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Bungie's Destiny: "Absolutely no plans to charge a subscription fee"

Bungie's future rests on Destiny; we get a glimpse of what Activision calls the first "shared world shooter"

Bungie has begun unveiling Destiny, the grand game project that's been in the works for years. The future for Bungie, and a significant part of Activision's future, is depending on the success of this game. Bungie and Activision brought members of the press to Seattle to start revealing information about the game and to create some excitement and anticipation for Destiny. The process also raised many questions that have yet to be answered.

A full day of meetings were held for the assembled press, beginning in mid-morning and lasting until mid-afternoon. After a tour of Bungie's studio, Bungie COO Pete Parsons and several key Bungie employees discussed major aspects of Destiny. Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg joined them for a question-and-answer session. The most curious feature of this entire day was that no actual gameplay was shown; the closest we came was a few seconds of in-engine footage to demonstrate a feature of the new graphics engine.

What is Destiny? The next game from Bungie is "ambitious in its scope, innovative and creative in its approach, elevated in its tone, and is the kind of ass-kicking trek through the universe that only Bungie could create," said Hirshberg. "Very few games transcend their medium and their genre to truly become part of popular culture. We believe that Destiny could become one of those rare games."

"[This] is the kind of ass-kicking trek through the universe that only Bungie could create"

Eric Hirshberg

Destiny's more than just Halo on steroids, though. "As we saw Destiny coming together, we realized that it didn't belong to a genre that we could quite pin down," Hirshberg said. "It has elements of a first-person shooter, it has elements of an open-world sandbox, and it has elements of a persistent world, and brings them all together in a new way that seems very fresh. We realized that to refer to Destiny as any one of these pre-existing genres is almost to under-promise or undersell the experience we think it could bring to gamers. We realized that we needed to coin a new phrase and a new way to reference what this game is. I think what Bungie is creating with Destiny is the world's first shared world shooter."


The game takes place in the future, on Earth and throughout the Solar System, in a style art director Christopher Barrett calls 'mythic science fiction.' Players will take on the role of a Guardian of Earth's last city, fighting against a variety of aliens amid the shattered remnants of an interplanetary empire. The settings revealed through concept art appear vast and awe-inspiring, evoking a sense of wonder and a desire to explore. Barrett noted that they have generated more concept art for this game than for all previous Bungie games put together.

Bungie co-founder and project director Jason Jones said that "we're doing something really ambitious, and I hope by the end you'll agree it's a little crazy." Jones started off with a simple declaration: "If you enjoy first-person shooters, Destiny's going to be the best first-person shooter you've ever played." Bungie is looking to create a much broader appeal, though, by including many more (unspecified) elements to the game that will have a broad appeal. Destiny will (somehow) let players of all skill levels have fun, so you won't need to be an FPS expert to jump in and have a good time. From all the deliberately vague descriptions of the gameplay, it seems like Bungie wants Destiny to appeal to a much broader audience than just Halo or Call of Duty players. "Absolutely," Bungie's Parsons agreed. He's a fan of World of Warcraft, and Skyrim, and other games, and he hopes that the range of experiences in Destiny will bring in many gamers who are not classic FPS players.

Bungie has had Destiny under development for several years, and in the process has thoroughly re-imagined and re-invented their ideas of what a game could be and should be, along with the technology necessary to make that happen. Jones noted that Destiny's design is built on seven pillars: A world players want to be in; a bunch of fun things to do; rewards players care about; a new experience every night; shared with other people; enjoyable by all skill levels; and enjoyable by the tired, impatient, and distracted.

"We're doing something really ambitious, and I hope by the end you'll agree it's a little crazy"

Jason Jones

Writer and design director Joe Staten said that 'we're all storytellers' and that Destiny was designed to bring that out in the players. Their vision is to tell stories that matter and endure, and the most important stories will be the ones told by players. This is a big change from the design concept of the Halo series, which was built around the story of Master Chief and not really around the player's character.


Engineering lead Chris Butcher discussed the ambitious scale of the game, which has required a huge amount of new technology. Bungie has spent the last six years rebuilding game technology, including such things as a multithreaded engine, a new graphics engine, an interactive world editor, distributed computing clusters, advanced AI and locomotion, a live update content pipeline, and global scale servers. Interestingly, the concept of a matchmaking lobby is disappearing into the background, as Bungie has created what it calls 'seamless, invisible technology' that is continuously matchmaking, transparent to the user; there's no UI.

