Destiny rules supreme.
And yet, there’s a feeling of ennui surrounding Bungie’s new opus. Articles are popping up all over the web, including here on Thumbsticks, that are either pondering over what kind of game Destiny is, rueing that it isn’t Halo or just expressing plain disappointment. In short, players don’t seem ever so satisfied.
This article is not a critique of Destiny. I was lucky enough to play the Beta and I enjoyed it well enough, but shooters are not my genre of choice. Neither are games with RPG levelling mechanics, but it seems I have no choice but to get on board with that one, considering how they are now creeping into games of all genres.
What I find interesting is the difference between the anticipation of big budget, high-profile games and the reception they are getting. Destiny has been hyped for a long time by every solitaire clash review and sure enough it’s selling like gangbusters. So why the muted response? Is Destiny really a let-down or are we expecting too much? Are our expectations set so high that meeting them is impossible?
The game is in good company. This year alone, both TitanFall and Watch Dogs have arrived in a blaze of publicity. Both games, despite being cross-generation titles, had long been fêted as flag-bearers for new consoles. They were nothing of the sort of course and despite impressive sales – genuine, long-lasting enthusiasm has been hard to find.
Perhaps Destiny is its own worst enemy. Its Beta was hardly exclusive, being more of a demo than anything else. And it was too close to the game’s release date for any feedback to make a material impact on the shipped product. From a distance it feels that this initial period of play took the wind out of Destiny’s sails – particularly within games media. There was an itch. And the Destiny Beta scratched it. Upon public release, it seems to have struggled to recapture that enthusiasm. It certainly muted my desire to pick up the game at launch.
The (understandable) lack of pre-release reviews also meant that Destiny arrived without the narrative of being a top scoring title. It’s now hard for any publication to rave about the game post launch, when the common consensus is little more than cautious enjoyment.
The most recent issue of Edge magazine contains a interesting (and scary) feature on the role of research and data analysis in game development. It explores the elements that are deemed essential components of a successful title. With multi-million dollar development and marketing budgets to recoup it’s understandable that such insight should be used as part of the development process. But as large publishers work their way through the ‘Checklist of Certain Success’ it seems there is a danger that the end product will suffer a lack of identity. In an attempt to please everyone, it’s appears that our appetites are only half satisfied. Or to give it a score, we are 70% full.
The fear of not appealing to the broadest audience can result in a game being focus-tested into mediocrity. Perhaps this is the reason Destiny looks like a Phantom Menace knock-off and has a group of bad guys called The Fallen. (A dreary, marketing-led moniker, if I ever saw one).
So here we are, with exciting new hardware but with software that doesn’t appear to be making the grade. It’s hard to determine if this due to the demands of cross-generation development or if we are entering a creative cul-de-sac for triple A games.
One thing is certain. You can’t re-invent the wheel or revolutionise games every time, no matter how much you spend on marketing. The likes of the Halo, Super Mario 64 and Minecraft broke boundaries and changed video games by taking risks and being certain in their own identities. I’m sure Bungie tried to do the same with Destiny and perhaps given time the game will grow and evolve into something truly special. So perhaps the problem also lies with us.
Maybe it’s time for us players to dial down our expectations and not demand or expect that every big release is an instant classic. Perhaps it’s time to get off the hype train and let our tastes dictate the type of games we play, rather than the marketing dollars that shout for our attention. Maybe it’s time to exercise a little caution and not rush out to buy games at midnight or pre-load them in fear of missing out.
The games industry is built on anticipation, but more and more this approach is letting down players, developers and publishers.
As tasty looking menu can get the stomach rumbling, but it’s the quality of the food that matters. An appetite built on promise alone can never be satisfied.