During an earnings call last week, Activision COO Coddy Johnson said that despite Destiny 2's dramatically improved condition and reputation, the Destiny franchise is "not performing as well" as the company would like.
"We have not yet seen the full core re-engage in Destiny," Johnson said, "which has led to the underperformance against expectations to date. Some players are in 'wait and see' mode. If you're in, you're deeply engaged. If not, we think now's the time to bring players back." As Variety reports, Johnson also said "...we're working to accelerate the pace of live operations innovation and improve the speed with which we release new content to keep our players engaged and to provide new opportunities for monetization."
Johnson's statements worried players for two main reasons. Firstly, Activision's earnings call came on the heels of Temporal Surge, a newly released batch of microtransactions in Destiny 2's Eververse store. Temporal Surge was designed to give players another chance to purchase old Eververse emotes, and like the rest of the Eververse store, it's pretty harmless. Even so, the timing of its release has since sparked fears of increased - and more invasive - monetization.
Secondly, most players are happier with the game than ever thanks to Destiny 2: Forsaken. The expansion introduced mountains of challenging content which appealed to hardcore fans, and it overhauled several fundamental systems to create a more rewarding and engrossing experience. This sparked an in-game renaissance not seen since the Taken King expansion for the original Destiny. More to the point, Forsaken walked back much of the heavy-handed simplification that led to Destiny 2's troubled and shallow launch. So, many players are now worried that Activision's goals for Destiny don't line up with their vision for the game, and that future Destiny 2 content may swing back toward the casual approach in an attempt to improve sales.
Destiny 2 director Luke Smith touched on these concerns on Twitter earlier today. "We are not disappointed with Forsaken," he said. "We set out to build a game that Destiny players would love, and at Bungie, we love it too. Building Destiny for players who love it is and will remain our focus going forward." In a reply to his original tweet, Smith echoed the feelings of many Forsaken players: "It's good to be home."
Bungie and Activision have made several concerted pushes to bring players into - and more pertinently, back to - Destiny 2 in the past few weeks. Last month, the game's old DLCs were bundled together with Forsaken in order to streamline the new player experience and lower the barrier to entry. Likewise, Activision is literally giving Destiny 2 to PC players through November 18, and another free trial for Forsaken's exhilarating Gambit mode is running this weekend. Efforts like these may help bring back the "wait and see" players Johnson mentioned, and they're healthy for Destiny 2's community as a whole.
Encouragingly, Johnson also agrees that this is the best Destiny has ever been. "Forsaken is a high-quality expansion of content into the universe," he told Variety. "Honestly, it's the highest-quality content we've seen in the franchise to date. It really came out of Activision and Bungie working together to address community concerns post-Destiny 2 holistically. Talking to players, we knew it came from users really doing a fundamental review of how to offer a deeper end-game, greater powers and greater rewards, and engage players who seemed to be really enjoying the content."
Whether giveaways and discounts - along with Destiny 2's three-part annual pass, which starts this winter - will do enough to appease Activision's bottom line remains to be seen, but the company is clearly aware of what players want from Destiny 2. So while Johnson's statements aren't exactly uplifting, they shouldn't be taken as a renouncement of Forsaken-style content.
Destiny 2 is finally getting a much-needed performance patch on PS4 and Xbox One.