Graphics architect Hao Chen described how Bungie had to build a new graphics engine because the world is so big; it had to be automated. The old way of lighting, Chen explained, required pre-rendering, which took enormous amounts of time and resource. Now it's all real-time, which enables things like a dynamic time of day. The result is some interesting emergent graphics that occur, surprising even Chen with how they look.

The music for Destiny is still under development, but audio director and composer Marty O'Donnell described how he wanted Destiny music to go to 'the next level,' to really enhance and reflect emotions. O'Donnell worked with long-time collaborator Mike Salvatore and a surprise contributor - none other than Paul McCartney. It turned out McCartney has been very interested in interactive music and heard about Bungie's project, and the result has been a world-class collaboration. O'Donnell played segments that were recorded with a 106-piece orchestra and chorale at the iconic Abbey Road studio. The classical score brought to mind some of the great movie composers, like John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, and Bernard Herrmann.


Parsons, Hirshberg, and Bungie president Harold Ryan then answered questions from the assembled press, but revealed few details of Destiny. There will be an Internet connection required, even to play solo, which could rub a few gamers the wrong way. There was no detail on release dates or pricing, but Hirshberg did say that the game is currently targeted at Xbox 360 and PS3; next-gen consoles were not a topic he could talk about. There will also be a mobile app that will have a significant impact on the game, the team said. Parsons emphasized that Bungie has a lot of great ideas and is not playing it safe.

Hirshberg did address one of the questions head-on, before it was even asked. "I've heard all the rumors, and let me just rip this bandaid off right here," Hirshberg said. "We have absolutely no plans to charge a subscription fee for Destiny."

"Let me just rip this bandaid off right here: We have absolutely no plans to charge a subscription fee for Destiny"

Eric Hirshberg

Destiny represents a grand re-imagining of the first-person shooter, expanded and modified so that it may appeal to a broader audience. Bungie's commitment is enormous; the entire staff of 360 is working on this game. Activision is also heavily committed, on a scale of hundreds of millions of dollars. More than that, Activision has (by their own count) four major brands, and if they want to grow substantially they need more such brands, "Activision's approach has been to try to do a few things exceptionally well," said Hirshberg. The dark side of that strategy is that when you don't do something exceptionally well, it can be devastating.

Activision has done its best to minimize the risks. It's chosen one of the best developers in the world with a stellar track record to head up the project, and given the team plenty of time and resources. Bungie has thrown itself headlong into the project, setting forth ambitious goals and leaving no assumption unexamined. Bungie's staff also noted that they are currently playing Destiny in-house and bringing in outside testers to give them feedback, which implies that the game is pretty far along and Bungie is well aware of the need for polishing the game. Many great game concepts have failed in the marketplace because of unbalanced play, numerous bugs, or just a lack of fun. Bungie knows very well indeed that a high level of polish is crucial to the game's success.


Perhaps the most common failure point for a big budget game is when a publisher pushes to ship the game by a certain date. That's when polish gets forgotten, important features are removed, and the brilliant design can become an unplayable mess. Activision seems to be avoiding this trap; in the company's forecast for 2013 it carefully noted that it did not include revenue from Bungie's project. At the same time, Bungie seems to be pretty far along with the game; the studio may well be able to ship it this year. If so, Activision gets a pleasant surprise boost to its revenue. If not, well, management can say "We told you not to expect it this year."

The biggest challenge to the ultimate success of Destiny may be something beyond the control of Bungie or Activision: the future of the console market. Will current-gen consoles continue to decline in sales, or will there be price cuts that may keep sales going? When next-gen consoles arrive, will they sell at the levels seen for the current generation, or will they struggle? Could Destiny be a game like Halo that can actually drive hardware sales and the overall market?

Some clues to Activision's thinking can be found in its contract with Bungie. The text of the Activision/Bungie contract was revealed in the course of Activision's lawsuit with Infinity Ward last year. The agreement (dated April 2010 - it may have been altered since then) spans a period of ten years, in which Bungie will develop content that Activision will publish. The first release was slated for the Fall of 2013 with major releases at every two years afterwards, and major DLC releases in the years between. The target platforms for the initial release are specified as Xbox 360 and its successor (labeled in the contract as "Xbox 720"), with a PS3 release for Fall 2014. A second Destiny Game would also be released on the "PS4" (the successor to the PS3) and the PC (under Windows).

