Activision, Bungie, and The Future of Destiny

Typically, January is a month devoid of major events in the gaming industry. Not 2019 though.

As most of you have heard by now, Activision and Bungie have basically agreed to go their own ways. While it was clear that both companies viewed the Destiny franchise differently, having the publisher completely back out of the deal and give Bungie control over the IP was pretty shocking.

While we don’t know everything that happened behind the scenes or how Activision managed things, but it seems that friction between the two really heated up late last year. Activision’s COO Coddy Johnson announced that the publisher wasn’t happy with the sales of Forsaken and that it didn’t have the desired effect of re-engaging the full core of Destiny 2 players.

A day or two later, Bungie’s Luke Smith fired back on Twitter saying the studio isn’t disappointed and is very proud of what they were able to release. Building Destiny for players is what they set out to do and will continue to do so going forward. It seems the two companies had different priorities with the franchise at this point, Activision from a purely financial standpoint, and Bungie with the content and player wellbeing. Considering that reports indicated Bungie employees were popping champaign at the breakup news, things between the two couldn’t have been good.

Obviously, I’ve let the news sink in for a couple of weeks before commenting. I do have some thoughts and hopes for the future of Destiny. Let’s explore

Thought #1: Growing Pains
Well, the biggest piece of this separation is the fact that Bungie now doesn’t have a publisher. This is good and bad news. Without Activision looking of their shoulder, Bungie is free to do what they want and how they want it. The bad part is that they no longer have a publisher and need to figure out how to do it themselves. For a company that has never been in this situation before, they’ll need to learn on the fly.

I can’t imagine that a company taking over these responsibilities for the first time won’t have a couple of growing pains to work through. Then again, Bungie has grown a lot from the Halo developer under Microsoft. Who knows, perhaps they’re a studio that is finally ready for this. Time will tell.

Thought #2: Content Drought
Another big piece of this deal relates to the content. While Bungie has already confirmed that nothing will change regarding the annual pass schedule, I can’t help but feel that what happens after that is a little murkier.

In addition to Activision jumping ship, their support studios, High Moon and Vicarious Visions, are also not going to be available either. This is a huge loss as both studios assisted in creating a lot of content for Destiny 2 including new Crucible maps and even helping on smaller updates that allowed Bungie to work on bigger expansions like Forsaken. Going further, Vicarious Visions did the Destiny 2 PC port, and High Moon was behind the smaller, yet well received Warmind DLC.

Bungie has previously been known to go through content droughts, so without two studios assisting on making content, would it be that surprising to see these issues reappear?

Thought #3: Time is on their side, not ours
Without Activision, Bungie is no longer chained to a schedule. Over the past 8 years, a pattern has essentially developed with smaller content drops through the winter and spring months with a larger expansion of sorts in the September/Fall timeframe. That’s going to change now that Activision is out of the picture.

The gruelling schedule that required support studios to help is no longer in place, giving Bungie a bit of breathing room and time to do things the way they want to do them. What does that mean exactly? Well, I believe the content in whatever’s next will be stronger, though, in the same respect, it’ll take longer to get to us. Whether that’s a meaty expansion or the next game. I feel like more time is a good thing, though I’m not sure how the community will react especially since they’ve gotten used to more consistent content drops.

Prince Uldren Sov

Thought #4 The Future
So where does the franchise go from here? Personally, I hope Destiny 2 comes to an end.

*GASP!*

I know, I know. For as much as I talk about this franchise, this may be a shock. Let’s be realistic about things though. Both the first and second games were collaborations between Activision and Bungie and both feature foundations that have been years in the making. The framework and architecture are set in stone and nearly impossible to change now.

My hope is one of a fresh start, a direction that Bungie sets for its fans, not Activision’s sales goals. To do that, I feel like the studio needs to have a clean break from the current game.

Easier said than done, I know. In my eyes, this isn’t as simple as pulling the plug as the community would likely definitely get pissed. I can’t see a new expansion coming this year so why not tack on one more content season on to the end of the current annual pass? This would likely be much easier for the studio to handle by themselves without pulling too many resources off of their next big project. This would also extend the timeframe another three or so months into the holiday season.

At that point, Bungie could release an ultimate edition, includes the base game, all expansions, and the entire annual pass for 60 bucks. It’s a perfect holiday sales bundle to generate additional revenue and buy time for the studio to continue working on ‘what’s next.’ Following that, the next release, whether that’s a Destiny 3 or perhaps a more fleshed out dedicated Live Service/MMO-light version, it’ll Bungie’s vision as they always intended and not one that has any Activision fingerprints on it.

Ultimately, I feel like this news is only going to be beneficial for not only Bungie but for Destiny as well. I don’t think anything will radically change in the near term, but in a year or two, players should start reaping the rewards of a free Bungie. I’m very interested in seeing how this evolves over time.

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