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By all accounts, Bungie isn’t having the greatest of time of times right now.
The studio laid off around 100 staff in October (around 8% of its workforce), and as further details emerged – how staff were reportedly laid off on October 30 so their benefits would only last a day, how those who were promised shares for not leaving the company when Sony acquired it would now not be getting them – left a bitter taste in the mouths of many.
This malaise has also extended to Bungie’s flagship product, Destiny 2. In November, the game dropped to a historic low in player count, averaging around 33,000 a day despite hitting nearly ten times that as recently as February when its Lightfall expansion was released.
While some games would enjoy a player count like that, it appears that for Destiny 2, it’s considered not good enough, and now Bungie is reportedly in danger of losing its position as an independent subsidiary of Sony, with Sony able to take complete control of the studio if it fails to meet internal targets. While it isn’t clear if those targets are set to be met, Bungie’s staff were reportedly told in October that revenue was running at around 45% below projections.
So how does Bungie turn things around? There’s at least one upcoming event that has all the potential to make or break the developer’s plans, its future independence and its staff morale. “We know we need Final Shape to do well,” a source reportedly told IGN. “And the feeling at the studio is that if it doesn’t we’re definitely looking at more layoffs.”
The Final Shape will be the eighth expansion for Destiny 2, so in that sense, it’s business as usual. But it’s also considered the twelfth and final part of the Light and Darkness Saga, a story which started with the release of the first game back in 2014. Players who were there on day one and have stuck with the series through thick and thin will have been on this journey for nearly a decade when it finally ends on (what’s currently scheduled to be) June 4, 2024.
The problem is, at the moment, the game’s been seeing a lot more thin than thick, and even the most dedicated followers are starting to vent their frustrations, to the extent that Bungie made a statement in November telling players: “We know we have lost a lot of your trust. Destiny needs to surprise and delight. We haven’t done this enough and that’s going to change.”
“The problem is, at the moment, the game’s been seeing a lot more thin than thick, and even the most dedicated followers are starting to vent their frustrations”
One of the big issues Bungie has is how The Final Shape is going to conclude things. Fans were less than happy with the game’s previous expansion, Lightfall, which was initially described as the end of the saga, before Bungie then announced that it was going to need one more expansion after it.
Reception to Lightfall’s plot has been tepid, with players complaining that it felt like little more than a prologue to The Final Shape, with no real substance. The fact that the story was also spread out over four seasons led some to worry how The Final Shape will play out – will players finally get the conclusion to story on the day the expansion is released, or will it be slowly eked out over months as multiple money-spinning seasons play out?
It’s a concern that’s become even more palpable in recent times following some questionable decisions made by Bungie, which stretch as far back as the previous expansion, The Witch Queen. When Bungie revealed that it would be charging separately for its dungeons and not including them with the Season Pass, fans reacted angrily.
It annoyed its player base again during Lightfall when it announced that from June 2023 it was going to start charging more for its Season Passes, raising the price from 1,000 Silver to 1,200 Silver and conveniently taking the cost beyond that of a 1,100 Silver bundle. Then, just in November, it had to quickly U-turn and remove a $15 ‘Starter Pack’ after players complained that it was not only pay-to-win, but wasn’t actually of much use to new players anyway.
It’s clear that behind the scenes Bungie is trying to find ways to increase those internal targets and – if reports are accurate – keep itself independent without triggering the clause that lets Sony completely take over. But the ways it’s been doing this have been met with backlash at seemingly every turn.
As such, the feeling now is that The Final Shape will not only mark the end of the Destiny 1 & 2 story, but now also takes on a second meaning, as its success (or otherwise) may determine the final shape of Bungie itself.