When was the last time you read a news story about Bungie and Destiny 2 that was genuinely positive about the game? If you only get your gaming news here at Push Square, it would be last week: the new armour set themed around The Witcher 3 looked pretty cool. It was then pointed out you could actually buy the RPG's Game of the Year Edition for less than the cost of just one of the three armour sets on offer.
A slightly unfair comparison, perhaps, since Destiny 2 is free-to-play and The Witcher 3 is an eight-year-old game, and the latter isn't on sale at all times. However, following a disappointing DLC launch in Lightfall, significant company layoffs, and now an incredibly cynical $15 starter pack that's been pulled as quickly as it was released, it's just another example of how the perception of Bungie has steadily grown more negative over time.
The problem for Sony is it's already bought Bungie for $3.6 billion to help with the company's charge into the live-service space, setting up a "live-service centre of excellence" and allowing it to consult on (and delay) projects like The Last of Us Multiplayer. How can it do so with any authority, though, when the developer doesn't seem so excellent itself?
Bungie may have been a pioneer back in 2014 as it launched Destiny, but fast-forward nine years and it feels like dark clouds have been hanging over the Washington studio for a while now. The downward turn in fortunes really kicked into overdrive with the release of Lightfall at the start of this year, an expansion that was billed as a huge story beat for the series as it nears its conclusion. The end product was not so, disappointing fans with little in the way of proper story or closure.
What's followed in the months since is a seasonal content model hardcore fans seem to have long grown tired of. Not offering enough content or reasons to engage for the handful of months each season remains active, the number of users actively playing Destiny 2 has dropped to an all-time low in recent times. It's hoped next year's DLC The Final Shape — which has just been officially delayed by four months — will bring about significant improvements, but that's now seven months away instead of three. Will there be enough of a playerbase still interested in returning to Destiny 2 at that point to make the expansion a success? Who knows.
The delay is a result of substantial layoffs at Bungie, with around 100 jobs cut. Some of those employees were on the development side and begged higher-ups to implement positive features to bring players back, while others were community-facing. The developer could have done with the latter as it embarrassingly releases and then pulls one of the most cynical, blatantly money-grabbing microtransactions the industry has seen in some time.
For $15, Bungie wanted to sell new players a "starter pack" containing Exotic weapons that have no place in the current Destiny 2 meta, a fancy ship, Sparrow, and Ghost, and some different currencies. Instead of taking on board community feedback about lowering the prices of old expansions, a higher-up has decided to try and take advantage of new players who won't know these items are actually just kind of useless. The microtransaction has already been pulled following the community's extremely negative reaction to it, but the damage has already been done. Who thought this was a good idea? The same Bungie leading Sony's "live-service centre of excellence".
The whole situation casts Bungie in a poor light, and puts some doubt on any operations it's got in the works with Sony. Someone at Bungie thought a $15 starter pack full of bad content was a good idea for Destiny 2, so is this what the live-service centre at Sony HQ considers fair game also? Such a microtransaction wouldn't have received as big a backlash as this at release as the community wouldn't have been able to so easily determine how worthless it is, so will Concord ship with one because the "live-service centre of excellence" told it to?
It's going to take years until we can determine — at least from a public-facing perspective — whether Sony's decision to acquire Bungie and set up such a centre was a good idea or not. However, as the hardware manufacturer's push into the live-service space had already been determined when it bought the developer, was Sony in a situation where Bungie was still the best studio to bet on? Who else with a live-service focus could it have actually purchased?
Hoyoverse, with its money-making machines Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail, seem to be out of reach at this point. GTA Online is a Game as a Service, but Sony's never going to buy Rockstar Games. Massive Entertainment, the vast developer behind The Division wouldn't have been let go by Ubisoft as it's now got Avatar, Star Wars Outlaws, and The Division 3 in production. The only somewhat realistic acquisition we can think of would be Warframe studio Digital Extremes. It was reported in 2020 that Sony was actually considering a bid for the company. However, Sony announced its intentions to buy Bungie just before The Witch Queen launched, a Destiny 2 expansion widely regarded to be one of the best. Sony probably thought it had bet on the right horse at that point.
18 months later, though, and Bungie doesn't seem to be in a particularly good place. It's far too late for Sony to pull out of any deal now, but with disappointing seasonal support, layoffs and noteworthy drops in revenue, and unforgivable microtransactions upsetting its community, is Bungie really the right developer to have helping Sony produce live-service games? Why should Fairgame$ developer Haven Studio listen to Bungie when it can't get its own game quite right? The team needs to right the ship thick and fast.
How do you feel about Bungie helping Sony with its live-service efforts? Do you think Bungie is the best developer in the space still or should Sony have opted for someone else? Place a vote in our poll and share your thoughts in the comments below.
Is Bungie the right developer to be helping Sony with its live-service push? (774 votes)
- Yes, they're still the best in the business7%
- I think so, but I'm having some doubts now11%
- I'm not sure17%
- Probably not, there are too many issues25%
- No, Sony should never have bought Bungie40%