Destiny 2’s Collections Could Solve the Game’s Cross-Platform Conundrum
Forsaken’s improvements to the game’s quality-of-life are underappreciated. Amidst the bonkers new Raid, dazzling new City and explosive new gun system, many of the game’s bedrock features saw massive reworkings and improvements.
Overburdened with loot? Your vault has 500 slots. Want to read the lore? It’s in the game now. Need to finish a milestone? It’s now on the map, not that awkward flyout menu. The shader system is still a dysfunctional mess, but it’s probably the only QoL problem I can think of off the top of my head. The little things just work now, and that’s magical.
There’s one quality of life improvement that’s been a tremendous success above the rest: Collections. It’s effectively a catalog that shows all gear you’ve acquired, as well as highlights ones you haven’t. This is a godsend for collectors. Better yet, it allows gear without random rolls to be reacquired for a material/currency fee. It’s convenient and it bypasses potential Vault-space or ‘sticky delete finger’ issues.
But there’s one other, larger problem it could solve: Destiny’s multi-platform problem.
Console wars aren’t new. They’ve been dividing friend groups for the last two decade. The decision of buying a console comes down to a horrible game of triage. Which friends are expendable? Which games aren’t? You may have been friends since fourth grade, but you’ve been waiting for a good Spiderman game since second grade. It’s not a question you make easily; the ramifications of stranding yourself on the wrong console can devastate the next five years of your life.
Destiny straddles three platforms: Xbox, PlayStation and PC. And so, the game of triage unfolds. As a PC gamer, who grew up playing Halo on Xbox but goes to school with people who play on PS4, this has been a rough game of “F**k, marry, kill.”
Too few of my friends play Xbox. It dies. I started on PS4 with a full clan and friends who logged in daily. But by ‘Curse of Osiris,’ that clan had evaporated into thin air. It was a good, clean, one-night-stand with only a few hurt feelings. Ultimately, I returned to my native environment: PC. It’s a strong marriage built on familiarity and trust, barring a surprise Windows update mid-game.
I own Destiny 2 on PS4 Pro and PC. But I haven’t touched the PS4 version since Osiris. This has become a sharp thorn in my side.
I have a close friend who I literally met at E3, where we bonded over our mutual love of Destiny. We started the game on PS4 and have completed dozens of Raid and Trials runs since D2 launched. For the last two years, we’ve made a habit of logging into Discord all evening and playing until someone falls asleep.
Since the launch of the Warmind DLC, this tradition has become hollow. I now play on PC. He doesn’t have a PC. We log into Discord. He plays on PS4. I play on PC. We have great conversations, with frequently awkward conversations that sound like this:
“Hey, I’m about to run the Nightfall, you down?”
“I mean I would, but my PS4 character is still 320.”
“Oh, right. You playing on PC right now?”
Forsaken’s steep grind has made this worse. The grind is back, it’s glorious and I love it. But it’s made it absolutely impossible for me to even consider any kind of meaningful return to PS4. Pushing my character to the max Power Level for a given week, while ranking up in The Crucible and Gambit requires all my free time. Maintaining a PS4 character is an impossibility when getting a single PC character up to 550 (much less max Power) will conceivably take me three weeks.
At this point, I’ll be nearly a month behind my PS4 friends. It’ll be another month before I could play end-game activities with them, assuming I then completely abandoned my PC account to focus on bringing my PS4 character up. Then there’s a simpler question: is that worth it? Is it worth grinding twice as long for the same result?
When Destiny 2 was first out, it was possible for me to juggle these two accounts. I have friends on PC and PlayStation that made it worth the trouble. It was hard, awkward and annoying, but possible. As the mountains of content to plow through has become more daunting, that’s no longer the case.
Playing on two platforms means twice as much trouble for half the fun.
And really, this is no one’s fault. It would be absurd, even outrageous, to demand Bungie make Forsaken a shallow game just so I can play it twice. And Bungie has no obligation to include cross-saving, since it isn’t as if any other AAA title offers anything similar.
So, let me iterate so no one is mistaken: This problem is not a problem with the game. No one is at fault. This is a natural problem that arises from the platform divide that’s existed for decades.
I instead pitch this as an opportunity. This is my suggestion to make Destiny even better, and Bungie even richer. Bungie, I offer a way to make free money. Game publishers HATE me! Click here to learn more!
Bungie, you can sell me the same game twice if you just let me access Collection items across platforms. That’s right. I have every reason imaginable to want to play Destiny 2 on PS4. I’m aching to pull out my wallet and hand you $70 for the expansion and Season Pass. If you allow cross-saving, I, and hundreds of thousands of players, can justify making that purchase.
