Destiny Review Scores May Cost Bungie A $US2.5 Million Bonus

Destiny Review Scores May Cost Bungie A $US2.5 Million Bonus

Destiny is not getting great review scores. In fact, it’s getting resoundingly mediocre review scores — as of right now, Bungie’s ambitious shooter has a 76.29 per cent on GameRankings and a 77 on Metacritic.

That’s certainly not the type of critical reception Activision was hoping for when they pumped half a billion (!) dollars into this franchise, and the mediocre reception may wind up costing Bungie a great deal of money, if their 2010 contract is still active. Turns out those review scores — those arbitrary attempts to quantify a game’s subjective quality — might be worth $US2.5 million.

Let’s take a trip back to 2012, when Activision was embroiled in a nasty legal battle with Call of Duty creators Vince Zampella and Jason West. As part of that court case, Activision had to share details of its original contract with Bungie for Destiny, which was then scheduled for release in 2013. Buried in the public documents is this little nugget:

Activision shall pay to Licensor a quality bonus (the “Quality Bonus”) in the amount of Two Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($2,500,000) should Destiny Game #1 achieve a rating of at least 90 as determined by (or equivalent reputable services if is no longer in sen/ice) as of thirty (30) days following the commercial release of Destiny Game #1 on Xbox 360.

Right now, Destiny is nowhere close to a 90 on GameRankings. It’s unlikely if not impossible for the game to make that score by next month.

Now, it’s worth noting, the numbers here are old. This contract is from 2010, and I’ve heard that it’s been reworked since then, though I’m not sure if they removed or altered this specific bonus condition. It’s certainly possibly that Bungie fought to take it out. Activision is staying mum on the specifics — when I reached out yesterday for clarification, the publisher declined to comment.

Either way, it’s insane that there’s even a possibility that these review scores — some of which were published just two days after Destiny came out — cost Bungie that much money. For more on how the whole review score system is broken, check out our piece from last year on the many flaws and issues with Metacritic and the way publishers use it.


  • Here’s an idea how about people stop fixating on review scores and what others think of the game and just play the damn game they gave us, not dreaming of this magically mystical game they have floating about in their heads. Its hardly the most perfect game every created and its certainly not without its flaws but at least it tries something different. Even with all those problems I am still having the most refreshing fun I have had in a shooter in ages.

    This negative fixation was the same with Watch Dogs and a lot of films and tv. They arent bad in their own right, they are only bad when stupid people and trolls mistake hype and advertising for fact.

    That has only been happening for many, many, many centuries, way before gaming or computers were a thing.

    • Nah, Watchdogs definitely deserved the negativity for its boring main story and unappealing characters. Destiny doesn’t deserve it though.

      • It’s the magnitude of the negativity that’s the problem. Tombraider and the latest Hitman all had boring stories but that’s not what it’s about and they weren’t hyped up to the moon and back.

        Watch dogs is a great game on it’s own. It’s not perfect, it’s not a story masterpiece and it has some bugs but overall it’s a good game. The fact that it was supposed to be the second coming of Christ and a GTA killer raised the bar so high that it was always going to look terrible.

        The only real issue with Watch dogs is that publishers chose to actively downgrade the PC version to make consoles look better. That is just disgusting behavior.

        • I think that’s a very fair assessment on its own. I mean I don’t deny at all I have a major amount of fun in Watchdogs running around the city doing activities etc. It’s a fantastically realised city. The hype was beyond *retarded* for the game. It was just stupid. I don’t blame the game or the devs for that, I blame the publisher. The PC downgrading is abysmal and outright offensive as well in every way.

      • yeah ONLY when people were comparing it to GTAV, a long running and successful franchise, that has had like 15 odd years to get its things in order. Thats the problem Watch Dogs had, likewise the problem Destiny has with Halo, people arent playing/judging the game on what it does for a FIRST outing of a new franchise but in competition to what it is compared to other successful things. Things that people view through rose tinted glasses and based on emotional connections.

        • Destiny is being criticised for being a product of the studio that made Halo 1, 3, and Reach. I know Bungie developed more but those three were apparently critically exceptional.
          It shouldn’t matter that Destiny is the first outing of a new franchise because it’s built on the back of an FPS legacy spanning 15 years, more if you consider the phenomenal work that went into Marathon.

          This isn’t an instance where Bungie have created a radically different product that should be isolated from their history.

