There’s a lot of news coming out of Sony’s recent presentation on the future of PlayStation, and one segment focused on an area where Sony believes they are lacking: The live service sector.
It was pretty odd when Sony announced they were buying Destiny developer Bungie for $3.5 billion dollars, but that came with the announcement that neither Destiny, nor future Bungie games, would be PlayStation exclusive. So why did they buy them? Mainly for this reason.
Sony has a whole plan to integrate Bungie’s live service-building philosophies into its other teams that are making games in this genre in the future. Bungie enjoys one of the major live service successes in the current era, 7, going on 8 years of Destiny as a hyper-engaging franchises, and Sony believes the lessons they’ve learned can translate into other places.
Twelve other places, to be specific. Sony is apparently about to announce a massive slate of live service offerings to join its traditional single player fare. While high profile AAA Sony games like God of War and Horizon Forbidden West sell well and are praised by fans and critics, they are not ongoing revenue streams like live service games can be. For Sony, they feel like they’re missing a rather large boat.
The plan here is to ramp up to have 3 live service games by FY2022, 6 by FY2023, 10 by FY2025 and 12 by FY2025. Currently, the only game they even consider a live service title in their lineup as The Show 22. So uh, 12 by 2025? That seems…ambitious, even with Bungie on board to help.
What games are in that list? We know Bungie has a few in development, with one supposed to be announced and out in the next few years, even if it’s not PlayStation exclusive. My mind immediately jumps to something like The Last of Us Factions, which Naughty Dog is making.
I am wondering, however, how Bungie’s expertise will translate to other genres. Running a live game like Destiny is a lot different than running a live game like Fortnite or Valorant, for instance, even if some of the internal team structure/planning issues crossover. It seems unlikely Bungie would be consulting with Sony on making competitors to their own games, Destiny-adjacent looters that could compete with their own flagship. I just think we need to know a lot more to understand how exactly this is going to work in practice.
What are the Bungie lessons to teach? I suppose those are trade secrets, which is why Bungie was purchased in the first place for this kind of consultation, but as a longtime player, I’ve noticed a few themes, outside of internal gamedev technical stuff:
Consistency – When Bungie puts out live service roadmaps, they hit them. While some delays are inevitable (like this past year’s Witch Queen), Bungie has been reliably producing new content for years now when much of its competition faltered after a year or two or even sooner.
Flexibility – If you have a bad idea, don’t be afraid to scrap it for the good of the game. We’ve seen this a million times with Destiny. Getting rid of random rolls and having double primaries for Destiny 2 launch. Having weapon sunsetting for later in Destiny 2’s lifespan. All killed off rather quickly after player pushback, and the game was better for it.
Long-Term, Connected Plans – This is more of a recent development, but Bungie has gotten very good at mapping out long term, connected stories utilizing both gameplay and the narrative. They’ve gone from pretty disjointed expansions and DLCs that have little to do with each other to very connected seasons that flow and out of each other and plant narrative seeds for the future.
Core Gameplay – If this isn’t solid, nothing else works. In Bungie’s case, this is shooter mechanics, and if Destiny did not feel like one of the best shooters on the market, all of this would be pointless. While presumably many other games they will be advising on are not shooters, the idea holds, gameplay has to come first.
So, we’ll see what comes of this in the next four years or so, it seems.