The Bungie and Activision split shocked the gaming world a few days ago. The reactions coming from many gamers couldn’t have been more one-sided with many celebrating Bungie’s “freedom” from the shackles of Activision’s influence. And yet, as I’ve detailed in a previous feature, most of Destiny’s woes were all on Bungie’s lap. Now, it’s time to enumerate the good and the bad — the pros and the cons — of this split between two industry giants. Will everything be as bright and positive as some think it would be? Or are there even bigger challenges in store?
The Good: No More Strict Schedules And Timetables
First and foremost, it’s the main reason for the split (at least as it’s been described publicly). Even Bungie employees were noted to have celebrated with champagne when it was announced. Video game development is no joke and developers end up facing the “crunch” whenever deadlines are nearing.
Bungie’s original contract with Activision required four main games with four “comets” (major expansions) in intervening years. As time has shown, content generation became a problem. Meeting those deadlines became a problem. Being free of this contractual obligation means that Bungie can start crafting the game at their own pace.
The Bad: That Wasn’t A Decent Pace To Begin With
Still, in relation to the above, we’ve also come to know that Bungie’s pace with delivering content wasn’t stellar to begin with. Much of it stems from their contractual obligation to provide main games/expansions at specific dates. However, other incidents show that they’re still on the slow side of things.
Good examples include sandbox updates and time-gated content. The former is something that many Crucible aficionados are aware of. There are times in Destiny’s lifespan where the meta lasted for months with almost no end in sight. For instance, the launch of Forsaken led to shotguns in multiple slots — which meant “shotgun aping” was back.
As for the latter, one can see nowadays what time-gating content has resulted in. Although you’ve got more than $10 worth for a single DLC like Black Armory, its presentation in the form “forge introduction -> unlock steps -> play forge” hasn’t been met positively by the entire community. Quest steps that functioned more like attunement led to tedium and repetition, all before you could even partake in the actual forge. All of this is meant to artificially increase playtime while content is drip-fed across multiple months.
The point here is that the current trend in delivering regular updates and content already has cracks in the foundation. Even more telling is that they already had the help of High Moon Studios and Vicarious Visions (both are subsidiaries of Activision). It remains to be seen if Bungie will actually be able to sustain this on their own, or if the community becomes receptive.
Looking forward to a very bright future working with one of my favorite independent studios on one of my favorite franchises. Excited to see how they continue to grow and evolve Destiny.
— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) January 10, 2019
The Good: Freedom To Explore
Dev studios often desire creative freedom. There are countless talented programmers and writers out there just looking for an opportunity to share their wondrous creations. But oftentimes, the need to appease the higher-ups becomes a major factor. Without Activision holding the reins, it’s now Bungie’s time to shine on their own.
They’re free to explore the possible options. We already know that they have a $100 million deal with NetEase in place. They’re rumored to be crafting a game separate from the Destiny-universe, but who knows? Maybe plans have changed and we could see a Destiny spinoff down the line. A recent tweet from Phil Spencer also shows that the Microsoft Xbox head honcho is keen on courting the studio. Perhaps Bungie will return to Microsoft’s big, bulging arms?
The Good: The End Of Console Exclusives
We might even see the end of console exclusives. In the previous game, content such as the Echo Chamber strike or Jade Rabbit exotic were solely for PS4 users for a long time. In Destiny 2, the (insanely good) Wavesplitter exotic and Broodhold strike were also exclusives. Assuming Bungie plays all sides, we could eventually have all pieces of content for all systems that Destiny is available in.
That’s something that long-time Xbox players, and newcomers to PC, have been clamoring for in past years. Without timed console exclusives, everyone will have a chance to experience all that Destiny can offer.
The Bad: Self-Publishing And Marketing Are Notoriously Hard
This is no secret. Publishing a game on your own and marketing it are excruciatingly difficult. Without Activision’s backing, we’re likely to no longer see a future Destiny game (or expansion) popping up as a TV advert often. Obviously, you’re not going to see Bungie’s product make an appearance in an Activision E3 booth or BlizzCon.
Without the backing of a publisher, Bungie will need to fund the game’s marketing and distribution. This means additional expenses. A general rule of thumb in forms of media (such as films) is to determine its developmental budget — and then double that (due to marketing and distribution) — to find out how much money is needed just to break even.
In terms of distribution, Destiny 2 will still remain supported on Battle.net for PC users. However, future games and expansions remain up in the air. Which PC store platform will Destiny 3 be part of — Steam, Epic, something else?
The Bad: Reliance On Eververse
While some feel that the Bungie-Activision split is good because it might mean less reliance on Eververse microtransactions. But I feel that it’s the opposite. For reference, we already knew that Bungie decided to make Eververse because they needed to meet revenue targets set by Activision (and the publisher, naturally, takes a cut). Without Activision, no more cut is needed, right? Well, if only things were that simple.
Given the above, with the expenses and costs entailed by self-publishing, marketing, distribution, and whatnot, you’re likely to see more reliance on Eververse to bring in the revenues. Of course, Bungie has learned in the past how to better handle this. We’ve got “double engram rewards” during events, after all.
The Bad: Potential Layoffs
Assuming Bungie and in-game merchant Tess Everis cannot make ends meet, then we’re likely to see the studio cutting down on staff. Going by Gamasutra’s game dev survey in 2013 — where it was discovered that devs, on average, made $83,060 a year — then Bungie will need to find the financial means to keep everyone on the job without Activision’s funding.
Bungie already employs roughly 700 people. That’s just as many as CD Projekt Red. The difference is that the latter is a publicly traded company which also owns GOG and can self-publish without issues.
The Good: The Destiny We’ve Always Wanted
Long-time fans of Destiny have always dreamed of what the game could be like if it realized its true potential. At its core, it’s an FPS. Although it has MMO elements, it’s more or less an MMO-lite. It’s grand in ambition, but not in scope. Freeing Bungie from constraints would mean that they’ll be at the helm of the Destiny they’ve always wanted to make. As for the millions of Guardians out there, we’ll simply be enjoying the ride.
Of course, on the flipside, this can also be problematic. With Destiny 3 rumored to be embracing RPG and hardcore aspects more, there’s a good chance it will alienate a number of players who simply don’t have the time to devote to its ever-growing universe.