        • Im not comparing it to gtav. To me, it’s a boring, unengaging story with rinse and repeat missions and a terrible structure which is a pity because the game mechanics are fantastic. I find the main protagonist to be a major hypocrite and his motivations to be severely unclear and quite frankly, dumb. When you get to the end of the game, you have that ‘wait, what?’ moment, where not only do you think ‘But…. it WAS his fault? Aidens a fucking IDIOT?’ which in most cases, can work brilliantly when you realise in something like Shadow Of The Colossus that YOU are the badguy, but Watchdogs, they constantly tout you as the goodguy and hamfistedly handle such a duality of character?

      • I don’t know. 10 hours to complete a raid? How can someone be positive about that?

        Maybe if it can engage you for that long, but raids shouldn’t normally be more then an hour.

      • I don’t know if you’re right. I like Destiny, it’s pretty fun, but I reckon it deserves the current 76 score it has on Metacritic. I had a blast for the first 20 hours, but once I hit level 20 and ran out of stuff to do I started getting bored. All that can entertain me at this point is the PVP, which is pretty decent. The story was also mediocre and I expected more from Bungie. 8 is too high, 6 is too low. I think the score is pretty fair, which is very odd for Metacritic.

        I think the shit scores (or shit in terms of this demented industry where a 6 is considered a travesty) is a good thing, maybe it’ll be a bit of a wake-up call that review scores these days are a load of rubbish.

      • “boring main story and unappealing characters.” sounds like you just described destiny….

        its a fun game to play but I was very disappointed with the story and did not find any of the characters introduced that interesting.

        • Most likely, in all the hours I played Destiny, (had to take it back due to router issues), I can’t say I noticed an actual story!?

        • Did we really expect a story?

          It’s one liners and a bit of narration.

          I’ve had a great time so far, the game is what I expect of it. I just wish when I was teamed up it asked me if I wanted to talk to the other players. That way people can opt in and out at will.

          • mm it annoys me that voice chat isn’t enabled for random 3 man strikes or proximity based, takes away from the idea of building a community, I mean how are you supposed to build a community or find groups unless you do so outside of the game.

    • As stupid as review scores are, I see nothing wrong with offering a “bonus” if a game performs well. That bonus should simply be based on sales figures but then you risk the company simply setting the bars too high (same with review scores I guess).

      That being said, I depend on reviews, especially of the massive AAA games before I drop my cash on stuff like this.
      I’ve been burnt too many times in the last few years with things like titanfall and thief.
      I no longer pre-order games (unless they’re stupidly cheap) and wait to read up about them before committing.

      I agree that hype kills games but it’s even more of a problem for mulitplayer games where community participation is what keeps it going.
      Anyone can enjoy a diablo3 or watchdogs or tombraider or whatever regardless of the bad press they may get. It’s up to the individual. But in games where teamwork and multiplayer is the key focus like MMORPGs or COD multiplayer or Titanfall, if there’s no players, there’s no game.
      WoW competitors find this out the hard way…. your game will die a slow and painful death if the community dwindles.

      Just like politics, developers should make realistic expectations and promises. Unfortunately they don’t care about that… they care about first week sales because they know they’ll pump out another expansion or DLC in 6 months time. At the end of the day $2.5million bonus is bugger all when the total budget was in the Billions….

      The problem with Destiny (apart from the absurd budget) is that it’s not billed as a shooter you play through once and never pick up again. Wolfenstien did that. Linear shooter. Heaps of fun, great game. Finished and uninstalled.
      Destiny has the problem of promising to be something different and from what I’ve heard, not really delivering. (I haven’t played it personally). Nothing wrong with just enjoying it, finishing it and never playing it again. But that’s not what the developers want…. that’s where the divide begins.

    • “they are only bad when stupid people and trolls mistake hype and advertising for fact”

      Woah, hold on there, cowboy. You are blaming the general public for the amount of hype and advertising that these companies pump out? Yeah, because every day people kidnap and then usher these decision makers into a single room where they put guns to their heads and make them come up with all the crap that they continue to churn out before the game’s release.

      The only people to blame for overhyping and releasing a crap ton of advertising for a game are the people MAKING it. These companies only have themselves to blame for disappointment at the end of the day. And what’s more – look at this article, for christ’s sake … it’s about Bungie receiving bonuses based on how well the game is received. Of course they are going to talk up this game an insane amount to try and get people feeling like they need to purchase it at any cost.

      These companies are cut-throat, money making machines, that have no care or concern for the little people out there. They don’t care if someone has saved up half a month’s wages to buy this overhyped game, and then are sorely disappointed. It’s just another unit that’s been sold to add to the tally. These people aren’t your friendly neighborhood business who are doing it tough.

