Destiny 2’s Live Service Model is What Makes it So Effective

It’s hard to believe, but it’s already been almost six years since Destiny 2’s initial launch back in 2017. Since then, the game has undergone innumerable changes, becoming something very different from its predecessor. Many of those changes have no doubt been good, but one that’s proved itself to be anything but is the seasonal live-service model. What sounded good at first has turned out to be in many ways worse than the previously-hated content droughts it replaced.

Now, instead of substantial bursts of truly great content, fans are instead getting a steady drip-feed of grind meant to do nothing more than simply keep fans playing (and hopefully spending.) It is and has been great for Bungie, but fans are not getting anything close to the experience they feel they should be. Complaints about it have been consistent for years now, so much so that one wonders why fans still want to be constantly engaged with it.

The original Destiny was by no means a perfect game. It had its problems just like Destiny 2 has problems now, one of them being something known in the community as “content droughts.” These were exactly what they sound like: long stretches of time between infusions of new content in the form of the named expansions. During these periods, the game was basically at a standstill. Meta weapons stayed meta, tactics calcified and players otherwise didn’t have much reason to log in other than to just hang out. In other words, the game got stale due to a lack of things to do.

The trade-off, though, was largely worth it. Fans got meaty expansions like The Taken King, Rise of Iron and Age of Triumph, and also got to enjoy seasonal events that added things that were actually new, exciting, and most importantly, meaningful (Festival of the Lost not withstanding). So while the droughts were frustrating for fans, they nevertheless enabled Bungie to develop and deliver good, substantial content that’s still regarded fondly in the fandom to this day.

With Destiny 2, though, fans have gotten what they thought they wanted: a constant drip of things to do between major updates. As they quickly discovered though, it came with a catch: it’s all kind of mediocre. With so little time between updates, Bungie basically put itself into the position of having to recycle everything from weapons, to locations to activities in order to fulfill the seasonal update promises it made.

In trying to maintain a live service, Bungie’s development goals and style shifted. During the developer’s GDC 2022 presentation, Destiny 2 General Manager Justin Truman went into great detail about how things work at Bungie and why, and one of his talking points was “over-delivery.” Essentially, their goal is to keep the development pipeline moving smoothly and that’s apparently done by delivering consistent amounts of content. They can’t do too much at any one point for fear of throwing everything off, even if they’d like to.

This makes sense from a development and business point of view, but it’s not so great for players. Fans have been consistent in complaining about it as a result. Despite those complaints, though, players have largely just dealt with it and kept playing, showing Bungie that it can indeed have its cakes and eat it too. Bungie can continue to pump out this kind of bland, time-wasting content, do so almost indefinitely and make even more money doing it.

Lots of players don’t seem like like it, but that doesn’t matter. Everyone still logs in, completes their seasonal objectives, buys the season passes and expansions and spends tons of money in the Eververse shop. In other words, the company does not have any reason whatsoever to deliver more or better content; it might even cost it money to do so.

If fans want a better Destiny, then the answer is not to complain and play anyway, but rather to just stop playing. Stop playing bad and boring content; take a break and play a different, better game instead and only come back for content that’s actually worth playing. Sure, it’ll be like bringing back the old content droughts again, but surely that’s better than endlessly playing something that isn’t even all that fun, right? Who knows, if enough players allow themselves to take breaks from the game more often, maybe Bungie will have to start making better stuff again.