Activision Says It's Not Happy With Destiny's Sales

Sales for Destiny 2: Forsaken have not lived up to Activision's expectations, the publisher said today on an earnings call, promising investors a faster content model and new forms of monetisation for the game. This comes at a time when the Destiny fanbase is as happy as it's ever been, which raises serious questions about the future of everyone's favourite loot shooter treadmill franchise.

With Destiny 2, released in 2017, Activision and developer Bungie tried very hard to appeal to as many new players as possible, streamlining many of the first game's esoteric systems and forcing all new characters to start from scratch. Although Destiny 2 earned a better critical reception than the first game, it wasn't what hardcore players wanted, and in the months after launch Bungie put a great deal of effort into overhauling the weapons system, the endgame, and just about every other mechanic, with very productive results.

Those improvements culminated with Forsaken, an expansion that came out in September to critical acclaim. It's full of level grinding and a regular stream of rewarding activities — along with cool secrets and killer endgame content — which has made hardcore Destiny players happier than they've ever been.

It didn't sell enough copies to meet Activision's expectations, however. "Some of our other franchises like Destiny are not performing as well as we'd like," the company said on today's earnings call.

That news shouldn't be much of a surprise to anyone who's been paying attention recently — last week, Activision started giving away the PC version of Destiny 2 for free (until November 18), a sign of weak sales for the franchise.

"We have not yet seen the full core re-engage in Destiny," said Activision COO Coddy Johnson, "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."

But can a series like Destiny really appeal to both hardcore and casual players? Just what kind of lofty expectations does Activision have for the game? And — this is the tough one — have years of expensive expansions and embarrassing mistakes damaged the Destiny brand for good in many players' minds?

Destiny 2's microtransaction system is also relatively unobtrusive right now — with Activision hungry to please investors with more of that sweet, sweet revenue, should we expect that to change?

There's been tension between Bungie and Activision since before the first Destiny even shipped, and it's long proved difficult to answer the question, "Who is Destiny for?"

With this new development, one again has to wonder what the future of Destiny looks like.


    Activision and Bungie have no one to blame but themselves. They completely threw out any QoL changes made by the end of Destiny 1 while also smashing the game with micro transactions.

    The game today is the best it's been since release and it is slowly getting better. They would have been so much more successful if they got rid of the game 1, game 2, game 3 model and followed the major expansion "WoW" model. The fact that they still lock content behind PS4 exclusivity is dodgy and has no place in 2018.

    I really hope they don't take another two steps back and increase micro transactions because it will surely end any small hope they have of recovering the player base.

    Okay does that mean games-as-a-serivce is going to die now? Please?

    Maybe, just maybe, don't throw away people's investment over 3 years in the original game just to release a new one.

    That was the biggest issue with Destiny 2 IMO. It gave people a chance to disengage from the game, of which they did.

    As for shittier content and more monetisation, there's plenty of other stuff to play Acti.

      This is exactly what happened to me. I couldn't believe what Destiny 2 was when I started playing it. It's like Bungie had taken all the feedback and positive changes made to Destiny and binned them. I lasted 3 weeks and haven't touched it since.

      While I agree with you, I also suspect they didn't have a choice, they probably had a bunch of bad design decisions in the first game that they could only work around so far before they needed to reboot it all.

      Had Destiny 2 actually been a good game out of the gates, I think a lot of people wouldn't have minded starting over. I actually picked the game up just recently having only played Destiny 1 prior to the first major expansion, so for me it was a clean break and a brand new character with a brand new Ghost that wasn't my wry, detached old Dinklebot, and that actually worked quite well. But I wasn't invested in my Destiny character where people like you definitely were.

    The reason D1 worked was because it had a small niche player base. It never tried to step out of its lane. But D2 failed at launch because it did do exactly that. The bean counter saw money signs and tried to make it a CoD type thing.

    I would always prefer Destiny to stay away from mass market, and stick to a smaller more grind happy player base, more mature players who dont need things spelt out. The other problem I have is that they are too reayd to give all complainers exactly what they want, sure feedback is good but so many little things lately, it is about to trying to appease those who want things handed to them. (see the changes to Ace of Spades quest, one of the best quest steps, that while not exactly challenging was the type of thing casual players would have issue with, while the rest of us found it satisfying, some what difficult, but not exactly hard. )

      Ha! 100% agree with you.

