Bungie shocked the gaming world late last week when they published a blog post announcing that they will be ending their relationship with publisher Activision and having the rights to the popular shared-world shooter Destiny transferred to Bungie. Going forward, they plan to publish Destiny independently, while Activision will focus on their existing and future projects, separately.
This news comes shortly after Activision-Blizzard held its quarterly financial review in early November, where the Activision COO Coddy Johnson said, “Some of our other franchises like Destiny are not performing as well as we’d like.” This seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for Bungie, who had just released the critically-acclaimed Destiny 2: Forsaken expansion just a couple months prior.
The disconnect between the two companies was front and center when Luke Smith, Director of Destiny, took to Twitter and wrote, “We are not disappointed with Forsaken. We set out to build a game that Destiny players would love, and at Bungie, we love it too. Building Destiny for players who love it is and will remain our focus going forward.” After publicly defending their product, it was clear that Activision and Bungie were not seeing eye-to-eye on the multi-year project.
As for what the future holds for Destiny, Bungie will continue moving forward with the existing Destiny roadmap. The Destiny developers also mentioned in their blog post that there will be more seasonal experiences to look forward to, as well as some “exciting announcements about what lies beyond.”
So, what does this mean for the storied developer? When Bungie initially signed their ten-year publishing deal with Activision, they made certain that any new intellectual property developed would be owned by Bungie. This was clearly a lesson learned from their departure from Microsoft twelve years ago, where arguably their biggest franchise, Halo, was left in the hands of Microsoft after the two companies parted ways. Many look back on the early days of Halo as the glory days of the franchise, as the modern 343 Industries-developed games lack a certain identity, and have failed to live up to the extraordinarily high expectations fans have come to expect.
Now that Bungie has independent control over the Destiny name and franchise, they are free to make those creative decisions once again that helped establish them as one of the best video game studios of all-time. The Bungie brand has always been synonymous with a certain level of polish and quality, something that even the critically-acclaimed Forsaken expansion has had difficulty achieving.
Like some of the best game studios we see today, such as Sony’s Santa Monica Studios (creator’s of 2018’s Game of The Year, God of War) and Naughty Dog (renowned for The Last of Us and the Uncharted series, most recently) it’s quite obvious that great games take time. Having a gigantic publisher such as Activision looming over your work, concerned primarily with impressing their Wall Street investors does not bode well for the creative process. Development cycles are cut to an impossibly-short length at times, which often leads projects rushed out or unfinished. When you’ve worked hard to build a cherished brand and have to work against your own ethics to produce a product, it becomes a recipe for disaster. This is the unfortunate fate that has befallen on the Destiny franchise up until this point.
Bungie does have something special, though, with Destiny. They’ve manufactured one of, if not the best, first-person shooters, in terms of movement and overall gunplay. The game has some of the best-looking visuals on any modern system and exploring the different planets is an absolute joy. The biggest piece lacking from Destiny thus far has been lore, something Bungie excelled at with the Halo franchise. But, developing a lore-heavy shared-world shooter has been something that nobody has nailed quite yet. Given more time, though, Bungie seems like the most likely candidate that could pull it off. After all, the internet has already assembled the notoriously confusing story into a single, searchable archive for them.
The next step for Bungie is to cut back on the annualized releases. Destiny is a game that does not need a sequel or remake from the ground-up each Fall. What Destiny really needs is consistent, quality content drops every few months to keep the player base engaged. It’s astounding to see what Epic Games has done with Fortnite, a free-to-play game that saw 78.3 million players play during the month of August alone! The reason they are topping the charts month-after-month is that they offer small, meaningful updates on a weekly basis. They also somehow weave in story elements throughout each season to pique the interest of players. If Bungie could emulate this with Destiny in some fashion, maybe by making the original game free-to-play and adding some sort of “Battle Pass” equivalent, they could open the game up to a new player base. Alternatively, they could make Destiny 2 the platform that all future updates are built upon, and release major expansions every few years, similar to how Blizzard handles World of Warcraft. The possibilities for Bungie are endless, however, they need to rethink their formula if they are going to earn back the trust of the fans that have followed them to space and back.
What changes would you like to see in Destiny? How do you think Bungie should improve the game now that they are in complete control? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!