Video Games

Destiny vs Warframe: A tale of two business models

There’s a good chance I’m going to spring for Hydroid Prime Access when it drops on the 29th, and that has me reflecting on how willing I am to open my wallet for DE (Digital Extremes), versus being saltier than a New England road in January when Bungie asks me to pay for Destiny DLC. It boils down to two key things: expectations and respect.

Bungie does an abysmal job of managing player expectations. When I originally bought Destiny, including the Expansion Pass, I really had no idea what I was getting. Perhaps naively, I thought it meant everything the game had to offer until Destiny 2 arrived. Wow, I could not have been more wrong.

As it turned out, I hated the changes that came along with The Dark Below; so much so that I quit playing Destiny altogether. I felt Bungie had disrespected me and the time I had invested in their game. The Taken King fixed much of what I felt was broken, and though it galled me to have to rebuy vanilla Destiny just to get The Taken King, I did it anyway, because that’s what my friends were playing. And admittedly, I went on to have a lot of fun.

Somewhere in there they introduced microtransactions. At first it was just for emotes. But then it spread to things more central to the game experience, like the SRL Record Book. An item that was required in order to get the rewards of the new content. When I originally bought Destiny, for full price, and bought the DLC, and rebought Destiny plus The Taken King, I kind of thought I deserved to be getting the whole game.

Finally came Rise of Iron. Supposedly the microtransactions were going to fund new content, but here I was, once again being asked to pay for more DLC, not knowing if I would even enjoy the content. Well, I didn’t. I looked at the balance sheet of my Destiny experience and didn’t like what I saw. I had twice bought an incomplete vanilla game that failed to deliver on its promises. I had bought four expansions and only liked one of them. I witnessed the arrival of microtransactions and had no idea what future things might be locked behind a paywall. I had no idea if there would be more expansions. I had no idea if the game would continue to be supported after the arrival of Destiny 2. I had no idea how much of what I had done would carry over to the new game. Would all the time I had spent playing retain its value going forward? So many unknowns.

Some would argue that it’s all irrelevant. That I got my money’s worth. But I find that logic incomplete, as it assumes I wouldn’t have done something better with all that time and money.

In stark contrast, there is Warframe, another sci-fi loot grinder with a very different business model. If I wanted, I could grind my way to absolutely everything the game has to offer without paying a dime. And yet, I have spent more money on Warframe than on Destiny, and I’ve been happy to do so. Respect and expectations. With Warframe, I know exactly what I get for my money. I know what to expect in terms of future support based on a long history of consistent updates. All that I have done will retain its value indefinitely, because Warframe is its own sequel. The game evolves; it does not end and start over as a brand new iteration every year or three. Perhaps most of all, I feel like DE respects the time and intelligence of their players far more than Bungie/Activision does.

So here I am, with Destiny 2 right around corner, and thinking I’ll happily pay $80 for Hyrdroid Prime and a pile of Platinum, even though I could farm those things for free, but no way will I be spending $60 on the sequel to a game I got hundreds of enjoyable hours out of. If I’m going to buy D2, it won’t be until I know exactly what to expect.