Destiny 2 will get a lot of new content when The Witch Queen launches in February. Unfortunately, some of it will only be accessible to players who pony up for the Deluxe Edition of the annual expansion. It’s the latest development in the messy evolution of how Bungie monetizes Destiny, and a lot of players are upset about it.
We knew back when Bungie revealed The Witch Queen over the summer that the next big chapter in Destiny 2 would bring new gear, a new story campaign, the Throne World destination, a raid, and dungeons. Just how exactly it would all be sliced up and rolled out across the paid expansion and seasonal passes, though, was confusing. Adding to the mess was the fact that Bungie was also launching a paid 30th Anniversary bundle that would include its own exclusive new gear and dungeon.
This week, community manager Cozmo took to the Destiny subreddit to try and clarify what players would need to buy in order to access the various pieces of content. “If you get the Digital Deluxe Edition of The Witch Queen you will receive the expansion, all four Seasons for the next year, and the two Dungeons,” he wrote. “If you get the Standard Edition, you can still upgrade to the Deluxe Edition to get the dungeons later. We will also be offering a separate way for you to purchase the Dungeons in the future, but they will not be included in the Season passes.”
Here’s some more context. The Standard Edition is priced at $40. the Deluxe Edition is priced at $80. The 30th Anniversary Bundle is priced at $25. Or you buy the everything—the expansion, seasons passes, extra dungeons, and anniversary bundle—for $100. That’s effectively what players paid to access all of the content back when Destiny 2 launched and was followed up by two $20 story DLCs. So why are players so upset, as evidenced by myraid comments on the subreddit and the fact that “Destiny 2" was once again trending on Twitter dot com this morning?
I think there are a few different things going on here. The first is what I’ll call the “Obamacare” problem, which is that anytime you start getting complicated with pricing, adding different tiers that cover different things, people tend to get frustrated and exhausted by it. That is not a judgement about the actual merits of the 2010 Affordable Care Act; it’s a commentary on how things can go wrong when instead of being confident that the thing you are offering is good and everyone should pay for it, you start trying to hedge, obfuscate, and offer different options at different price points, thinking it might please everyone when instead it just leaves them feeling vaguely like they were cheated.
Dungeons make up some of Destiny 2's best content, especially for people who don’t have lots of free evenings and weekends to devote to coordinating multi-hour-long raids with five other people. It might be one thing if Bungie were simply charging $10 for each new one, but here they’re being bundled with the $10 season passes, and only if you pre-order them all upfront.
The $10 season passes are themselves another debatable value proposition. Once upon a time players were also angry that each annual expansion didn’t also include the pass for that season. At the same time that players have come to accept this as the new normal, the pass rewards have gotten worse. They used to include high-stat armor, one of the game’s most coveted loot drops, but now are mostly just in-game currencies and cosmetics.
Even-so, Dungeon-gate may never have been an issue if it wasn’t coming after Bungie announced it would be vaulting most of the beloved Forsaken expansion, content which it is still charging for on all platforms. While the logistical need to make room for new Destiny content makes sense, it doesn’t get around the fact that players are losing access to stuff they paid for, whether or not they still play it anymore.
The vaulting issue gets at the heart of what I think Destiny 2's larger problem is, which is that it is still halfway between previous publisher Activision Blizzard’s model of being an annual boxed product and its new ambition of being a seasonally evolving, free-to-try game. Destiny’s original sin was that there was never “enough” content. Bungie has solved that by finding creative ways to remix missions, activities, and loot, and spread them across quarterly updates held together by solid week-to-week storytelling.
But rather than move to a subscription model, or a completely free-to-play one, it’s created a Frankenstein’s monster of monetization techniques that range from keeping a microtransaction shop stuffed full of pricy gun and armor skins to, now, apparently, gating core activities behind Deluxe Editions. And so players like me are left to ask ourselves, if I’m going to spend $100 for the next year of Destiny 2, why can’t I transmog all my armor whenever I want for free?
While Dungeon-gate is far from the worst thing that’s ever happened to Destiny, I can completely understand why it became a thing. Personally, I’m happy to shell out as much money as Bungie needs to keep updating Destiny 2. But it would be a lot easier if I knew those updates weren’t structured around a padded-out, free-to-play grind, and that they wouldn’t be vaulted from the game in just a couple years.