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Feb
22
2013

Destiny: Will Bungie’s New MMO Change Gaming?

Bungie is hoping to ride its success as the creator of the massive Halo series into a new game with Activision (which just acquired the studio). But will their new game simply be a FPS repeat (as beautiful as their track record has been) or a big flop, as so many new pretenders to WoW’s MMO throne have been? Given the amount of money Activision is sinking into this project, it’s going to be fascinating to see how it unfolds either way.

What We Know about the Game

So far, all we have to go on is the promo video for Pathways Out of Darkness released by the company on February 17th. Of course, we’re all dazzled by the elegant game art and the epic score (if there’s a symphony recording the soundtrack, it must be awesome, right?). The promise of deep and intense FPS action is all most people need from Bungie to jump on board anyway. But nobody, including the press, has even been given a glimpse of the game, and the descriptions of the MMO game-play style has everyone intrigued.

Here’s the thing though: nobody at Activision or Bungie is using the phrase “MMO,” even though this game is clearly going to let huge numbers of players interact in a massive online world. They’ve studiously avoided any acronyms starting with a double-M, which means they’re purposely trying to shape expectations for the multiplayer elements of the game.

From what’s being said, there are definitely some departures from traditional MMO styles. You’re not necessarily matchmaking or forming a party. They want it to be seamless, and that’s the ambitious part of it. This is the wildcard that really could shake things up. It’s always hard to imagine how an actual population of gamers will react to a game like this.

Mobile Aspects to the Game

They want to keep people constantly connected to the game, which is where the mobile playability angle comes in. Other MMOs have had various portals into the game, letting people handle customizations, transactions and other stuff while away from their gaming rigs.

However, will this engrossing world work on lower bandwidth devices though? Given the stunning visuals we’ve seen thus far, there’s no way that the mobile experience can match the full PC immersion of the game.

Even if you’re on a Wi-Fi connection with your smartphone, you’re still probably at home and would probably rather be playing on your PC, right? And if you’re not at home, battery-life becomes a problem even if you can still get Wi-Fi connectivity. Logistically, I don’t see the mobile angle panning out as anything more than access to game stats and support systems.

Destiny Not Subscription Based?

Still more intriguing is the fact that Activision says this game will not be a subscription-based model. That’s particularly fascinating given the fact that a 60-dollar game box is not going to cover the costs for Activision’s acquisition of Bungie, plus the unique server architecture and operational costs of running what the company claims to be a “10-year” game. Can micro-transactions make up the difference? Where else could the money come from if not subscribers? Details are not forthcoming yet.

As with any well-managed PR campaign, the Destiny announcement left us with more questions than answers by design. The mobile aspects, the nature of the multiplayer environment, the cost-structure of the game—these details will all shake out when the game is released, which we already know from Activision will not be in 2013.

Will Destiny simply be another Halo but with MMO features? Or is it too much like a destined-to-fail MMO to escape the fate of games like Rift? Let us know what you think.

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