OPINION / We need to talk about Bungie

I didn’t plan on commenting on the recent debacle about Destiny dropping the ball (again) until a press release from publisher Activision popped up in the TVGB bunker. Press releases are dull and hideous things at the best of times but this was really something else. This was an absolute fucking corker and a real front-runner in the bullshit parade. Before we delve in, let’s just re-cap on the story.

Back at E3, Bungie announced the latest expansion for Destiny entitled ‘The Taken King’. Fans whooped and hollered, onlookers remained disinterested and the world continued to turn on its axis. However, on the announcement of the various editions soon hitting the shelves, it was soon noticed that not only was the basic expansion double the price of the previous ‘Dark Below’ and ‘House of Wolves’ add-ons, it was also not the full deal. Y ’see, Bungie is also releasing an $80/£80 Collector’s Edition of Destiny that includes the base game plus all expansions and some other collectible goodies. This pack also contains some exclusive bits of in-game material, namely 3 class specific emotes, 3 armour shaders and 3 exotic items with XP bonuses, and this is where our grim tale of misery and woe starts.

This could be us but Bungie playin'

This could be us but Bungie playin’

We gamers are a funny lot when you think about it. We happily spend real, hard cash on fundamentally pointless additions to our games and at heart, that’s cool with me. I quite happily skipped my rent on occasion for additional Little Big Planet costumes and level packs and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Destiny fans are no different and obviously wanted to know when they could get their hands on this additional content without having to do something as outrageously stupid as completely rebuy everything they’ve already bought so the good folks at Eurogamer asked Luke Smith, Creative Director for ‘The Taken King’. You can read the whole thing hereand I strongly recommend you do but here’s the prime cut:

Eurogamer: I get that it is big but it is also the same price as the base game. That had four areas rather than one and more missions than the Taken King. Why is it the same price?

Luke Smith: All I can do is answer that with the same thing I just gave you… We’re really comfortable with the value we’re giving to players this autumn. I believe that once we begin to share more, players will be even more excited. And for existing players it also comes with the Founder’s pack with a new Sparrow, shader and emblem.

Eurogamer: Just not the emotes.

Luke Smith: It doesn’t because they come with the Collector’s Edition.

Eurogamer: Final question on prices –

Luke Smith: Is it also the final question on the emotes?

Eurogamer: I’m not going to mention them again. I can’t get them.

Luke Smith: But you can if you buy the Collector’s Edition.

Eurogamer: I’m not going to buy the game and the two DLCs all over again.

Luke Smith: Okay, but first I want to poke at you on this a little bit.

Eurogamer: Poke at me?

Luke Smith: You’re feeling anxious because you want this exclusive content but you don’t know yet how much you want it. The notion of spending this money is making you anxious, I can see it –

Eurogamer: I do want them. I would buy them –

Luke Smith: If I fired up a video right now and showed you the emotes you would throw money at the screen.

Eurogamer: What I’m saying is that fan frustration is not because they don’t understand the proposition. It comes regardless of how cool the exclusive content is. The frustration – and mine as a fan – is that the method of acquiring it requires me to re-buy content I bought a year ago.

Luke Smith: [Long pause] It’s about value. The player’s assessment of the value of the content.

To recap – when told by a fan of Destiny that he isn’t going to ‘buy the game and the two DLCs all over again’ for the sake of some new emotes and items, he’s essentially told by Smith that he doesn’t appreciate its ‘value’. Needless to say, people were pretty pissed about the whole thing including Bungie’s apparent lack of respect for its long-time fans and Destiny veterans. How annoyed? Well, let’s just take some quotes from the good people at Reddit:

Oh

Oh

TTK - comment2

OH

TTK - comment 1

OH HELL NO

It’s not just Redditors who were in uproar, as a recent Kotaku article (that ostensibly looks to place Smith’s words in a different context and perhaps bring some nuance to the discussion) has attracted hundreds of comments with players dividing between those willing to overlook this as some sort of misunderstanding and others swearing vengeance against whatever dark gods have taken shelter in the minds of Bungie. In short, it’s an unmitigated shit-storm that Bungie is desperately trying to pedal back from by defending itself to the community and now offering the additional exclusive content for download for the princely sum of $20/£20. No, that isn’t a typo, $20/£20 for the few downloadable bits they should probably be giving out for free as a peace offering.

So far, I think we can agree that this is just another one of those stories. It’s not exactly news that publishers and developers have been known to treat customers as little more than wallets to be sucked dry and being tone deaf to complaints is par for the course at the moment, so much so that we almost don’t know how to react when they do something right. Just look at how stunned people have been by Warner Brother’s decision to actually pull Batman: Arkham Knight from sale on PC due to its crippling issues. Hell, they’re even telling people how to get a refund, something which has been a consumer right in the UK since 1979 but has only just found its way onto Steam. If Bungie and its handlers had any sense, you’d think now would be the time to hunker down, learn lessons and maybe allow some humility to seep in between the sheer bloody mountains of money they’ve made but no. Not content to make Destiny gamers just feel unloved by shoddy exclusives and tone-deaf pontifications, Activision had to take it one step further because what tale of AAA gaming woe would be complete without a fucking dire corporate tie-in. BEHOLD

Get into video game journalism, it's sexy and exciting said no one.

“Get into videogame journalism, it’s sexy and exciting,” said no one.

Thank you Activision. Thank you for not pretending this is all a bit tongue in cheek, a bit of a nudge-nudge, wink-wink at how other industries sell tat to consumers. Thank you for showing us openly how little you must think of Destiny gamers and the wider community as a whole. It’s almost refreshing to have a publisher show so brazenly how we’re nothing but stereotypes of teenage boys with disposable incomes and a propensity for tacky branded goods. A special quest that is time-exclusive to people who buy cans of Red Bull from Walmart and is promised to ‘leverage themes of speed, tenacity and strategy inspired by the energy drink’ as well as bonus XP? Why the fuck not at this point? Why not design us a new weapon that leverages corporate themes of obesity and tooth decay while firing cans of Red Bull into the blackened hearts of our enemies as we weep tears of Mountain Dew? Why not join up with Pizza Hut or Dominos and make the “Destiny Deep Dish”, a tangy blend of Dorito-infused pork substitute with a drizzle of Pepsi dressing? Why don’t you make some fucking Guardian amiibos and just bring this whole sad saga crashing down to its inevitable brand-synergy conclusion?

KITTEN BREAK

KITTEN BREAK

Sorry. I needed to get that out. I’ve always been staggered at the loyalty gamers will show to companies that time and time again show how little they genuinely care. We seem destined to believe we somehow don’t deserve the same kind of consumer rights enjoyed by other people or that somehow the major publishers are our friends instead of the multi-million dollar industry giants that they are. When gamers are told that they’re ‘entitled’ for wanting to be treated with some respect, the whole community suffers. I’m picking on Destiny and Activision because of the almost fateful timing of the whole thing but they are far from the only culprits. Ultimately this will blow over and both companies involved will learn nothing because we will keep coming back for more and until we learn to say no, why would they change? Maybe it all really is just a case of “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”.

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