When Destiny first released it was not unlike most loot-based games on the market. There was tons of gear and weapons to collect, and a player’s collection was largely determined by the amount of time they put into the game. The most dedicated players were at the level cap of 30, while others were still trying to make their way through the Vault of Glass raid the first time. Then something changed.
In October of 2015, Destiny developer Bungie introduced the Eververse Trading Company, a real money store that would be home to Destiny’s first microtransactions. At launch, Eververse was a place where players could buy new emotes, in-game gesticulations that were funny, unique, or informative. According to Bungie, Eververse was introduced to help fund the Destiny live team and, in turn, help those developers deliver new content throughout that year. Instead of paid expansions like in year 1, Destiny’s new content would be solely funded through these microtransactions.
And things continued on that way, with a few exceptions, until the launch of Destiny’s April Update. With the mid-year content boost, Bungie began to expand the reach of Eververse and microtransactions to include Sterling Treasure. As with emotes, Sterling Treasures were completely optional, but these randomized loot boxes also included gear and reputation boosters. But, if players didn’t want to spend money on Sterling Treasure they could earn three loot boxes per week by completing regular Destiny activities like strikes, crucible matches, and the new Challenge of the Elders mode.
For as much as Sterling Treasure may have been an iffy proposition, the fact that players could earn three loot boxes seemed to offset any questions. If players really wanted the Taken-themed gear or the new ships, they at least had a fair number of shots at them every week.
With the launch of Destiny: Rise of Iron, however, things began to shift, and it seemed like the drive towards microtransactions became even more aggressive than it ever was. At the launch of Rise of Iron, Bungie introduced ornaments, unique weapon skins (and armor embellishments) that would change the visual palette of a few exotic weapons. These ornaments were, again, purely cosmetic, and they would only come from a new type of loot box called Radiant Treasure.
However, whereas Sterling Treasure drops were 3 per week, Radiant Treasures are only one. So, if players wanted to collect the two dozen or so ornaments they would need to partake of a lot of weekly activities, and that’s hoping they don’t get duplicates. Of course, there is always the faster route, which is buying Radiant Treasure, and that’s where things start to look a little more grim for Destiny.
In the past, Bungie never made it seem like they were encouraging players to use Eververse or spend real money, but now it’s starting to feel like that. What was once optional and unobtrusive now feels like a meaningful part of the Destiny economy.
But even then, microtransactions were not overly aggressive, because ornaments launched at the same time as a ton of new content. There were new Rise of Iron quests to complete, a new raid to finish, and loads of gear to collect. The questions about ornaments were there, but they didn’t seem as nagging because everyone was focused on the new content.
However, with the first post-Rise of Iron event, Festival of the Lost 2016, microtransactions have taken their darkest turn in Destiny. For the first time, players are actually starting to lash out at the concept of Eververse and, in turn, against Bungie as a whole. Initially, microtransactions may have existed off to the side of the experience, but with Festival of the Lost they have been brought front and center.
Like with Sterling Treasure, Destiny players have three chances to earn Treasures of the Lost, but that’s only per account. So, if they don’t have three characters then their chances are limited further.
At a glance this system might be fine, but Festival of the Lost is an event themed entirely around the collection of masks and Halloween-themed items. And the new Halloween items only come from Treasures of the Lost, which further pushes players towards spending money. If players even wanted to collect a small percentage of the available Festival of the Lost items, which include two new Ghosts, a new sparrow, and new Bad Juju ornaments, they would have to spend real money. There’s no way around it.
To be fair, plenty of Destiny players will spend $10, $20, or even $100 to unlock the items they want and not consider that money wasted. It is fun to gamble on loot boxes, but it’s also important to take a step back and realize what type of mentality that spending is encouraging.
Had Festival of the Lost introduced new things to do beyond collect masks, the feelings wouldn’t be so negative towards the event. But as of now, the community is very up in arms and concern for future events is growing. Last year’s Sparrow Racing League had its own microtransactions, and the fear is that this year’s event, which launches in December, might be even more focused on paying to earn new sparrows or gear sets.
The bigger question, though, is with regards to the live team, who is supposedly receiving funding from these microtransaction purchases. What benefit does this spending have on their efforts and what do microtransactions actually fund? It’s likely true that without Eververse we wouldn’t have received the free April Update, but those microtransactions also presumably funded Festival of the Lost 2016, an event built around spending even more money. If those who do spend money are only helping pay for more events geared around spending money, that’s a problem.
Whether Destiny will continue down this road is unclear, but for now it’s best to be wise about spending money in-game. Activision and Bungie don’t always respond when the community uses their voice, but they do when the community uses their wallet.
Destiny: Rise of Iron is out now for PS4 and Xbox One.