      Destiny is obviously your jam.. so you see it from that point of view.
      I don't play Destiny for anything more than the campaign - but I've followed it for long enough to see why so many core fans were upset with that Bungie did with Destiny 2.

      Any chance you can see why those of us who play Diablo / WoW feel similarly? That the games were progressively dumbed down to cater to casuals and increase microtransaction revenue, to the detriment of the core fans?

      Classic WoW was very popular, but people (like rats) always search for the path of least resistance.

      "Leveling is too hard"
      "I can't find a group"
      "Travelling on foot is too slow"
      "My outfits don't match"

      So they whinge and complain until they get what they want.
      But sometimes, giving people the "easy path", although it might cater to the casual audience, is not the what's truly best thing for the longevity of the game. And it leaves those who truly liked how the game was originally wondering why they have been left out in the cold.

      I know you and I don't often agree (I made a mental note today to stop downvoting your posts - I feel like a d**khead singling you out - you just come from a different perspective on some issues), but it is encouraging to see some common ground here.

      You might not agree with my WoW assessment. I do understand some people love all the quality of life changes. Same with Diablo 3 and what I perceive as simplified builds and abilities.

        So thoroughly true. Some people seem to not realise one thing: game devs dont make games for ME. they make games to a core set of philosophies and principles. Both on the idealistic and artistic side, and to the raw reality 'we are trying to make money here' side.

        Its not their job to make a game work 110% to me and suits my tastes totally, its up to me to find enough things in what they are doing that the downsides are too bad. The gaming world is full of people screaming that a game HAS to do what they want or else the devs have failed, or are terrible at their job etc etc. Sure it gets more complicated with Destiny and Wow and those, they have to listen to feedback, thats just smart business, but ultimately it i still their game, their risks, their world, their rules.

        All the best games I have loved was before the devs started caving to the vocal crowd. Things like WoW and especially Everquest 2 (which i adored beyond belief) but because it was being hit hard by WoW, what made me choose it over WoW was ultimately eroded to a point where so much of the player base left because if the game we are playing is being changed so much to emulate another, we might as well go play the other. Yet by that time, WoW itself was changing from how it was from the first few years.


        You guys realize how elitist you sound, right? Likening more casual players to rats and everything?

        This game could not survive if it only catered to only their hardcore niche. Definitely not at the level of production value it currently gets.

          In branding and marketing, positioning is a very important element of making a successful brand. It's nearly impossible to be all things to all people, and exclusionary behaviour, exclusionary values and exclusionary decision making are all viable and recommended strategies when it comes to shaping your brand and your target demographic's interactions with it. One of first things you should be able to answer is "who is our product for?" and then "who is our product not for?"

          What you really need to focus on above all is product / market fit. The big question Bungie and Activision need to ask is "Will casual audiences ever be attracted to what Destiny is?" Until they wake up to the likely – and for the executives and shareholders of Activision, depressing – answer, they'll continue compromising the product to try and attract an unreachable audience.

          Insecure and incompetent brands are terrified of excluding potential customers, but they should be far more afraid of losing the ones they have because of this fear. It's better to have 100 people adore you than 1000 feel lukewarm about you. More than that, there's no evidence that a smaller, but more engaged target audience would mean less profit; when done right, it results in potentially higher profit.

          So while it might sound elitist to look down on the casual players (and I personally think it's akin to blaming Yoko instead of John Lennon), an insecure brand with the wrong decision maker at the helm can absolutely be destroyed by "casuals".

      Man, that quest took me like over 10 gambit matches! And yet malfeasance is taking me so many more. Gambit is such a sweat fest atm, and people are really bad which doesn't help.

    This comes at a time when the Destiny fanbase is as happy as it's ever been

    Are they? Not from what I'm hearing. Unless the fanbase started at rock bottom.

      Haha, not far off.

      I'd say Destiny 2 has taken the most flak of all games this year.

