Sales for Destiny 2: Forsaken have not lived up to Activision’s expectations, the publisher said today on an earnings call, promising investors a faster content model and new forms of monetization for the game. This comes at a time when the Destiny fanbase is as happy as it’s ever been, which raises serious questions about the future of everyone’s favorite loot shooter treadmill franchise.
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With Destiny 2, released in 2017, Activision and developer Bungie tried very hard to appeal to as many new players as possible, streamlining many of the first game’s esoteric systems and forcing all new characters to start from scratch. Although Destiny 2 earned a better critical reception than the first game, it wasn’t what hardcore players wanted, and in the months after launch Bungie put a great deal of effort into overhauling the weapons system, the endgame, and just about every other mechanic, with very productive results.
Those improvements culminated with Forsaken, an expansion that came out in September to critical acclaim. It’s full of level grinding and a regular stream of rewarding activities—along with cool secrets and killer endgame content—which has made hardcore Destiny players happier than they’ve ever been. It didn’t sell enough copies to meet Activision’s expectations, however. “Some of our other franchises like Destiny are not performing as well as we’d like,” the company said on today’s earnings call.
That news shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention recently—last week, Activision started giving away the PC version of Destiny 2 for free (until November 18), a sign of weak sales for the franchise. “We have not yet seen the full core re-engage in Destiny,” said Activision COO Coddy Johnson, “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.”
But can a series like Destiny really appeal to both hardcore and casual players? Just what kind of lofty expectations does Activision have for the game? And—this is the tough one—have years of expensive expansions and embarrassing mistakes damaged the Destiny brand for good in many players’ minds?
Destiny 2’s microtransaction system is also relatively unobtrusive right now—with Activision hungry to please investors with more of that sweet, sweet revenue, should we expect that to change?
There’s been tension between Bungie and Activision since before the first Destiny even shipped, and it’s long proved difficult to answer the question, “Who is Destiny for?” With this new development, one again has to wonder what the future of Destiny looks like.