Feature Article

Charging Money For Destiny 2's Dungeons Isn't A Big Deal, But Its Monetization Is A Mess

It's okay to expect to pay for Destiny 2 content, but Bungie's melding of paid and free content needs more clarity and consistency.

Not long after the announcement that Bungie would remove the Forsaken campaign and some related content from Destiny 2, the developer found its community angry for another reason. Players zeroed in on the fact that the two dungeons Bungie announced would be added to the game next year would require the purchase of the Deluxe edition of The Witch Queen expansion, and that they wouldn't be included with the season passes Bungie sells piecemeal to players every few months.

The Dungeon Dust-up this week in the Destiny 2 community feels like a discussion that is at once both frustrating and overblown, but it's also a bit of a confusing situation. You can purchase the standard edition of The Witch Queen expansion for $40 USD, which will get you the expansion itself and additional cosmetics, but not the four season passes that will be released in the year after Witch Queen's launch. You can get the Deluxe edition for $80, which nets you more in-game cosmetics, all the standard edition stuff, all four seasons of content that will be released during the year, and the two dungeons. Or you can get the Deluxe Edition Plus 30th Anniversary Bundle, which adds in Destiny 2's smaller batch of anniversary content that's coming this December, for a total of $100. Alone, the anniversary content runs $25; each season is $10.

Following all that? Buy the standard edition of The Witch Queen and you get a $40 expansion but not the four $10 seasons, or the dungeon. Buy the $80 deluxe edition and get the $40 expansion, plus $40 worth of seasons, plus dungeons. On a Reddit post concerning these prices, Bungie confirmed that if you want the dungeons but only buy the standard edition, you'll have to upgrade--but you'll be able to do that at a later time, and the developer intends to create some way of purchasing the two dungeons at a later point as well.

The overall point, though, is that the dungeons cost extra, in some form or another. In the past, dungeons were released either as part of expansions, like Forsaken and Shadowkeep, or for free, as with the Prophecy dungeon. Bungie is now treating them as separate content, and charging for them.

Destiny 2's dungeons, which are a bit like three-player mini-raids, are among its coolest activities.
Destiny 2's dungeons, which are a bit like three-player mini-raids, are among its coolest activities.

To be honest, as incensed as the community has gotten about being shunted into the Deluxe edition of The Witch Queen in order to get access to dungeons--which are, to be fair, among the best content in Destiny 2--I struggle to care about this. I play a lot of Destiny 2, and get more out of it than I pay for, most likely. I think the game is in an incredibly good place right now, from a storytelling and seasonal content perspective. I'm okay with paying for content I enjoy.

What's more, these dungeons cost, like, nothing at all, so it's a struggle to see what all the fuss is about. If you buy the Deluxe edition, you get the four seasons you'd be paying for anyway, at the price they would normally cost. Even if you factor in that this bundle is $10 more expensive than a comparable one for Beyond Light, the last expansion, chalk it up to paying $5 for each dungeon. Given how cool the Shattered Throne, Pit of Heresy, and Prophecy dungeons are, $5 seems fully reasonable. It's just hard to muster up much anger over $5 for great game content.

All that said, I think I do understand where a lot of players are coming from with this frustration, and it stems from a lot of different areas. The Destiny Content Vault, the name used to describe old content that Bungie removed from Destiny 2 ostensibly to make room for new stuff, is a massive point of contention for the community. Some players are just mad that content they paid for is disappearing, which I think is somewhat unreasonable at times because of the nature of Destiny 2. Bungie's approach of evolving the game and telling its story in real time means the game needs to change in kind; certain missions no longer make sense and certain areas fall into disuse. I don't care that the Tangled Shore is being removed because I never go there; I don't mind that the Forsaken campaign is getting boxed because I haven't been able to play it for like two years anyway (although I'd argue the general lack of access to old campaigns actually is something worth complaining about). Still, we have to grant that something you paid for becoming unavailable feels kinda fishy.

Where I think the sticking point is here is in the confusion, and Destiny 2's general messiness when it comes to content availability and cost standards. To some degree, we've been really fortunate to snag dungeons in the past, when they were basically free--nobody knew Shattered Throne even existed until it popped up in the game, Pit of Heresy was part of the Shadowkeep expansion cost, and Prophecy was launched during the Season of Arrivals for all players at no cost. Now, dungeons will more directly cost you money, and specifically, there's no clear way to get ahold of the dungeon content without nabbing a lot of other stuff, too. And whether you would still get the seasons anyway, or you'd want to wait and see if you feel like playing at the time, there's still that friction of being forced down a certain path, especially without being able to see where it leads or what it'll specifically entail.

