Destiny 2 and the Impossible E3 Burden
Bungie’s no stranger to impossible odds. Since “Halo” launched alongside Microsoft’s first game console, their rise through the industry made them both blockbuster and pioneer—two designations that rarely accompany each other now. With each new entry into the Halo franchise, they fed a rapidly swelling fanbase and exceeded each new set of accolades from reviewers. Bungie dragged the industry forward with it, and when the industry hit a lull, so did Bungie.
With the launch of the Xbox One and Playstation 4, Bungie was now three generations into an industry that had plateaued. The console FPS—the flock of Halo’s descendents—had become bland, repetitive and uninspiring. COD veterans abandoned the Activision franchise for the Xbox One launch vehicle, with Titanfall. Their goal: To revolutionize the first-person shooter. But for all their fresh ideas, the game performed poorly, as the console itself struggled. And it became clear: This wasn’t their struggle to win.
It was up to Bungie—patriarch of the FPS genre—to create the game of the future. So, moments into the birth of a new generation, the creative minds in Bellevue declared their grand vision: Destiny.
A persistent universe, MMORPG and first-person shooter for the social gamer. In a world now connected by Facebook and Reddit, Destiny was the dream all games had strived to be, but never found elegant words to express. And so it happened, one summer week in Los Angeles, at the E3 Convention, that Bungie made its first major failing as a company.
In the relentless promotion, visionary marketing and the esoteric, dreamlike fog of media coverage, Destiny soon choked on its pride. You see, the greatest flaw a visionary can make is to allow the end-user to create its own vision. Bungie sought to create a vision so broadly exciting that it failed to describe it in certain terms—and at E3, gamers imagined a game that was impossible to ever be made.
With Destiny’s disappointing reception at launch, and gradual rise back to widespread contentment, Bungie’s familiar strengths eventually overcame this pitfall. With ‘The Taken King’ expansion, player count soared and it remained a consistent top-performer on Twitch. By all accounts, Destiny is every bit as popular as it was anticipated to be.
Bungie knows what it needs to deliver for a successful game, it just needs to launch it correctly. And the first step in that process kicks off the second Bungie is seen at E3.
In the most recent episode of Fireteam Chat, the IGN crew expressed concern that Bungie hadn’t provided anything that appeared patently new. Strikes played out exactly like Strikes in the original; they followed the same format, same dialogue and same gameplay.
Destiny may not have failed its core vision of “changing gaming forever,” but the perception in the first days of its launch—through reviews, internet reactions and word of mouth—was that it had. If Destiny 2 stumbles on launch, it may very well be because gamers find it too similar to Destiny. As Fireteam Chat dubbed: “Destiny 1.5”
In the reveal event, Bungie may have kicked off their own narrative, independent of the traditional E3 publicity cycles. But that taste was incomplete, and at E3, Bungie faces the task of completing it. They can tell gamers exactly what Destiny 2 is, and exactly what to expect on launch day.
This week, Bungie completes the first half of the publicity handoff between expectation and reality. We don’t know what game will be in our hands on September 8th, but Bungie can tell us what to look for, and that will shape reactions more than anything.