      If you love the game, then kudos for you. It goes both ways. You don’t have to listen to the people who are giving this game negative feedback, just the same way those people who are disappointed don’t have to listen to you and suddenly say, “hey, yeah, this guy is right. This game really is excellent. Why have I been disappointed all this time? Stupid me.”

    • Agreed. I did the raid last night, and it was one of the best raids system I even done.

      Its not a stupid tank spank. You need your team to coordinate, and challenges evolve from waves of mobs, to more complex combat mechanics and environmental challenges such as a maze so you need to go stealth around mobs.

    • Nope. This is entirely fair. Dinging the score off any reviews by a point for failure to meet hype? That’s good reviewing. When you review a game, you’re reviewing the experience, you’re informing the consumer.

      If the consumer has been subject to the quarter-billion-dollar marketing machine for the last three years, it is entirely reasonable for them to be expecting a deep, rich, expansive story, epic in scale, with an open world full of interesting things to do. Destiny does not provide that.

      If part of your gaming experience is disappointment that what you’re playing is not what you were told it would be, then it is only fair to include that disappointment and frustration as part of the score – it is a warning. Both to consumers to set their expectations appropriately, and to game publishers to under-promise and over-deliver instead of the other way around.

      Destiny provides excellent shooting (and a mediocre loot grind) with some gorgeous visuals and audio. But you might as well be shooting paper targets at the range for all the story motivation. Its scant handful of PVE endgame maps quickly grow repetitive to the point of boredom, salvaged only by the fun of having good company. And to be fair? Fucking anything is improved by the presence of good company. You’ll keep coming back to it, but it’s easy to put down. You will likely feel nothing for the characters and story, except a vague sense of discomfort and sympathy with Dinklage not really knowing (or caring?) what the hell kind of nerd fantasy sci-fi shit he’s been asked to read.

      So it’s a solid 7, with potential for 8ness. But against the hype machine and the expectations? Product sold is not what was advertised. Ding a point. That’s why you’re seeing 6s and 7s.

    • Ever since IGN and their ilk started tearing strips off a review, basically calling it a piece of utter shit, then slapping a 7/10 on it. Anything below 7/10 these days is basically a joke review where the game is so unabashedly terrible that it doesn’t matter what the score is. IIRC the lowest-ranked game on Gamespot was Pimp your Ride with something like 2/10.

    • Game scores use a logarithmic scale. 0-50 is terrible, 51-75 is below average, 76-88 is average, 89-95 is above average, 96-98 is good, 99 is damn near perfect, and 100 is impossible.

    • When you consider that 70% for many review sites is really 50%, it could be argued that this counts as mediocre. Whether Destiny deserves that label too is another matter.

  • Is it insane that Activision had a clause for a $2.5mil bonus, that publishers still utilise aggregate score sites to determine bonuses, that Destiny received middling scores for its alleged hype and stature, that the games news industry is built around being the first to get a review out the door, that Activision didn’t send out review copies, or is a combination of all of the above?

    In time it will be interesting to see whether Destiny was a bloated flash in the pan built on hype and nostalgia or a latent fascination.

  • Has anyone watched some streams of the raid that got implemented in the game yesterday? Its one of the most unique experiences for a console game, or for any raid of that matter. I have a strong feeling this will be one of those games that will progressively get better in time.

    • Problem is that you need to keep a fan base…. having a great game at launch is a million times more important than having a great game 6 months after launch once you’ve fixed all the issues and implemented the rest of the content.

      Unfortunately there’s too many games out there and too much competition for people to hang around that long hoping it get’s better. I hope it does, for everyone’s sake but I feel like it’s going to be a case of “too little, too late”

      • I would be more than happy to join you…… but level 26 is a long way from my level 11 Warlock….
        I don’t know precisely what it is about Destiny, but I just want to play it, which I have not felt for a shooter since Gears of War. I suck at it, but it has a good amount of in game variety so I can sit back and snipe, wander around aimlessly finding stuff, melee round corners and mess around with gear and stats. I didn’t think I would enjoy it anywhere as much as I did, and I think playing my first strike the other day was one of my favourite game experiences in a while (I died a lot……)

        • sweet dude add me, I’m xbone Black Dahlia NZ, although I just read the first team in the world to complete it took them 10 hours and they died like 1600 times.

          • I thought I already had (Puddinsworld)….. I am getting old and senile though…. I must have thought about it, raged at trials and forgotten…. 🙂

          • When I get my tv back from Frozen and the Lego movie (maybe mister maker and playschool too) I will try to remember to add….. who am I kidding, I will be making this same comment in a months time….

