Hey, E3 season is upon us and I have more thoughts in my brain than is worth trying to tweet out. Instead of blasting your Twitter feed, I’ll just put them all in self-contained blog posts that you can safely ignore. But maybe don’t ignore them because I take video games too seriously for being someone not in the industry.
Ever since Bungie left their publishing deal with Activision, I’ve been curious about what they would do with Destiny. Destiny was intended to be a 10 year-long supported game, and Bungie didn’t quite get through their decade of support. Would support continue like it had before, with regularly released expansions and seasonal events, or would they drop Destiny because they were tired of making it?
With today’s news, I’m going to contend that the answer is both. It’s going free-to-play, and Bungie are doing everything they can to put as many people into a common environment as they can, with cross-play and cross-platform progress transfers. Destiny has had two teams supporting it, a core development team that worked on the retail releases, and a live team that supported the seasonal events. Cross-platform integrations and offering a free-to-play version feel like a way to keep the player counts high. The game will also continue to receive “season pass” expansions.
But these feel like a way for Bungie to hand the game entirely over to the live team to babysit until it can feasibly call it quits. This isn’t Destiny 3. This is extending the life of Destiny 2 in lieu of a Destiny 3. My baseless speculation is that Bungie will use their core development team, previously working on major Destiny expansions, to make something else. Destiny’s history isn’t perfect and I personally stopped playing because I felt like I was being milked for cash entirely too often, and I think Bungie is taking this opportunity to both fulfill their commitment to Destiny with as little resources as possible, and come back later with a clean slate product.
Eugh. Let me get this straight. The future of gaming, a pure streaming platform that lets you play your games anywhere, is going to start with an initial investment (buying a Chromecast Ultra and Google Stadia controller for $170, not unlike purchasing a traditional console), charge a monthly fee for access, and also charge for individual games. Google says this isn’t a permanent condition, that we will be able to use Stadia with our own web browsers and without a monthly fee in 2020, but this initial launch feels like the worst of both worlds.
You have to own discrete hardware. You have to pay monthly for the privilege to play your games. You have to dump handfuls of money into individual games, and you own nothing except your Chromecast Ultra and Google Stadia controller. Combine this with Google’s nasty habit of throwing out a product as THE BEST THING EVER for a couple months, letting it rot for a couple years, and then killing it, and I’m extremely skeptical that Google will give this a long lifetime. And if they don’t, you won’t have anything to show for it besides their hardware.
Given Google’s history of poor support for less than stellar products, Google Stadia’s initial release is strictly for gamblers. It won’t be a future of gaming until it delivers on that promise of any game, anywhere, any way you want to play it. Right now, it’s just another upstart console.