When the first “Destiny” video game launched, the plan was ambitious – Activision had pulled original “Halo” creators Bungie away from Microsoft to start up their own rival franchise, one that would ditch the basic campaign of “Halo” in favour of an online-only multiplayer FPS title.
The first title was part of a ten-year agreement and a hopeful franchise launcher. It certainly did that as it was the biggest new franchise launch of all time in 2014 despite reviews being more mixed than they ever were for the “Halo” games. It also became the go-to reference and example for the increasing prevalence of games-as-a-service titles which lead to the success of other company’s games like “Overwatch,” “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” and “Fortnite” in recent years.
Indeed those rivals have been such a success that by the time “Destiny 2” rocked around last year, and despite scoring better reviews than its predecessor (and adding a proper story), Activision was certainly not crowing about its sales numbers. Even more so than the film industry, the game industry is VERY reluctant to talk about any sub-stellar sales which is why – in a recent earnings call reflecting the performance of Activision’s divisions within the last quarter – it comes as news that they acknowledged the game has been under-performing.
Forbes reports that shares in the company are down following the call which acknowledged numerous issues – “Call of Duty” sales are relatively flat, “Diablo Immortal” had enormous fan backlash, and the recently launched DLC pack “Destiny 2: Forsaken” underperformed. The latter news is what stood out with COO Coddy Johnson saying:
“Some of our other franchises like Destiny are not performing as well as we’d like. We have not yet seen the full core re-engage in Destiny… which has led to the underperformance against expectations to date. Some players are in ‘wait and see’ mode. If you’re in, you’re deeply engaged. If not, we think now’s the time to bring players back.”
At BlizzCon the other week, it was announced “Destiny 2′ would be free to download and keep on PC for a limited time – not a good sign for a game that once cost $60. The publication reports the issue ties back to the main game with problems with both the original launch and the first DLC pack ‘Curse of Osiris’ which was widely slammed, especially for its Eververse microtransaction store.
Shaking off minor scandals around launch such as XP and shader (cosmetic items) systems which reportedly seemed to be rigged in a way to make people pay more, the second DLC pack titled ‘Warmind’ launched in the Spring to better reaction. ‘Forsaken’ hit in September and has drawn rave reviews, but requires having played the other two DLC packs. It’s too little too late as it would seem a good portion of the potential audience having moved on to other games.
Another issue is expectations. As the site says, ‘Forsaken’ brought in more digital revenue than any other title on the market in its launch month of September, and “Destiny 2” was still the third best-selling game of 2017 – it’s just Activision’s expectations are sky high.
The main game’s director Luke Smith has taken to Twitter to try and calm concerns about the game, saying: “We are not disappointed with Forsaken. We set out to build a game that Destiny players would love, and at Bungie, we love it too. Building Destiny for players who love it is and will remain our focus going forward.”
CinemaBlend adds that Activision’s long-term plan to make the game more successful is likely to have content made and released at quicker intervals; to ramp up the monetization for the game – ie. more cash shop items, aggressive microtransactions, and loot boxes; and to even possibly start charging subscription fees. Whether gamers think “Destiny 2” is worth the money Activision ultimately wants from them, we’ll see.