  • So suddenly ’77 is a terrible score, is it?
    Seriously. If I made a game that got that score, I’d be over the moon.

  • i dont get why publishers put so much stock in review scores for paying people i mean cmon. Destiny is fkn Awesome so far you can see the love and care that was put into this game. and i mean really what do 95% of game reviews know anyway they get paid to trash talk games where regular people pay to fuckin enjoy them.

    • I would think it’s more like Crytek’s plight: amazing worlds bereft of narrative.
      Obsidian, on the other hand, excels with narrative and lore, and I guess world building too. Yeah, I would say Obsidian and Bungie are galaxies apart.

      • I was talking about Obsidian suffering the same thing when their metacritic was 1 point less than they needed to get their bonus.
        Such is the case with Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas contract with Bethesda, wherein the developer only received royalties if the game matched or exceeded an 85 rating on Metacritic. Unfortunately for Obsidian, Fallout: New Vegas currently has a Metacritic average of 84, a single point below the average that would’ve earned the company royalties on its product. “[Fallout: New Vegas] was a straight payment, no royalties, only a bonus if we got an 85+ on Metacritic, which we didn’t,” Obsidian creative director and co-owner Chris Avellone told one Twitter user.

  • The shit thing about review scores is that they almost always judge a game one what it gets wrong, not on what it TRIES to do.

    The score out of 100 (or whatever it is) is too often linked to what a perfect form of a games original design would look like, so you start at 100 and remove points for things it gets wrong, instead of assessing a titles merits as a whole against other titles on the market.

    So you get a game like CoD that sticks to a developed formula and refines it and they go, “it loses 5 points for not being original, and it loses 3 points because the framerate drops occasionally…. But other than that it’s a perfect COD game: 92%”

    You often see this in mobile games, when someone nails a simple concept you often see review scores close to perfect despite the game only having a single mechanic which is fun for an hour or two.

    In the case of Destiny (and I haven’t played it), it seems like the game aims to do so much that its shortcomings are apparent despite the core of the game being very good. It’s easy to identify reasons why it’s NOT perfect, so when it comes time to allocate the score the game it can’t be given anything near a perfect score.

    If reviewers were more prepared to assess the title against other games on the market for the total sum of things it does RIGHT, then we might see a different story. How would this title compare to a game like Bulletstorm if instead of measuring it against a arbitrary “perfect” number you gave the game points for the things it does right against a potentially infinite scale?

    I’d guess that Destiny probably does more things well than 95% of games on the market.

    • I think there needs to be an “ambition bonus” analogous to the difficulty rating in some Olympic sports. I’d rather play an ambitious but flawed gem like Beyond: Two Souls (70 Metacritic) than a polished but uninspired game like Mario Kart 8 (88 Metacritic).

  • I am enjoying destiny, and if the review scale went from 0%-100% then 75% or so is pretty solid, unfortunately some folks forgot about the first 60% of the scale and start counting from 61.
    Issues that need to be fixed for me to put it higher.

    -Loading times, especially loading to the tower, for such a tiny area it really is unacceptable to wait some 3 minutes from hitting launch to being able to control myself on the ground.
    -Skipping cutscenes, sure I’ll sit through it once but on a second character or listening to how the fallen are clawing at the walls and we must destroy sepiks prime every time I hit launch, again see point one where it is likely hiding a load screen but still.
    -Transparency of stats, in game information accessibility and customisation options for UI, seems that so much information needs to be found on the internet to gain clarity, I shouldn’t have to.
    -Matchmaking balance for multiplayer, don’t start a rumble match with 4 people, don’t start a clash match with 4v6

    Most of these are quality of life issues to make actually playing the game more enjoyable. Yes the story is bland and has been told before, yes it is a bit of a grindfest when you hit level cap but they are done well enough and are enjoyable enough to play through but some aspects make the game infuriating.

    • You know it’s not the fairest solution for the full team, but I often thought that if you’re team is 2 up you have 2 people in reserve so you only have 4 on the field to the other teams 4. First Player to die get’s into the game next.

      I know in the era of stats it ruins people K/D ratio sitting on the sidelines when they could exploit that numbers advantage.

  • There’s nothing surprising about Destiny’s reception. Bungie are putting out exactly the same quality of game that they did with every Halo – disjointed, messy and repetitive but with some solid core gameplay – and without the benefit of magical Halo goggles it’s getting the kind of scores all their other games should have received. Activision made a mistake in getting involved with them for that kind of money.

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