PR Disaster Watch: Destiny Edition

June has not been a good month for game company PR departments. Or maybe it has been an excellent month in demonstrating the necessity of their existence in the face of designers with a bad case of verbal diarrhea. But while I have been focused on ArenaNet and Blizzards’ debacles, the true disaster that is Destiny’s expansion, The Taken King, has slipped me by. Until now.

The story is more or less the same, as if ripped from an identical playbook: an expensive expansion, and an even more expensive version with includes content that the player already owns. The deal this time is with Destiny’s Collector Edition, which includes the base game and prior expansions along with emotes exclusive to this package. There is no way to purchase these emotes individually, and no value whatsoever added if you already own everything already released to this point. So, basically, Heart of Thorns 2.0.

What elevates this to another whole level was this interview with Luke Smith, Bungie’s creative director for the expansion. I highly, highly recommend you read the entire thing because it is comedy gold. Or you can simply read this exchange, and despair:

Eurogamer: I get that it is big but it is also the same price as the base game. That had four areas rather than one and more missions than the Taken King. Why is it the same price?

Luke Smith: All I can do is answer that with the same thing I just gave you… We’re really comfortable with the value we’re giving to players this autumn. I believe that once we begin to share more, players will be even more excited. And for existing players it also comes with the Founder’s pack with a new Sparrow, shader and emblem.

Eurogamer: Just not the emotes.

Luke Smith: It doesn’t because they come with the Collector’s Edition.

Eurogamer: Final question on prices –

Luke Smith: Is it also the final question on the emotes?

Eurogamer: I’m not going to mention them again. I can’t get them.

Luke Smith: But you can if you buy the Collector’s Edition.

Eurogamer: I’m not going to buy the game and the two DLCs all over again.

Luke Smith: Okay, but first I want to poke at you on this a little bit.

Eurogamer: Poke at me?

Luke Smith: You’re feeling anxious because you want this exclusive content but you don’t know yet how much you want it. The notion of spending this money is making you anxious, I can see it –

Eurogamer: I do want them. I would buy them –

Luke Smith: If I fired up a video right now and showed you the emotes you would throw money at the screen.

Eurogamer: What I’m saying is that fan frustration is not because they don’t understand the proposition. It comes regardless of how cool the exclusive content is. The frustration – and mine as a fan – is that the method of acquiring it requires me to re-buy content I bought a year ago.

Luke Smith: [Long pause] It’s about value. The player’s assessment of the value of the content.

I would like to imagine that the “long pause” moment included a return to sanity for Luke Smith, the awakening from a fugue state. Or just a realization for how unconscionably stupid he was just moments prior. I say this because he would finish the interview with a somewhat rational approach to the nature of time-sensitive content and the noting that one cannot go home again.

In any case, Bungie’s now-existent PR department rang up Eurogamer at 9am the next day to update everyone that there will be nameless Veteran rewards forthcoming with the expansion, that will be “even better” than the ones found in the Collector’s Edition. Which really makes you wonder about all those Veterans who already “threw money at the screen” over exclusive emotes, and if they can get refunds of said Collector’s Edition.

Or not, at least according to Bungie community manager David “Deej” Dague, who says in the updated post:

“The Collector’s Edition is mostly sold out, so the people who found that stuff valuable jumped at the chance,” Deej added in a separate post. “You’ll likely see it sold on eBay for much more than what we’re asking. But that’s not the point. Right?

Right.

I suppose the takeaway here, besides the entertainment value of all these high-profile face-plants, is that players are going to likely (successfully) call bullshit when they see it going forward. And a large part of that is going to be any expansion being released without some sort of added value given to the very people that made a game or franchise successful enough to warrant an expansion in the first place.

Is that player entitlement? Or is it a renegotiated business transaction with more favorable terms? I dunno, maybe haggling indicates a deep, moral failure on the part of the buyer. What I do know is that all current and future Destiny players are better off today than they were two days ago. And that’s enough for me.

Edit: Also, apparently you get an exclusive quest in the expansion if you buy a can of Redbull. You can’t make this shit up.

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Posted on June 24, 2015, in Commentary and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Is this a case of a Dev making too much money? Living too deeply inside their own game? Sniffing glue in a bag out back during coffee breaks? Wish I had time for a longer post, thanks for the link though. I have friends who play, and boy will it be fun to share.

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  2. mountainash13

    The issue with all of these scenarios is one of perceived value vs. actual value. If an xpac was priced at $50, and DIDN’T include the original game, would the outcry have been as loud? The problem is that veterans assign some value to that inclusion, whether it be $10 or $20 or whatever. So from a player’s perspective, the expansion is only worth $30 and they’re paying $20 for stuff they already own. When in reality, the expansion would have been $50 regardless, and the original game is just a throw-in to lower the barrier of entry for new players.

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    • I suspect there would still be (legitimate) complaints over the cost of the expansion – this expansion is double the price of prior DLC – but I agree, it’s absolutely a perception issue. At the same time, it is an accurate perception to have, as the base game and prior expansions have a commercial value and thus factor into the price being set. The base game certainly isn’t being given away for free outside of this package.

      As I mentioned on Monday though, regardless of actual value vs perceived value, the takeaway here is that these companies have a relationship with players, and that relationship is ignored at their PR peril. It matters how you say things. And on that front, these companies need to get their shit together.

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