"Activision's approach has been to try to do a few things exceptionally well"

Eric Hirshberg

We're likely to see the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions appear in relatively close order; this doesn't appear to be a problem these days for most developers. Should next-gen consoles launch this year, would Destiny be a release title? While nothing was said about this by either Bungie or Activision, it should be obvious that releasing Destiny as a launch title for a next-gen system would be a sure sales boost. If it can be done, it will be done. If the contract is still unchanged, don't expect Destiny to be exclusive to any platform. It's also interesting to note that a PC version is planned; that makes a lot of sense as yet another platform that should be good for a considerable audience. Everything we know about next-gen consoles indicates it will be far easier to port those titles to and from the PC.


The Destiny press reveal was fascinating for a number of reasons. No gameplay was shown, and no ship date was given. Even if the game ships this fall, this is extremely early to be giving press conferences for a fall game. There are no press conferences planned any time soon for Call of Duty's fall release, or Grand Theft Auto V, or the next Madden or FIFA. Normally you wait until E3 to start the real buzz going on fall releases. Perhaps Activision merely wants to get out in front of the huge noise level that's going to be overwhelming the game market this year. New consoles, new mobile platforms, important new software releases - game media this year will be filled with sound and fury from every PR direction.

For now, we have to wait until Activision and Bungie decide to reveal more. When we can finally get our hands on the game, we'll be better able to see how Destiny might unfold. Check out the video below for more.

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Latest comments (25)

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
I always hate these fancy, expensive and massively attended non-gameplay events because ALL the lovely art, fresh ideas and eager presentations aside, it's ALL and ONLY about the END RESULT. Well, at least it won't be another Huxley or The Agency, so that's good...

Minor snark aside, while I know Bungie can deliver the goods plus tax (I have a crow pie in the freezer waiting for me to bake it), up until I have a controller in my hand and a smile on my face, it's nothing but a bunch of cool ideas and tech. The soup isn't ready yet, so let's keep the drooling to a minimum 'til we at least get a taste.
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Andreia Quinta Photographer, Studio52 London8 years ago
Reminds me of the latest fatality in the gaming world, Aliens: Colonial Marines. Extended development time, great ideas and concept, amazing demo, and one of the biggest train wrecks upon release.

But I agree, these tease presentations are nothing more than browsing a pictured menu with great food... That you can't eat.
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C'mon. Where is the faith :)
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Show all comments (25)
Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd8 years ago
I'm really irritated with their decision to not release on PC because "no one uses a mouse & keyboard anymore." Yeah, that makes sense. Steam has a bigger userbase than Xbox Live because people just don't play PC games... oh wait.

I think I'll be buying this one used on the cheap.
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Patrick Williams Medicine and Research 8 years ago
If it walks like a duck, it talks like a duck and it looks like a duck, its a duck (mmo). Shared social experience? Always online? Dungeon raids for loot? Mini storylines (quests)? Bungie has yet to offer a single reason for anyone not to think this will be an mmo that requires you to team up with people to accomplish tasks.
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Adam Jordan Community Management/Moderation 8 years ago
Considerably lost faith in Bungie since their lame excuse for no PC version. If they said "We are not releasing Destiny for the PC because we don't want to" fine but don't bullshit with a lame reason that people can poke holes through within seconds

Sadly it seems their success with Halo on console has gone to their heads. Sure Halo provided a massive following and fanbase as well as spearheaded FPS games on the Xbox (I won't say console since there were FPS games on consoles way before Halo) but it's not the be all and end all. Halo did not kill FPS shooters on the PC, nor did it steer it away.

Not to mention their very own game, Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 were ported to the PC and BOTH were played with mice and keyboards.

As a PC player first and foremost, I have always played a FPS title with mouse and keyboard, unless of course they are console exclusive or terrible console ports to the PC.

To note: I am fine if a developer wants to stay loyal to the console fanbase, after all that's what made Bungie successful but I assumed being under a new banner to wave, they would branch out.

Ah well, just means more time I can use to complete the games I already have stockpiled.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adam Jordan on 18th February 2013 2:16am

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I admire the leap of faith - I admire their passion.
Beyond this I look forward to the launch and the progress.
Its just the whole Alien game failure has left us all jaded, especially as no one is taking responsibility.

Good luck Bungie
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
@Nicholas: Oddly enough, there have been some console shooters that allowed for optional keyboard/mouse control. Amusingly, one is Gearbox's amazing "port" of Half-Life on the PS2 (which added a new co-op side story) and another is Red Faction 2 (at least the PS2 version had k/m support). By this time, it should be standard for all shooters, but hey - perhaps one day we'll see this work out.

