Now that we have the full list of everything Destiny 2 is “vaulting” ie. deleting from the game with Beyond Light, I find myself pondering a question that has plagued the game since the content vault was announced.
What are the ethical or potentially legal implications of deleting previously paid-for content from a video game?
I am not coming on “mad” at Bungie here. In truth, I personally don’t really care about most of the stuff going away from a practical standpoint, I just think this is an interesting question in the era of video games in 2020, and “evolving worlds” that have to break long-established rules or risk strangling themselves to death.
The fact of the matter is that Bungie is removing access to more or less two years of content. All of the Red War, Curse of Osiris and Warmind campaigns. Everything in Black Armory, Season of the Drifter and Season of Opulence. The full zones of Io, Titan, Mercury, Mars and everything in Leviathan, from four raids to Menagerie. Really, the only things left from Years 1-2 of Destiny are the EDZ, Nessus and the Tower, the loot we got from those first two years if we kept it (even if it’s being “sunset,” it’s not literally disappearing).
But this is kind of a wild situation because depending on when you got the game, you paid $60 for the base game, and $35 for the expansion pass. That’s $95 for content just a few years ago that simply no longer exists.
Think about how this would feel in a different, perhaps non-live service game. You bought Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and its DLC. One day you log in to find the map cut in half and all the story missions gone. That’s effectively what’s happened here, only in Destiny’s case, there’s year 3, and now year 4 content to fill the gap.
The problem is Destiny has essentially positioned itself as a subscription service like Netflix, although that was not made clear up front. When you pay $120 a year for Netflix, you understand you are not literally paying to own every title in its library. Things are added, things depart every month.
But Destiny has only recently began saying up front that certain things have a time limit. Year 3’s seasons, for instance, made it clear when you bought them that most of the stuff within them would disappear when those three months were up. People have not liked that, so it appears to be changing to seasonal activities lasting at least a year before they leave. But at least in that case, we were told up front this stuff was impermanent. That was not the case with Destiny 2 base content, two DLCs, three year 2 seasons and two expansions, and even though Forsaken and Shadowkeep are not in the content vault yet, they very well could be soon enough. When you bought the game, you were not told that in a few years, the content of that game might become inaccessible indefinitely.
This does not strike me as the same situation as when say, New Light arrived. New Light made Destiny 2 vanilla and Osiris/Warmind content free. But offering something for free to new players does not take anything away from the players that already own it.
The other comparison I’m hearing is perhaps the most close, where games eventually turn off servers making multiplayer inaccessible on older titles. I guess I can sort of see that, and yet those timetables are usually really, really long. Season of Opulence, for instance, was a year ago, and now that’s going to be completely wiped.
I am not saying we should all be forming some sort of class action suit against Bungie, but this really is a unique situation, and one I think we’re going to start seeing a lot more of in this industry. Realistically, what is Bungie supposed to do here? The “normal” option would have been to make Destiny 3 and leave Destiny 2 behind completely. The game would have been “intact” but we would have essentially lost access to all its content as relevant for the current series, as we did when Destiny 1 got left behind.
So sticking with Destiny 2, Bungie simply can’t have it keep expanding forever. Its approaching technical and hard drive space limitations with so much content in the game, so the content vault was born, and 40-50% of the game is heading into it to clear out room for new, more relevant stuff. I guess Bungie is technically getting around the “but we paid for this content and it’s gone” question because the vault implies things can come out of the vault, and in a year maybe say, Menagerie pops out of it, and voila, you have free access to that because you already bought that season way back when.
I think the ultimate answer is that players have to understand how games are going to change and evolve going forward. Despite Destiny not literally being a monthly subscription, it essentially is a monthly subscription. It is Netflx. Things are added, things go away, and the money you’re paying is access for what’s currently there. Again, this was not spelled out years ago when this content was first purchased, hence the problem, but it’s pretty clear now this is how the game works going forward, and even if I’m paying $40 for Beyond Light this fall, that content could be thrown in the vault in two years for all I know. But I’m willing to buy it anyway.
I don’t envy Bungie’s position here, but I also don’t disagree with fans who see this as just flat deleting something they paid for which really, is precisely how it feels. This seems “necessary,” yes, but in practice it’s very weird in the entertainment space, and a situation most games have never had to deal with quite like this in the past. But more likely will in the future.