Bungie, The Real Destiny Killer

By Rogelio Castillo Jr. 

February 16, 2024
(Photo credit: MarcoStyle)

“Live service games are hard”, said MarcoStyle, a video game documentary content creator in his review of Lightfall. His words are the summary of a decade of the franchise Bungie (Developers and publishers of Destiny 1 & 2) has created for themselves. In a few words, the state of Destiny can be described as ‘failing to keep up’ to the standards they have set for themselves while also not listening to their community. 

Live Service Games Are Hard

Destiny 2 today is known as a “Free to play” MMORPG FPS game that is set in a fictional world where you, the guardian, have to battle against 6 factions to defend Sol. The recent standard Bungie has set is that every year has a new major DLC release that is a campaign along with a 6 player raid. Throughout the year there will also be two 3 player dungeons. They have also adopted the season model from Fortnite, where every year also has 4 seasons, each with a smaller campaign than the major DLCs.

Season of the Wish, the season that is ongoing for Q1 and Q2 (Photo credit: DeltiasGaming.com)

Many other live service games tried to compete with the model Bungie has been so successful with. However, all of these games have failed to take down the best in the industry, and have died themselves. There are multiple examples of these “Destiny killers”, such as Anthem, The Division, and The Outriders. The First Descendant may join these ranks soon.

Even The Best Cannot Keep Up

This is a load of content that has to be produced within very short periods of time. However, Bungie is one of the biggest companies in the live service genre, and have been doing it since the release of Destiny 1 in 2014. Each year, they have kept up with this model of having a major expansion every year, albeit with major delays. “The Witch Queen” DLC from 2022 was delayed by 3 months, while “The Final Shape”, the next DLC is delayed an additional 4 months, releasing in June as of today.

(Photo credit: Thumbnail. Fallout Plays, Destiny 2: The Final Shape DELAYED)

It is important to note that Bungie and Activision Blizzard were partners up until January 2019, when Bungie split from them and kept the publishing rights to the Destiny Franchise. That same year in October, Shadowkeep released, which is considered to be a flop by the majority of players. This was the first DLC that Bungie made without the massive resources that Activision provided such as developers. Ever since the partnership ended, it seems that Bungie has been constantly struggling to push content year after year with delays after delays. 

The Fall Of Lightfall

Unfortunately, Lightfall is considered to be one of the worst DLCs created, with a joke of a campaign, a boring Raid, and a cringy storyline. To start with the positive, the campaign had a similar structure to the Witch Queen’s, where there are 8 full story missions, each taking approximately an hour to complete. There is also a regular and “legendary” difficulty for players to choose if they want a challenge or not. Many parts of Destiny 2 have also been updated to be better. This includes UI changes, the new subclass “Strand”, and the long requested in-game loadouts. These are a huge step up from previous DLCs that had a large amount of filler content in the campaign while also not receiving drastic changes to the game structure.

The good ends there. The primary critique of Lightfall is without a doubt the campaign’s story. Despite there being 8 full length missions just like The Witch Queen, the dialogue, characters, and storylines are inept. Lorewise, the location of Lightfall is described to be “full of life”, but instead it feels dead like other locations in the game. Nimbus, the primary NPC, may as well be written by middle schoolers going through a midlife crisis, because that is exactly what it felt like. The raid, Root of Nightmares, is considered to be easy and relatively boring after the first few runs. Why does it feel that Bungie did not have time? How is it that even the best in the industry decided to not delay this expansion and rush it? This may be because of Sony.

Sony Bought Bungie

Lightfall was the first expansion under the watch of Sony, who bought the company in February 2022 for ~$3.7 Billion. Sony may have caused Lightfall to be developed on time with a low quality. To quote Marcostyle again, he speculated that Sony “likely set a strict deadline for the DLC this year because they wanted to see some early financial returns on their investment”. This is a reasonable explanation, since Sony just spent billions to acquire Bungie, and may have wanted to reap the profits more quickly and keep Bungie around. They may also be the reason for Lightfall to be $50 when The Witch Queen was $40, since Bungie knew people were going to buy it anyway.

Bungie is Joining PlayStation (Photo credit: Sony)

Monetization Questions

Despite Bungie stating that Destiny is “free to play”, it is not. The free content is close to null of what the game has to offer, and the majority of content is paywalled. True free to play means games such as battle royales, COD Warzone, Warframe, CSGO/CS2, and The Finals. Destiny is not free to play, instead it is “free to try”. If it was free to play, then the majority of content would be accessible to everyone regardless of if they bought something in the game or not. To rub salt in the wound, there are in-game ads that are presented while launching the game to promote the newest expansion despite buying a previous DLC. 

(Credit: DestinyTracker, In-Game Message)

Destiny 2 has become a very expensive game in DLCs alone, and on top of that, Bungie wants more. The major expansion alone is $50 for 8-10 hours of content and a 1-2 hour raid. This does not include anything for the rest of the year, which is $12 for one dungeon, another $10 for a 3 month season, and another $10 for one of many annual events. Some choose to spend $100 on a “yearly pass” that includes the major expansion, two dungeons, and four seasons. 

All in all, it is estimated that someone may spend $200 to get the yearly content along with previous expansions. The numbers alone represent how unjust the price for one person to get one year’s worth of live service content is. What is even more questionable is that people who paid for seasonal content will never get to play it again after the 3 months of said season. Old content from years 1 and 2 of Destiny are also “vaulted” so that people who paid for it cannot ever play it again.

On top of this is “The Eververse”, which is practically an in-game store for Bungie to sell cosmetics. This store does exactly what the stores in Fortnite and games like it do: sell things to change how characters or objects may look. Why is it that a “free to try” game has a plethora of paywall DLCs meant for paid games while also having the cosmetic stores of free to play games?

(Photo credit: Forbes)

Problems with Upper Management

Especially considering the events of recent months, players are furious with the direction Destiny is going. Monetization and greed is one of the largest factors along with how tone deaf the developers are to change. IGN  interviewed multiple former employees of Bungie, stating that “employees [were] begging for necessary changes”. The developers knew what to fix, however their supervisors and managers were not having it, looking only at how to extract maximum profit in the short term while sacrificing quality. 

This ignorance was apparent in Bungie’s decision to lay off about 100 employees, 8% of the company. Bloomberg mentions that their sales are 45% lower than expected because of the flop of Lightfall. This action was made only by upper management at Bungie themselves to prevent a complete studio takeover by Sony. Why is it that $1.2 Billion of the 3.7 that Sony bought Bungie for was allocated for employee retention if the employees were laid off without notice? What happened to Bungie initially stating that there would be “absolutely no layoffs” when being acquired by Sony? 

(Photo credit: Bloomberg)

People are leaving for good

Bungie has a large diehard fan base that has been with them ever since Destiny 1 in 2014. This is not the first time that Bungie has seen their game close to death, especially with Curse of Osiris at the beginning of Destiny 2. Year 2 of Destiny 2 was the release of Forsaken, which revived the game from dying altogether because of Year 1. Players were back again, and Bungie kept making content. This time, those same diehards will see the end of the story, and leave for good. 

The stubbornness and ignorance that Bungie has shown to their players and the flop of Lightfall is showing. Once The Final Shape is released and the story is finished, people will be migrating to other games. Bungie claims that this is the “End of the Light and Dark Saga and the start of a new story, but many are not convinced. The damage is done, and will not be healed. Bungie themselves have become the “Destiny Killer” other games tried so hard to be. To sum it up, “Live Service Games Are Hard”, and even the best in the industry have proven this to be true.