The world of “Destiny” has changed drastically over the last month, thanks to the recent launch of “The Taken King” expansion pack that completely changes the game in many profound ways.
But new changes coming next week could have the most significant impact on the game moving forward.
Bungie, the makers of “Destiny” and the original creators of the “Halo” franchise, announced in a Monday blog post that microtransactions are coming to “Destiny” next Tuesday.
Microtransactions, for those unfamiliar, are virtual items you pay for with real money. Usually you’ll see microtransactions in free-to-play mobile games like “Candy Crush,” where you can play the entire game for free but you can spend money for virtual bonus goodies, or even to progress more quickly in the game.
But while microtransactions can help developers pay the bills instead of charging outright for their games, the downsides of microtransactions have been well-documented.
Microtransactions aren’t illegal by any stretch of the imagination, but many people feel repeatedly taking out their wallet for small $US1 and $US5 payments is worse than paying once for a $US40 game. Just Google “microtransaction addiction” and you’ll see horror stories of people (teens but also many adults) spending hundreds, even thousands of dollars on microtransactions in games.
On the other hand, microtransactions are the reason many mobile games, and some very successful companies like King, are able to exist. Games are expensive to make, and providing free content with the option to buy extra content simply works.
That brings us to “Destiny.”
If you think mobile games are expensive to make, “Destiny” costs millions of dollars to make, and Bungie plans to spend roughly half a billion dollars over the course of the decade advertising the game. But now it looks like the company might change the way it provides content: Instead of offering expansion packs that cost anywhere between $US20 and $US40, Bungie will release those new experiences and updates for free, and rely on microtransactions to fund these live endeavours.
On October 13, Bungie says a familiar-but-recently-missing merchant in “Destiny” will return to the Tower, a social space for “Destiny” players, selling a host of new items at a new storefront.
“To acquire these items, you’ll first need to pick up some ‘Silver,’ a new in-game currency that will be available for purchase through the store associated with your console,” Bungie’s community manager David “DeeJ” Dague said in the blog post. “Pricing information for Silver will be made available Tuesday, October 13th, alongside the launch of the in-game storefront right here on Bungie.net as soon as the content is live.”
At launch, Bungie says Tess Everis will sell 18 different “emotes,” which are basically gestures and dance moves players use in the game to communicate or taunt each other. Last month, Bungie sold a special $US20 add-on that let players unlock three new dance moves, along with some other collector’s edition items and gear. We’re guessing that decision to sell those items separately was a success, given the move to microtransactions. I mean, look how much fun these guys are having! (Cut to 0:35)
As for the other items in the store, we don’t know what the items will be exactly, but we’re guessing Bungie will sell special ship designs, character shaders, and emblems, which all provide flair but offer no actual utility in the game.
“If you’re not interested in what Tess has to offer, you won’t ever be forced to pluck an item off of her shelf,” Dague said in the blog post. “You’ll still receive updates to the game, and you won’t lose a Crucible encounter or fail to clear a Raid because you didn’t have the right Eververse Trading Company emote equipped.”
If successful, however, these microtransactions could be beneficial for both Bungie and its players. Here’s the most important bit from that blog post:
Our plan is to use these new items to bolster the service provided by our live team for another full year, as they grow and create more robust and engaging events that we’ll announce later this year. It has been, and continues to be, our goal to deliver updates to the game. Going forward, our live team is also looking to grow beyond vital updates and improvements to focus on world events, experiences, and feature requests.
So rather than sell individual expansion packs and downloadable content packs every few months, Bungie could use the money provided by microtransactions to provide those game updates to all players for free. That’s good for players, since they don’t have to buy new content every few months, and that’s good for Bungie, since that money can go directly towards updating “Destiny” with new content, experiences, and feature requests.
Depending on the success of microtransactions in “Destiny,” we might soon see other major games for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One employ this same tactic: Rather than sell updates to bring players back to the game several months after the initial release, every player who owns the game can get the expansion for free, but they can also choose to spend money on cool bonuses for themselves and help game makers pay the bills.
Considering the loyal fanbase of “Destiny,” which has been overwhelmingly positive since the launch of the last expansion and especially with all of the daily surprises introduced over the course of the last month, we’re guessing these microtransactions will be a hit with the players.
But there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic: Despite Bungie’s good reputation with gamers, microtransactions have been known to suck a lot of money from a disproportionately small number of committed players (see: “Candy Crush”). And considering how many people are committed to “Destiny,” Bungie and its parent company Activision might eventually start selling items down the line that do affect game progression if players take well to these first microtransactions.
If you want an idea of what players and fans think of this move, check out this thread about the announcement on the “Destiny” subreddit. Many fans seem to like the idea of microtransactions in exchange for more updates to the game and universe, but plenty of players appear to be concerned about the future implicationsl. It will be interesting to see how Bungie addresses this delicate balance with its fanbase moving forward.
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