      Non-stop bashing on YouTube. A lot of YouTubers changed their mind with the release of Forsaken. But by this stage, a huge portion of their audience had moved on.

      its only been with the release of Forsaken, before the release of the forskaen, no one was happy, but forsaken has basically been like Reaper of Souls was for Diablo 3

        Warmind made a lot of people happy, it was a massive step forward. But Forsaken's another level again and it's easy to jump in and progress.

        I've seen people complain about that.

          It was simply too easy and quick. Not exactly worth what we paid. Basically my only gripe.

          It's the internet. People complain about everything.

          The general consensus is that Forsaken fixed a ton of what has been wrong with the game since it launched, even fixing some of the issues the first game had to, with a steady feed of meaningful content and updates and everything.

            Didn't fix the problems I've had with the franchise. Enemies are still basic and you still spend most of your time just pulling triggers.

              Probably not the game for you then. Actually probably never has been and never will be either, if you don't like the core shooter itself. For me that was always the good bit, it feels close to perfect. All the other bullshit around it was what drove me away.

                I'm fine with the core. But that's all there ever is. The enemies are barely reskins from each other and your abilities are just for spectacle.

    Yeah, I'm sure new forms of monetisation will bring all the players back. Maybe they can bump up the price of the next expansion a bit more while they're at it.

      cant wait for those sweet micro-transactions to monetise
      the remaining loyal fan base

    I got it free with PSN (haven't played it yet) so 'eh

    I fucking love Destiny 2. But forsaken is like a hundred goddamn dollars.

    Fuck that. I'll buy it for a reasonable price at some point and I'll continue not giving them extra money for microtransactions because I've already bought the base game and two expansions. More micros aren't going to help them, here.

      This is what killed Destiny for me with the first one. After spending close to $200 keeping up with the expansions or face being locked out of events etc. E.g. weekly events would be the new DLC only. I totally gave up and didn't bother with D2. never again!

      Just throwing this out there, but it's basically a MMO, it's 100% online and the drip feed of content as well as just keeping the servers running has to be paid for somehow. There's really only three ways you can do that - charge a suscription, make it free but riddle it with microtransactions so you prey on the whales to keep it free for the rest, or make it free but charge people for content drops. And even the subscription-based games have expansions. You get a decent amount of content out of it.

      If anything the fact that you still had to get the two DLC drops before you can access the expansion was the shitty bit, but they took that feedback and bundle that into Forsaken now too, as of last month.

    Well they learned nothing from the production of Destiny 1 and then repeated (almost literally) the same mistakes in Destiny 2. Unsurprisingly players learned to be cautious about committing to season passes etc and a lot of us became resentful.

    Maybe the games would sell better if they were actually good.

    The problem with games like this is they are created by accountants.

    I didnt touch the first one. I have no interest in playing MMOs of ANY kind.
    One of my friends tried it because he too is a big Halo fan, and doesnt hate mmos like i do, so he gave it a chance. He lasted around a month and bailed. He wasnt exactly going to buy the sequel either.
    I know hes not alone with people who gave the first a chance due to Halo. Im not sure how many would have gave them a second chance if they didnt like the first offering.

      I quite enjoyed the single player campaign.

      It won't blow your socks off, but the gunplay feels good enough to propel you forward.

      Worth downloading for free this month, regardless.

    I tried Destiny 2 last weekend, after I got it for free. Never played the first one.
    Played through the first section, had no idea what was going on.
    I know it's the second game in what I assume is a series, but you would think there would be at least an attempt to explain the story. Nope.
    Deleted it after 3 hours. Glad I didn't pay for it.

      Pretty much my experience.

      Downloaded it for free to give it a try.

      Looks pretty but....

      I had zero clue what hell was going on or what I was supposed to do. Deleted after a couple hours.

    I watched my partner play Destiny 1 for years, didn't play it myself yet but loved reading up on the lore and finding out things the clan hadn't thought about. When Destiny 2 started, I figured I would join in.
    Except that they had taken away what I had enjoyed most - the lore. There were no connections between the characters beyond one-dimensional banter, no recognition of the storyline or anything like that. I mean, the Speaker died and everyone was just like... oh okay.