Right now, purchasing Forsaken for PS4 is something I can’t justify because I can’t justify losing Forsaken gear I’ve earned on the PC version. The grind back up wouldn’t just be hard in its own right, it would prevent me from playing content on PC. The handicap would be far to frustrating to tolerate.
The obvious solution is Cross-saving. Unlike cross-play, this means that characters save across platforms. Is this plausible? It certainly is. Accounts and characters are saved to Bungie’s servers, not Microsoft or Sony’s. In fact, the data for your account’s characters exist entirely undivided, as third-party services like DIM and Ishtar Commander make apparent.
As early as 2013, before the first game’s launch, IGN’s Andrew Goldfarb reported “Destiny Could Get PC Version, Cross Platform Saves”.
“Considering Destiny’s multiplatform approach, we also asked [Eric] Osborne about the possibility of transferring save files between platforms…
“‘…For us, [platforms] are purely agnostic,’ he said. ‘Any data on our back-end servers and services, like Bungie.net, are ours. We control it, we can do a bunch of fun stuff on that side. So for us, we want to absolutely do the right things for players.’”
There clearly isn’t an account-side barrier to characters existing across platforms. The only possible limitation is technically within the game itself. As I’m no game designer, or engineer of any kind, I won’t presume to prescribe any “easy” solution. While I’m not aware of any issue that would prevent this, I can’t very well say that it certainly can be done.
But, I can say that it doesn’t matter.
Now that Collections exist, and there are defined check boxes that dictate what items you do and do not possess, there is no reason why gear cannot travel between accounts. Earning an item checks off the box in Collections. Bungie’s backend is platform agnostic, meaning your account has that data and the data of all your characters on all platforms. There is no imaginable reason why checking off a box on PC cannot check off the same box on PS4 or Xbox.
Even if Bungie can’t bring cross-saving to the game, they can make Collections cross-platform. And it would make it so much less tedious to play on multiple platforms that it's the next best thing. Earn an item, and you can repurchase it from your Collection on any other platform.
Keep in mind, this is still a far cry from cross-saving. Since Collection gear drops far below your Power level, it can’t actually help you level up. I don't think that should change. But it means that players who want to play casually on a second platform with friends are no longer stranded. In reality, few will play two platforms equally. There will always be a main platform they love most and will grind the hardest. Making me grind for Power Level again is a fair compromise; telling me I have to grind Escalation Protocol or Nightfalls all over again isn’t.
I can't explain how frustrating it is to remember "Oh yeah, this is the account that I don't have Acrius, Whisper, Midnight Coup, Adjudicator, DARCI, the Ikelos shotgun or any of the gear I normally rely on."
Reducing that barrier so I can play with friends without being woefully ill-equipped would be godsend. And Bungie would get my $70 twice. They essentially get to double-dip by selling me the same content twice. Bungie likes money. Activision likes money. And I don’t like money enough, apparently. This is a win-win-win.
What about the Sony factor? Well, this is how I figure it. Their PlayStation-exclusive content deal is entirely about publicity to get people on PS4. But, Streamers/YTers reach far more people than any of their ads. Those influencers have almost unanimously abandoned the PlayStation in favor of PC. So, Sony is now paying for PS4 exclusive content that no one will actually see. Give them a reason to play the content, and Sony gets that much more free advertising.
Also throw in this: I don’t pay for PS Plus since, PlayStation doesn't have any online exclusives. I play Xbox even less than my PS4, but because Halo 5, Forza and The Master Chief Collection are online, Microsoft at least gets their $10/month out of me. Give me a reason to play on PS4 and Sony gets $10/month.
As far as Sony policies against cross-play or cross-saving, they couldn’t possibly apply, because none of this data is on Sony servers. As Bungie’s established, it’s all platform agnostic.
Would I trade this cross-platform collection for cross-saving? In a heart beat. But that seems like something Bungie would have already done if they could. I would assume Sony or technical limitations make it either impossible or prohibitively difficult. The Collection system, on the other hand, is an avenue that there’s no reason to explore.
Destiny 2 is ultimately a social game. Having to divide my friend groups and pick one has been brutal. Declining invites from close friends with whom I’ve raided and fragged for hundreds of hours is the least fun Destiny’s ever been. Sitting in a Discord lobby where all my friends are on PC, but one is stranded on PS4 with no reasonable way for anyone to play with him, has absolutely sucked.
Console wars may be to blame, but with games like Fortnite, Rocket League and Fallout 76 riding the path to console-agnosticism, Bungie would to well to find a way to bridge that gap. Any move away from these arbitrary walls is welcome, and all signs point to a future where that’s the norm.