From several indications, it seemed like Destiny 2 had been a success for Activision. This was no surprise given how overwhelmingly successful the first game was when it released in 2014. While the second game’s sales were down around 50% from its predecessor’s performance at retail in the first month, that wasn’t the only way to determine whether it performed well thanks to the modern wonders of digital distribution. Chances are, plenty wanted to download it this time around instead of purchasing a physical copy. It’s an online service game that receives more free and paid content over time, and players ideally want to come back to often. It’s easier to do that by having it on the hard drive instead of swapping discs.
Destiny 2 appeared to be successful enough in terms of base game sales, were players actually coming back to the game often over time? After all, that’s the real barometer for its success, as developer Bungie and Activision released a game like this so they could make further profits through content updates and — yes — microtransactions. We wouldn’t receive the true story behind how well the game sold until Activision announced precisely how successful it was through a press release, or gave their financial results for the end of the fiscal quarter or year. Fortunately, they did put out a press release saying it was the best-selling game of the year at the time, though it came in third by the end of 2017 thanks to Call of Duty: WWII and NBA 2K18 — the former of which is another Activision game.
Recently, though, a report was posted suggesting all isn’t well with the game. It came in the form of a note written by analyst Doug Creutz of Wall Street firm Cowen titled “Destiny 2 is Not in a Good Place” given to the firm’s clients, reported by CNBC. In it, he noted how CODWWII had a great holiday, and will likely continue to generate more revenue for Activision throughout 2018. Comparatively, Destiny 2 is struggling with player engagement, meaning people aren’t spending as much money on microtransactions or playing or watching the game be played on streaming services, which he cited as evidence that players are dropping the game.
Creutz noted how Twitch streams only have between 4,000 to 7,000 watchers on a Friday afternoon currently, a franchise low. It’s paltry compared to the first game’s numbers, which were between 14,000 to 17,000 a year ago — noteworthy because the first game was nearly two-and-a-half years old by that time. He believes this is happening for several reasons.
He claimed some design decisions made by Bungie have made it less distinctive compared to the first game, a common complaint despite it arriving with more content compared to its predecessor at launch. The microtransactions have also been a point of contention, despite not being on par with the legendary Star Wars Battlefront II. (A game I miss posting about, by the way.) Players have also been disappointed with Bungie’s response to player feedback, along with their vagueness with detailing their future plans compared to other service games. The last big update created a furor, where players realized that endgame content was suddenly locked behind a paywall alongside the first expansion’s release despite previously being free, and Bungie didn’t inform players that this would happen.
While there’s still time for Bungie to mend its broken reputation, Creutz isn’t optimistic about whether they can manage this. When most games lose their key audience, it’s very difficult to get them back. He also mentioned how more competition exists these days compared to the original Destiny’s heyday, like Ubisoft’s The Division and Digital Extremes’ Warframe, titles the player base can easily drift to if they’re disappointed with Destiny 2.
This won’t stop Bungie and Activision from continuing to support Destiny 2 in the near future. They’ve improved with presenting the roadmap for future updates with news posts on the official Bungie website. Unfortunately for them, there’s little chance that a series of small updates will lure a significant number of fans back. The best opportunity for that will be in the spring, when a new expansion arrives. Then, they can promote it as an update providing a significant amount of content that makes several improvements to aspects of the game players took issue with. The chance of that happening will depend on whether the core content is good, the advertising is similarly good, and if players aren’t too distracted by other service games. They’re getting popular these days.
The AAA gaming industry has been incredibly cutthroat thanks to the massive risks involved, and Activision stands with EA in being one of the biggest examples of this. Activision can’t do anything to Bungie themselves if they eventually feel Destiny isn’t worth continuing, since they don’t own them. They can’t turn them into another Call of Duty developer, Sledgehammer Games-style, for instance. But if Destiny is ended, it will mean Bungie will have to find another partnership, which could take time if other publishers already have enough steady sources of revenue.
That is, unless Microsoft will be okay with having them develop another alternative Halo series. Plenty of fans want to see them return to the franchise, since it takes current developer 343 Industries a long time to make new installments. (Note: Halo 5 released in November 2015, and we’ve heard nothing about the next installment yet.) Future Destiny 2 news updates will be worth looking out for in the meantime.