Bungie is careful not to call it’s latest shooter an MMO. The baggage you get by associating your game with that genre is something it probably doesn’t want to deal with. Destiny is doing things different enough to skirt around what we think of as an MMO, but with the way it promises to have a persistent world where players hop in to do group quests and pick up loot together, it’s pretty clear what Destiny is.
Open world games cost a lot of money. Add the ability to have multiple players in it and lots of incentive to re-do content for items and achievements, and you’ve got an expensive game. And that’s not even including if the game is a competent shooter or not, but remember, Bungie made Halo.
Activision is in the business of making blockbuster games. Million dollar blockbuster games. Skylanders and Call of Duty. Destiny is its next big bet, and if that 10-year agreement that leaked out a few years ago is still somewhat accurate, then it’s going to need to throw enough money at it to grow a huge base of people willing to buy each expansion pack and sequel to the game. That means lots of advertising to people who like shooters, who maybe would like to try something similar to Call of Duty, but also very new. To Activision, that’s probably worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Companies like Activision and Electronic Arts take risks because they can and because they have to to remain competitive. EA has, somewhat confusingly, pit its Battlefield franchise against Call of Duty after Activision’s massive success. It’s hard to say if that’s been successful or not. Isn’t Battlefield 4 still broken?
Big companies have to plan ahead and, like Guitar Hero before it, there will inevitable come a time where Call of Duty will dip in popularity. That’s natural, and that’s why Activision doesn’t rely on one game only.
So when you see how much money Activision put into Destiny it should make sense. But it can be shocking too. Big games cost a lot of money. Maybe too much money. If they fail, they fail hard. That’s twofold for MMO–sorry–Destiny-like games.
$500 million is a scary big number. Destiny is a scary big game. Failure is real. Clearly, Activision likes this one. Hopefully we do too.