    Then there was the Osiris expansion. One of the most interesting characters in the lore and they made him just so... flat. And only Ikora was involved - no one else mentioned the troublesome warlock whose followers had called the speaker a liar and a charlatan. Asher Mir didn't say anything, even though Osiris might shed some light on his vex arm. I stopped playing for ages.

    Forsaken had brought back so many things that I love about the Destiny world. I mean, I balled my eyes out over Cayde but... it is finally starting to feel like the game everyone loved at the end of D1. Sure, not everyone is keen on the lore side, but removing that feature was a poor attempt at attracting casual cod players to increase their sales.

    My rambling point is; I fear that pressure for more income is going to lead to Bungie making really stupid decisions again, choosing casual players and the temporary money they bring over dedicated players.

    Also, I want Eris back now please.

    I love D2. But I wish Activision would fuck off.
    Shareholders kill video games.

      Exactly my thoughts.

      I think we'll start to see a cycle where AAA games go to complete shit, but upstart indie studios save the medium (for those of us who still care).

      That is, until they become too popular and are bought out or go public themselves.

      And the cycle will continue.

    they burnt a lot of bridges with the PC release frankly speaking. I don't blame the PC crowd for being wary... and that's on top of the horrible pricing structure

    I believe they changed it now but before when Forsaken was announced you literally had to buy the base game + 2 DLC + forsaken to be current.

      I did that.

      Tried Osiris but it was so boring that I skipped it. Made it to Forsaken content, but realised the game just wasn't for me.

      So far this year, D2 expansions and BFA are my only purchase regrets.

      Yeah same here. And I think forsaken even has an annual pass too. If you wanted to play up to date for a while there you'd be up for around $250 AUS

      Yeah, this was an absolutely stupid way to sell the game and I think they realized that quite quickly. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to pick it up.

      They should really have a look at the way that FF XIV handles expansions. Can buy the base game or a 'complete' edition that is base + latest expansion. Having the latest expansion gets you every extra bit of content between the base game and the end of the latest expansion. Previous expansion keys stop being sold when the next comes out. It's not current content.

    Silly people! Games are for shareholders NOT gamers!

    I never got forsaken. I find it pretty insulting to have to buy a game, then two expansions and then Forsaken which costs more than the original game did on release. Oh and now forsaken, an expansion, also has a season pass? Come on...

    Destiny 2 is a joke that tried to pull the same bs stunt as destiny 1 - release a game that was clearly not complete and tie up the finished content with expansions even though that content was mostly already finished in game and just locked.

    To add insult to injury they once again offered a "season pass" that only really contained 2 small add ons, then offered the real expansion as a seperate expansion not included in the season pass. Its a fckn joke and they clearly learned nothing from the first game.

    Aw, is the multi-billion dollar corporation not happy with the profits raked in by their latest exploitative, psychologically manipulative, half-assed, "pay us full price for the game then pay us extra to make it less shit and keep paying us", loot box extravaganza? Well BOO HOO, cry us a fucking river!

    I’ve been in wait and see mode since Forsaken dropped - the temptation with everyone saying “Destiny is back/best it’s ever been” has been overwhelming but with so many other games around i’ve managed to hold off - how on earth do they think saying stuff like this is now suddenly going to make me shell out? To buy something when it sounds like they’re going to negatively change it in the future?

    That’s the rub with all these live service games; if they change it for the better it usually comes at some cost, change it for the worse & there’s often little we can do. Whilst the majority of people have been happy with Forsaken, I don’t doubt somewhere there are people who preferred the base game who had something they liked taken away from them with little recourse; they were the minority it seems, but if they do the same thing now with Forsaken I don’t doubt (and even hope) it will blow up in their face.

    Must be soul destroying working on a game like this, knowing however cool you make a gun/environment/character that players may never get to play/experience it because asshats in boardrooms are devising new ways to turn your core player base off...

    Fragmenting the user base with expansion packs has always been a shit strategy IMHO.

    This is the same Destiny 2 they said was one of their top-two earners last year and outsold the original, yes?

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