500 Million Dollar Baby

It seems a pretty fair and common thought that people equate the cost of an item with how good it is. A 5 million dollar home is probably better than a 1 million dollar home, which is better than a $100,000 trailer. A FERRARI is better than a BMW which in turn is better than a FIAT. While the term “better” in those instances would probably need a bit of debating let’s not get into nit picking here. I think we can all agree that in the most basic sense that the greater the monetary cost of something the higher the expectation of that item is (on whatever metric that item is measured on.)

By that logic, Destiny should be the best game ever. The $500+ million invested in it by Activision is the most I have ever heard of spent on a game. I spent five hours playing Destiny last night, and its good. It’s not 500 million good though. Not even close.

Before I give it some minor criticism here I do want to be clear that I had fun in my 5 hours. This is not a “bash the game” post and I feel the game is worth buying. However, this is more of a strong curiosity of how that game cost 500 million – that is a shocking number. I felt Diablo 3 had better flow and production value. People who read this site know that I don’t do “reviews” – I do share my thoughts on games though. Some random thoughts and observations about Destiny (good and bad):

  • I was playing the Xbox 360 version and the graphics were on par with my expectations for Xbox 360. I have said here before that I don’t do FPS on controllers and immediately as I played I thought of how much better this would be with a mouse and keyboard.
  • How can a 500 million dollar title not include a PC release?
  • The story – one of the things that made me excited for the title – is really weak. There are some cool things going on and a cool back story but playing through the first 5 story missions there are a lot that isn’t clear on things. Maybe that gets better the further along but currently it is just a disjointed set of softly related cut scenes and text. While I would rate the back story something that is incredibly intriguing and interesting to me, the way it is playing out in game feels non consequential. Mass Effect has a way better story. Most FPS’s story modes do as well. It’s not blending (so far).
  • The characters look cool. The gear looks cool. The guns and items are varied and fun to try out. They did well here.
  • The environments are also very cool. I have just been to Old Russia and the Tower, but it is a compelling backdrop (just needs a better story to act it out in!)
  • The single player story campaign isn’t really single player. Random other players will be in the same staging areas until you reach a boss fight or key, non-spawning area at which point it becomes instanced to you and your group. This is a bit frustrating at times as I like to setup long range snipes or stealth kills. While setting up, someone is going “Rambo” all over the place and taking those away. I think the story mode should be single player – would feel more realistic.
  • Further to the above a better solution would be to be able to group on the fly. I did 2 steps in a quest chain only to have another player invite me – and that sounded good to try. It reset me back to my ship to start the whole thing all over. Now, I am not sure if that is just because he chose to reset it – that is the only player I played with. The rest was solo.
  • The AI is pretty bad. I know maybe it is supposed to be at the lower levels but most levels can be beat by hanging back and sniping away. Some of the Hive enemies do rush you but for the most part, its a shooting gallery. Hopefully this improves in levels.
  • While the AI is bad, the game itself is very challenging. There are normal and hard levels but no “easy”. As a controller FPS newb I am chalking that up to me just being bad right now. It felt less difficult (just a bit) as I became more comfortable with the controls, got some gear and levels and new skills.

Five hours isn’t a lot and I am going to spend tonight with a different class (I rolled a Titan, figuring I’d need the armor to help me acclimatize to the controller side) and I am enjoying myself. It will be neat to see how (if) my views change on anything the more comfortable I get and the higher level I get.

Back to the 500M tag – I read that that includes marketing as well. So if you look at it the way this article does there are some other reasons to consider. I, with my cynical marketing spend outlook will break it down like this with the production value I have experienced through play and videos and experiences on the web and other websites.

  • Xbox 360 version: 25 million
  • PS3 version: 25 million
  • Xbox ONE version: 50 million
  • PS4 version: 50 Million
  • Marketing: 350 Million

Yes, I overdid the Marketing angle (on purpose) but between the Live Action Trailer, backgrounds on major retailer websites, TV commercials and all the rest of the hype – I bet this is Activision’s top spend EVER in promoting a game. It makes sense too – this is an unknown IP, there is no subscription model and all the money is made up front. Hook as many as you can, as fast as you can, roll in money. It’s a fair strategy. I’d love to see the real breakdown someday. At the end of my own brush with Destiny and comparing it with my other gaming experiences across platforms, the 500 million dollar investment doesn’t shine through.

It’s a nice ride and I plan on driving it for a while – but I was expecting a Ferrari – simply by the price tag.

2 comments / Add your comment below

    1. Dispute is always welcome here =) I’m just a guy with an opinion, and I often change that after open and constructive dialog =)

      That being said, what worries me here is that result – that you are better off spending more on marketing than game development. Maybe I am spoiled being a primarily PC gamer, but it really didn’t feel like the production value coincided with that huge amount.

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