction that Destiny is going in.

At times Destiny does feel like it is a proof of concept, for it has its faults, and there are times where it feels like there is something missing; such as too few vehicles (a realisation I came to last night during one of the larger crucible levels). Destiny might not be the game people were expecting, and there are those for whom it was not what they wanted. In an industry that is often fixated on winning and losing, Destiny has managed to do both.

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