Despite the fact that it’s a brand new IP, Bungie’s forthcoming shooter Destiny already has a great deal going for it. The concept art, screenshots and footage that have been released so far are, quite frankly, stunning. Though the premise is pure sci-fi geared to appeal to fans of Mass Effect and Bungie’s current biggest hit, the Halo series, but the developers have also said that the game will be accessible to gamers of all skill levels.
So far, the excitement for Destiny has been tempered mainly by the fact that the game – even in singleplayer campaign – will be always-online. Given the problems that plagued the launches of Diablo III and SimCity, gamers are justifiably wary of anything that comes with an always-on element, since it means that the customer’s ability to play the game that they have paid $60 or more for is dependent on not only their own internet connection being consistently reliable, but also upon the company’s servers being permanently available.
Now a new worry may be gnawing at the potential of Destiny. Superannuation has uncovered details on the LinkedIn profile of Bungie’s Senior Director of Product Management, Ryan Wener, which outlines the following details regarding his current occupation:
“Currently leading marketing activities for the hotly-anticipated new gaming universe Destiny under development at Bungie, the creators of Halo.
“Leading a cross-functional (and cross-company) team through planning across a wide variety of business and marketing issues, including: marketing strategy, product strategy, monetization modeling, partnership & business development, and more.”
“Monetization” almost certainly refers to a business model that will encourage customers to continue forking money over to Activision even after they have paid out the retail price for the game. Arguably, this could include DLC provided after a game’s release, but it seems unlikely since producing DLC generally requires a significant extra investment of development budget as opposed to simply monetizing existing content, whereas a microtransaction can be for something as simple as in-game currency or a weapon upgrade that would otherwise have been included in the game as part of the original package. Another of Activision’s major titles, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, already features microtransactions for bonuses like extra Create-a-Class slots and cosmetic items like weapons skins.
Venturing into the world of microtransactions no doubt makes sense for Bungie at this point. The studio has poured a huge amount of funding, time and manpower into this new gaming franchise, for which the developers already have a ten-year plan, and they absolutely need it to do well upon release, not only critically but also commercially. What better way to ensure a reliable cash cow than to add microtransactions into the mix?
However, if this is the direction that Bungie are going (remember that none of this is confirmed), it may end up doing more damage than good to Destiny‘s prospects. Many gamers have loudly expressed contempt for microtransactions, and it was arguably EA’s love of this monetization model that contributed to the game publisher recently “winning” a ‘Worst Company in America’ award for the second year running.
With a number of video game news outlets covering this revelation, it’s possible that we’ll get a statement from Bungie in the near future, either confirming or denying the inclusion of microtransactions in Destiny.
Destiny will release on the Xbox 360, PS3, and unspecified next-generation platforms in 2014.