Back on topic - I think the game will do well with Bungie's fan base, but as I overheard some guy say while debating the announcement at a Starbucks with a few other gamers "all you're doing is running around and shooting people in the face, but in a much bigger world..."

Of course, it that works for players, it'll be fine. But it would be cool to see the game do something far outside the usual in terms of allowing players to choose a less lead or laser-filled path through things.

Eh, we shall see...
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Adam Bernstein8 years ago
"Destiny will (somehow) let players of all skill levels have fun, so you won't need to be an FPS expert to jump in and have a good time." Yes, water down your gameplay so that 100% of gamers can have 10% fun. This game just screams "generic" to the max. I won't even touch the blatant thumbing of the nose toward a PC version. One of my family members used to work for Bungie - now I'm finally understanding why he left!

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Adam Bernstein on 18th February 2013 4:51am

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Steve Peterson Marketing Consultant 8 years ago
Although the only development targets mentioned in the presentation were Xbox 360 and PS3, the contract between Activision and Bungie did call for a PC version in 2014. That was from the contract dated 2010; it may have been updated since. But it would appear that a PC version was at least being considered.
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One as to consider that for bungie this is their sole project whereas for aliens there was a split attention and thus execution challenges
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Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 8 years ago
So to sum it up.

1. Always on connection required.
2. Monetised to the hilt if you want to actually develop your character.
3. No actual direction for the game.
4. A great introduction to the new improved and stupidly arrogant Bungie.

What could possibly go wrong......
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James Sweatman Senior Game Designer, Jagex Games Studio8 years ago
I have a lot of respect for Bungie, but this is no more than a mildly pretentious elevator pitch. You realise once the video ends that you know no more than you did at the beginning, except that many of the Bungie guys enjoy the sound of their own voices.

Kudos to the concept artists though, beautiful stuff.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 8 years ago
In the future, nobody will use mouse and keyboard to engage in juvenile power fantasies. Foaming from the mouth we shall spasm around in our padded, Kinect optimized, living rooms, while all knowing motion control sensors combine every jerky movement and every high pitched squeal of "bam, bam, bam" into a crescendo of entertainingly joyful violence on 200 inch screens. Casual gamers of this future will engage in "Harlem: Shake - Public Humiliation Edition" , having their skills judged by the cloud powered reanimated corpse of Simon Cowell and a relentless audience of one billion Youtube subscribers living on nothing else but Doritos and watching this sport which emerged from console powered public humiliation and peer pressure spread by phones smarter than their owners.

You shall find my dead body hanging from the ceiling with a mouse cord around my neck. I guess there is some use for this ancient technology after all. The smile on my dead face is directed at you, poor soul, for you switched over to wireless keyboard and mouse a long time ago and for you, there is no escape now.
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship8 years ago
Bungie do seem to have stirred up a lot of negative reaction with the relatively substance free announcement, combined with suspicions about monetisation, multilpayer focus at the expense of single player immersive experiences, lack of avowed PC support etc.

I'm similiarly cautious, but still intrigued about what they come up with. What most interested me were the details about 'menu-less' matchmaking. I got a sense that what they're trying to achieve is a supremely frictionless, emergent coop, in a genuinely meanginful, epic, persistent and single-player friendly core. It's been tried before, but usually something gets lost in translation. If they achieve something that doesn't fall neatly into one of the existing paradigms - persistent hubs and non-persistent battlegrounds, or too-big-to-make-a-difference Planetside-esque war - then I'm interested. Borderlands seems the obvious touch point, but with a more epic world and more emergent / seamless coop?
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Emily Rose Artist 8 years ago
It's funny, Dust514 is ps3 exclusive, and you use a keyboard and mouse for that (unless you want to die horribly to people that use kb+m) The control system is never an excuse, pc can use controllers, console can use kbm...
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Robert Mac-Donald Game Designer, Lethe Games8 years ago
"And now nobody plays shooters the way they used to play them before Halo ’cause nobody wants to.”"

Except all the people that still play arena shooters and other M+K games that don't play well or at all on consoles.

PC gaming and console gaming are truly not the same thing anymore. Maybe they never were. To everyone that says platform is irrelevant because everything is just games, everyone is a "gamer", your insistence on that point of view is causing different target audiences to not get the proper attention they deserve.