The Deluxe Edition of the Witch Queen expansion will net you seasons, dungeons, and a host of other stuff, and it's not really clear what other way you'll gain access to some of Destiny's best content.
The Deluxe Edition of the Witch Queen expansion will net you seasons, dungeons, and a host of other stuff, and it's not really clear what other way you'll gain access to some of Destiny's best content.

Beyond that, there's the general annoyance among players that they might spring for a dungeon today and be unable to play it in the future, even if that future is a couple years away at least. Forsaken came out in 2018 and will be more or less gone with Witch Queen's launch in 2022. Most likely, these dungeons come with an expiration date. Even accepting that this isn't a big deal, or that it's possible the dungeons will eventually be spared vaulting (Forsaken is going into the vault but Shattered Throne is staying in the game, for instance), it still changes the proposition, specifically because the community bristles at the idea that content they've already purchased could be sold back to them again.

I don't think Bungie has yet really demonstrated a disregard for the community that justifies the level of animosity some players throw its way, even including controversial actions like gun sunsetting (making several older weapons obsolete with the Beyond Light expansion in order to make room in the in-game meta for new ones). Neither, though, do I think Bungie generates much goodwill or willingness to give the benefit of the doubt in moves such this dungeon pricing one. These things were free or included before; now they cost. How important will they be to the ongoing narrative? How essential will having them be to keeping content variety up in the game? What weapons will they offer, and will players who choose not to buy them be at a disadvantage? These are all questions where the answers could fundamentally affect enjoyment of the game, and there's a real frustration in being forced to make decisions without knowing their answers.

To me, what Bungie needs is a clearer and more consistent means of doling out paid content and establishing the cost and value of that content. Personally, I'm in on Destiny 2 seasons, I'll be playing those dungeons, and I'm fine with ponying up $80 for the whole package (full disclosure: I already threw in an extra $150 for the Witch Queen Collector's edition--I am that guy). But even now, getting Destiny 2 content piecemeal is a pain. To access Stasis and Europa, you need the Beyond Light expansion; to participate in the current season, you need to pay for it; but to play older seasonal stuff, such as Presage, you need to purchase all four yearly seasons, even if you already paid for one or more alone. There's no clear way to avoid overlapping charges, and things are even more confusing if you're a new or returning player trying to jump in. For all the talk about whether Bungie is "nickel-and-diming" players by charging for content--I don't think that's a fair assessment, given how relatively cheap the game is in general--the reality is that the free-to-play side is a confusing mess, and trying to get established on the paid side is just as discombobulated. Separating dungeons out but leaving them stapled to this or that expansion package upcharge doesn't alleviate that problem, but exacerbates it.

Dungeons have tended to be important parts of the Destiny 2 narrative in the past, which raises the question of how big a deal the two coming in Year 5 will be.
Dungeons have tended to be important parts of the Destiny 2 narrative in the past, which raises the question of how big a deal the two coming in Year 5 will be.

So ultimately, if Bungie wants to separate out content, either to use it to push expansion upcharge sales or to sell it a la carte, it needs a clearer and more transparent system. If dungeons are $5, fine, but let's be clear about it. Establish what is and isn't the value of a season pass, and what it will always include or not include. Establish what is and isn't the value of an expansion, and what that will include. And make it clear that if some content is going to require an additional purchase, what that cost will be and what avenues exist to access it.

Yes, Destiny 2's community could stand to try not to flip out over every move Bungie makes in attempting to make what is, in many ways, an unprecedented and difficult to manage game, work. At the same time, though, Bungie can help that issue with openness and clearer cost guidelines. It would at least help some players feel like they know what they're getting, and like they can trust that when they put up their money for an expansion or other content, they're getting what they pay for.


philhornshaw

Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw has worked as a journalist for newspapers and websites for more than a decade and has covered video games, technology, and entertainment for nearly that long. A freelancer before he joined the GameSpot team as an editor out of Los Angeles, his work appeared at Playboy, IGN, Kotaku, Complex, Polygon, TheWrap, Digital Trends, The Escapist, GameFront, and The Huffington Post. Outside the realm of games, he's the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler's Guide to Time Travel and The Space Hero's Guide to Glory. If he's not writing about video games, he's probably doing a deep dive into game lore.

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