Just when you thought AAA gaming budgets couldn’t get any more ridiculously overboard, Activision has to up the ante. Believing that there’s gold in them thar space mountains, the games publishing company is set to inject $500 million into upcoming sci-fi RPG shooter Destiny. This includes development, production, marketing, infrastructure support, royalties, packaging and a host of other related expenses. The expectation to make money back on this investment would involve between 15 and 16 million new purchases of Destiny at full $60 USD (or $70 CAD) price.
It’s an absolutely crazy move by Activision’s part. They’re putting a lot of pressure onto Bungie, a company who has been working on the Halo series for the past decade. $500 million means that absolutely everything has to go right, and without a PC version of the game available for sale at launch, their install base right now would be at roughly 170 million consoles between the PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PS3. Even though that number will raise over the months leading up to a September release, that would mean Activision is banking on nearly 8% of consumers to buy a full priced game of a new IP at launch.
Even though Activision sees Destiny as part of a multi-title blockbuster series, their investment is also likely the hugest within any one game in the history of the games industry. There is a lot of skilled developers at Bungie, and Activision has been churning out monetary successes out of Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, however they made their money through return monthly subscriptions and utilizing similar gameplay with the same old Quake 3-adapted game engine, alongside numerous DLC add-ons or expansion packs. Creating an in-house game engine for Bungie means that things can go horribly wrong at launch. For a game that relies in online gameplay (and absolutely mandates being online to play at all, even in single player), no doubt the wheels could come falling off rather quickly.
It’s rather unfortunate, really; Destiny looks rather promising as a game outside of the situation it finds itself in. Its first-person shooting combined with co-operative or competitive online combat systems generate an entirely different feel within the confines of the MMO genre. However, backed by $500 million in investments and now tied with the immense pressure behind shareholders, it seems like Destiny is doomed to lose its owners a lot of money. Whether or not it is good for the industry to see a failure of that magnitude is up to debate.
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