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Destiny 2's UK sales - do they tell us anything?

The game's long-term success will not be dictated by week one

There was a time when a major sequel to a hit new IP was as sure a bet as you could get in the video games business.

At the start of this very generation, it was apparent that Watch Dogs was to be the new Assassin's Creed, Titanfall had all the potential of a new Call of Duty, and Destiny was the next evolution of Halo. All three games launched with much hype and fanfare, and they all showed signs of becoming major new franchises.

In games a sequel tends to be bigger than its original, but for all three of those major first generation PS4/Xbox One titles, that hasn't been the case (at least in Britain). In the UK, Watch Dogs 2's first week was 80% down compared with its predecessor, Titanfall 2 by almost 75%, and now Destiny 2 is almost 60% below the launch week performance of the original.

There are lots of individual reasons for that, but one is consistent: digital downloading in the console space is accelerating faster and faster, and (in the UK at least) we only have the boxed data to base our analysis on.

However, although those sequels would have a stronger digital share than their first titles, the UK boxed data still suggests that, for whatever reason, the sequels just haven't performed above the originals (despite all three titles proving to be far better games).

Nevertheless, I am reluctant to compare Destiny to either Titanfall or Watch Dogs. Those two games were cut from similar fabric; the DNA of Ubisoft's open world games and Respawn's Call of Duty heritage was evident. Destiny - although unmistakably from the makers of Halo - was a game built for a new generation of console players.

It wasn't the first game to do it, and this type of gaming has existed on PC for years, but Destiny became the poster-child of long-term community gaming on consoles. This was a title that would live on for years, not just months. It was a game where friends would meet up to hang out and complete a few raids, not for ten minutes, but for hours. People would set times with their friends, sometimes several times a week, and that became their social activity for the day. It was, for some, the video game equivalent of going to the pub, and the only game they'd ever need for quite some time.

In a way, it caught both Activision and Bungie a bit by surprise. Although they'd hoped to create that MMO-style gaming loop on console, they were fighting to keep up with this huge audience that was already discovering most of Destiny's best content. The players needed more, and the race was to get it to them before they abandoned the title for another.

"I have not been happy with the cadence [of new content]," Eric Hirshberg told me in June when it came to how quickly Bungie updated the game.

"We got a lot right with Destiny 1, but one of the things we didn't do was keep up with the demand for new content. I feel like that, as great as [DLC packs] The Dark Below, House of Wolves, The Taken King and Rise of Iron all are, clearly there was appetite for more."

As a reaction to that situation, Activision assigned some of its other development houses - including Vicarious Visions and High Moon Studios - to the Destiny 2 project to ensure that this time there is no reason for people to switch off.

The publisher and developer is playing a long game with Destiny 2. There will be (and have been, with 1.2m concurrent players already) a large audience that will jump in straight away. If the quality is there, if Bungie does what it has always done, then that audience will stick around. And the longer they stick around, the more they will pull in their friends who then pull in their friends.

Do it well, and you're PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (it's notable that the PC game hit 10m sales by the launch week of Destiny 2). Get it wrong, and you're DayZ. It doesn't matter if you're AAA or indie, if you create a world that people want to inhabit with their friends then they will hang around, and your job is to try and keep them there for as long as possible so that they spread the word.

Destiny 2 is no longer just a week-one project, even with the success of its predecessor to build upon. This is a title that wants to take up everyone's gaming time, and Activision and Bungie still need to convince many players to put down Overwatch, or GTA Online, or Rocket League, or PlayerUnknown. And that will take time. That will take looking after the community and letting them do the hard work in terms of marketing.

More than Watch Dogs and even more than Titanfall, Destiny 2's commercial success will not be decided by its first week.

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Christopher Dring avatar

Christopher Dring

Head of Games B2B

Chris is a 17-year media veteran specialising in the business of video games. And, erm, Doctor Who