Publishers will say their game is for the hardcore audience but then they aren't, indie/smaller team devs just release games to a crowd that enjoy them but have no public recognition of who these people are. After all, they are just gamers that seem to enjoy this different, pc exclusive games, just like every other person out there exactly like them but that for some reason never buys these same games.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Robert Mac-Donald on 18th February 2013 6:12pm

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Paul Jace Merchandiser 8 years ago
I can't wait for this game. After how amazing Bungie's Halo games were I will fully support this when it releases on 360. It looks like they are using a similiar mythology to the forerunners lore from the Halo universe. I can't wait to learn more about the back story as well.
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd8 years ago
@ Nick It's pretty clear, through the haze of PR BS, that this is not a persistent world. There's a hub which you use to group up for instanced missions. How open those instanced areas are remains to be seen, but basically we seem to be looking at Guild Wars 1... as an FPS.
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Fazi Zsolt Game & Level Designer @Atypical Games 8 years ago
They have to be pretty arrogant, to throw out a huge pile of cash, just by ignoring the PC user base.
On the other hand, their partner is Activision, so I doubt they will ignore it. It's simply too much money to be made.
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship8 years ago

Put like that, it's not massively inspiring, is it? Issues of gameplay quality aside (I'm sure it'll be good), I've yet to see the game narrative that can truly thrive under the jarring realities of multiplayer design, so I guess we'll have to wait and see.
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Adam Jordan Community Management/Moderation 8 years ago
Well to be fair to Bungie, it should be a case of "wait and see". I mean if Aliens: CM taught me one thing, it's not to jump head first into their E3 sales pitch or into the game until the game has actually released. Granted I think we can assume that Aliens: CM was an odd situation from the get go but I've been burnt a few times now and I don't particularly look kindly upon Activision as a publisher to begin with.

Personal thoughts aside, I am looking forward to seeing what Bungie can do "on their own" or should I say, can do to expand their portfolio. I have access to a 360 so it's not like I won't have access to this game but their lack of staying connected with the games industry has seriously dented their reputation with me, I can understand if they said "We''re not going with PC, we chose to stick with consoles because that's where we feel the most comfortable to create games"...that would have gained an "Aww such a shame but hats off to you Bungie"

So time to play the wait and see game, it has so far paid off regarding waiting and seeing what direction Elder Scrolls Online would take, so same scenario here.
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Just realised the 'reply' button doesnt quote the message i wanted to quote, thus resulting in disjointed, random replies in my last two posts! Sorry team!

I love what Bungie have done in the past and the influence they've had so i'm always hopeful of their next project.
I'm a Halo fanboy but I know games and I know when they're at fault so I don't blindly love anything with 'halo' on it. (343's Halo 4 was a massive dispapointment single-player wise for me, I must have plugged cortana into every orifice in the galaxy before reaching the credits.)
Regardless, this game SOUNDS like it is aiming to be innovative and until I see evidence that they've wrecked it i'll continue to have faith that they'll do a good job.
My only concern is this 'always online' and 'seamless, constant matchmaking.'
Only last night i finished Halo 4's spartan ops on my own before thinking 'i'll give spartan ops matchmaking a try and play through it with some stranger - it's co-op , what could go wrong?'

Seconds after I started i jumped into a warthog drivers seat, waited for the team to jump in so we could ride to glorious battle and then got shot by them till I exploded.
Nice one.
I don't want to play in a world where griefers can just come along and wreck your equipment, shoot you in the face for fun or otherwise ruin the immersion - because that's what will happen - strangers will steal your treasure, drive you off cliffs and generally ruin the experience.
I hope theres SOME control so I can only allow people with - for example - a high public feedback rating for common courtesy in games.
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Adam Jordan Community Management/Moderation 8 years ago
I think the only matchmaking I used in a game was Battlefield Heroes, every other "matchmaking" feature in a game I avoid on purpose for that very reason Michael.

Sure not every person you come across is a griefer but sadly it is sod's law to find them. I assume Bungie will have their heads on their shoulders and provide options for "Friends only" "Invite only" "Online" and "Solo" or something to that degree as it is pretty standard these days in games with matchmaking or co-op features, I mean even Dead Island had a somewhat sensible approach to the co-op drop in system, which was "This player is near the same point in the game as you, press "this key or button" to join them"
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Paul Gheran Scrum Master 8 years ago

I'm sure they meant to say, "No one uses a keyboard & mouse anymore... unless they want a good FPS experience, and then Halo is off the table anyway."
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