Editor's Corner: $500 Million And All I Got Was Another Shooter
Posted on Tuesday, May 6 @ 19:08:40 PST by Daniel Bischoff
There's no doubt in my mind that Bungie's new shooter Destiny will make a huge splash later this year when it releases on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4, but I can't help but feel like the reported $500 million spent developing and marketing the title will prove a little misplaced.
Activision is one of the smartest publishers in this business, floating itself and every single one of its projects on Call of Duty alone. If crappy Spider-Man and Transformers games sat on GameStop shelves until they were quietly moved to the bottom of the used game barrel, it wouldn't matter because Call of Duty has done all the business a game publisher could ever hope for... and doubled it.
Seriously, Call of Duty's insane success comes on the back of a Hi-Ho national defense budget that has ultimately quelled larger conflicts but still feels a little sickening to sensible gamers. Sure, we grew up playing Goldeneye 007 and Mortal Kombat, but I can't say Call of Duty has been the best influence on younger gamers in the past few years and I'm not sure Destiny will do any better.
Destiny's premise is founded in "mythical science fiction" but there's nothing fictional about the dollar signs some engineering and energy industries would like to reap from Earth's nearest celestial friend. There's a lot of scientific energy and money spent exploring the commercial applications of space travel at the moment and Bungie probably hopes to capitalize on the upswing of interest in math and science in today's society, but I still can't help but wonder if the project needed $500 million to accomplish what it set out to do.
If we break that figure down by guessing (which is so unscientific it hurts), we might assume that $100 million will be spent marketing the game alone but even that figure could fall short of the actual press relations budgeting. If you consider that Bungie has already held a few press events, you could make the case for a minimum of $150 million spent on getting people flown to the studio, E3 exhibitor costs, trailers, commercials, spotlight placement on console dashboard interfaces, and, of course, the ever-important GameStop window poster placement.
Both Activision and Bungie have been here before. They're not going to let Destiny ship less than 2 million copies to retail within the first month. In order to accomplish that, they will scream at you from every possible perch about how all your friends are going to be playing Destiny and you don't want to be a loooohoohoooser.
That means $350 million remain for executives at Bungie, the grunts that were slowly hired on as production continued and ramped up towards crunch time, testing the game, focus testing the game, and settling any lawsuits with Marty O'Donnell who expected a few more checks once his soundtrack work was over and submitted to studio leadership.
While I'd like to believe that $50 million has already been aligned for pizzas during 24-hour bug-squashing cycles in the months leading up to September and I'd like to believe even more that some of the contract employees on the project will get sizeable bonuses on their departure to compliment their names in the credits and the establishment of what Activision obviously hopes will replace Call of Duty during this generation of video game hardware, we know game development doesn't work that way.
Video game developers and publishers are so shady with their financials that it's a wonder anyone invests. I'd like to see the actual figures that have gone into Destiny's budget, but the statistics don't matter in this case (sorry, Sliverstorm).
The reality is that this gross expenditure of funds has been blown on what amounts to just-another-shooter. Full disclosure: I have not seen or played Destiny myself. It could be the best fucking game ever made and Donkey Kong sucks. You know something? YOU SUCK!
How many original games did Activision pass on to bring another shooter to the masses? How many games could have been funded with the amount of money Activision will spend simply marketing Destiny to people who don't even know they want another shooter? Well, open wide because here it comes anyway.
"I'm tired of Call of Duty." Well, how about this? It's just like Call of Duty and Halo, and in fact it's made by the people who made Halo and sold by the people who sold Call of Duty except it's totally not like those games at all because it takes place on the moon and you can jump and shoot energy out of your hands and by God, is that another player? Well, this time you're not supposed to just go out and kill that other guy because there could be a big monster you have to fight together!!! Wow, that rocket launcher dealt with the monster fast. OK, now you can shoot each other because you've unlocked the ability to shoot at each other.
I'll repeat myself. I have not personally played or seen Destiny. I'm incredibly eager to. I would like nothing more than to drive up to Washington and break down Bungie's door and demand a controller connected to a machine playing Destiny so I could come back and write a whole manifesto about how eye-bleedingly awesome it all was and oh-my-god, you guys should preorder.
Unfortunately, I can't. I'm just a little skeptical about Destiny's potential when we start throwing around insane money numbers well ahead of launch. That's not hype built on inventive gameplay mechanics. It's hype built on a totally arbitrary number some guy who never has to worry about money threw out during a money-people conference for people with money.
If I made Destiny, if I worked on the characters or the guns or the environments... if I painted mythical science fiction scenery and monsters for three years... if I developed the way each round of ammunition or Martian landscape sounded... if I created the abilities for each class and tweaked each incredible power to balance for perfection both in single player and multiplayer, I wouldn't want the consumer's first thought to be "well they spent so much money making the damn game, how could it not be good?"
It's not that Destiny can't be a great game just because a lot of money was spent on development and marketing... it's that this industry will collapse under itself if that's the true measure for gaming greatness.
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