Life, The Universe And Gaming: I Want Destiny To Fail
I’ve always been the type of person who is capable of seeing the good in everything. I figure in today’s world you kind of have to be, or you’d surely be overcome by the travesties of life — unless of course you’re blissfully ignorant of everything going on in your life. In that sense, I’m not so much an optimist as I am a realist who has been forced to adapt. But every now and then I must force myself to look at something in a negative light, let’s say because of some arbitrary greater good scenario. This is such a situation, and Destiny is the subject of today’s conversation.
Contrary to what I allow many people to believe, my predisposition towards Bungie is very much one of admiration. While I might scorn the community that has built around the developer’s previous series, Halo, I do not begrudge the developer itself and in fact, I initially looked at Destiny with quite some interest. Even though the logo totally looks like Master Chief’s crotch. Even though the game itself basically looks like a glorified Halo open world game. And even though the focus seems to be on a persistent world that remains somewhat unproven by today’s gaming standards.
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Despite all that, I was okay with Destiny’s existence in the world and I did not attack or criticise anyone who declared any kind of interest in the game — even when they used such silly terms as ‘Halo Borderlands’ which honestly does nothing for me. But then I read something that I found truly shocking, regarding Destiny. The game is going to cost $500 million when you account for development, distribution and marketing. By rough estimates, that means Activision would need to sell around 18 million copies of the game just to break even. That is ridiculous when you consider that Grand Theft Auto V, an undeniably more popular and well-known game — quite possibly the big daddy of well-known games, at this point — has only just passed thirty million sales across all platforms.
Here we have a relatively unknown game that not only has some platform exclusivity rights in play, but is also designed with barely anything in the way of character progression, and now you start to understand why the likes of Activision — and locally, Megarom — have been pushing Destiny so damn hard. They don’t just want it to sell, they damn well need it to sell.
It speaks of an industry that has begun to, as Jim Sterling would put it, haemorrhage money. Gluttonous, over-indulgent, the gaming industry is throwing massive wads of cash into these huge triple-A projects and then forcing it down gamers’ throats in order to push hype and create sales, and it’s all heading towards a very dangerous crash. And when that happens, we will have even more developer closures and layoffs, and do you know who won’t lose in this situation? That’s right, Activision. Because by then, they will have made all the money in the world, be it by extorting gamers or selling off licenses.
Should Destiny succeed at the seemingly insurmountable task set before it, it would only serve as active encouragement to other publishers and developers, forcing high-budget projects of this kind with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investment — and for what; another persistent open world with guns and customisation that isn’t called Borderlands The MMO? — and a sales requirement that requires not just insane amounts of marketing (something that required an entire column of its own) but also copious amounts of post-release support and downloadable content and absolutely anything else that can suck more money from gamers to justify the ridiculously high cost of production.
John Maynard Keynes once said: “Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”
If Destiny fails then perhaps it will teach publishers and developers alike a lesson in over-indulgence. There is no need for these extravagant games with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of development and marketing. There is no need for anything even remotely resembling hundreds of millions of dollars worth of marketing. And there is especially no need to then go and tell other studios with honest and sincere good ideas that you cannot take a risk with them because you’re unsure of your return, when all they’d really need is like $50 million, yet you’ve spent literally ten times as much on a different but ultimately not staggeringly desirable project by a studio only really known for one type of game in any case.
Or did I miss the part where everyone left stains all over the Bungie booth at E3 this year…
So yes. Here’s me hoping that Destiny fails so that gamers can win. Here’s me wishing Bungie all the best with dealing with Activision post-release, while I opt out of supporting this batshit crazy $500 million exercise in excess. And no, I’m not calling for a boycott because that’s just silly; I am, however, for once, solidly rooting for failure. For the greater good of gaming.