Destiny 2 went free-to-play in October 2019 to open the game up to a wider audience of new players. By removing the paywall associated with purchasing the game, Bungie hoped to dramatically expand the player base and compete with other popular free-to-play games.
The History Behind Destiny 2 Going Free-to-Play
Let‘s take a quick look at the events leading up to Destiny 2‘s shift to a free-to-play model:
- Launched in 2017 as a paid game published by Activision.
- In January 2019, Bungie split from Activision to become an independent studio.
- This allowed Bungie to take full control of Destiny‘s future direction.
- Bungie decided to transition Destiny 2 from Battle.net to Steam.
- This provided the perfect opportunity to re-launch Destiny 2 as a free-to-play game.
So in September 2019, Bungie announced that Destiny 2 would go free-to-play when it launched on Steam in October. This was a huge shift that had major implications across all aspects of the game.
Evaluating the Benefits of Free-to-Play
As an avid Destiny player myself, I think Bungie made the right call going free-to-play. Here are some of the major benefits this change has brought:
Lower Barrier to Entry
By removing the $60 paywall, Destiny 2 became much more accessible to new players. My own friends who were reluctant to buy the game could finally try it out for free. This resulted in a massive influx of new Guardians.
According to Bungie, Destiny 2‘s player population surged by over 50% in the months after going free-to-play. And the Steam launch alone brought in over one million new players!
Compete in the Evolving Games Market
The games industry has shifted radically in recent years, with free-to-play titles like Fortnite dominating. By adopting a similar model, Destiny 2 can now effectively compete for players‘ time and attention in this new landscape.
Based on publicly available data, Destiny 2‘s monthly active users now surpass almost every other multiplayer shooter besides behemoths like Fortnite and PUBG.
Transition to Games-as-a-Service
Free-to-play also enabled Destiny 2 to fully embrace an evolving, games-as-a-service model. Instead of sporadic paid expansions, Bungie can now deliver seasonal content drops to all players.
This provides a steady stream of revenue and player engagement. As long as Bungie keeps investing in valuable new content, Destiny 2 can continue evolving over many years rather than sequels.
Focus on In-Game Monetization
With no upfront fee, monetization shifted to in-game purchases and paid expansions. Players who enjoy the core free experience can still monetize through the Eververse store.
And paid expansions like Beyond Light and seasonal content entice free players to convert to paying customers. This ultimately provides more flexible revenue stream for Bungie.
Downsides and Challenges of Free-to-Play
Despite its benefits, transitioning to free-to-play hasn‘t been all sunshine and rainbows. It also introduced some drawbacks and challenges:
Disrupted Campaign Structure for New Players
Removing all the older paid expansions fragmented Destiny 2‘s once-cohesive campaign storylines. This left new free players confused about the overall plot and lore.
Bungie has tried improving the New Light quests for onboarding new Guardians. But there‘s still much work to be done toward guiding free players through Destiny‘s complex universe.
Some veteran players complain that introducing microtransactions and season passes brings "pay-to-win" elements to the game. While Destiny 2 isn‘t fully pay-to-win, paying players do gain advantages like unique gear.
Bungie faces a tough balancing act between monetizing new content while ensuring the free experience remains fun and rewarding for all. There‘s no perfect solution.
Developing Enough Free Content
Providing enough free activities and loot to entice new players requires significant development resources. Creating new raids, destinations, and missions solely for the free track just isn‘t feasible.
So free players inevitably miss out on some premium experiences. Bungie has to get creative about extending slivers of paid content to free players, like allowing one free raid per week.
Evaluating Destiny 2‘s Overall Success as Free-to-Play
Given the mix of tradeoffs, how has the shift to free-to-play panned out? Based on player counts, revenue numbers, and fan sentiment, I‘d say it has been an undeniable win for Destiny 2.
- Active players and revenue have increased substantially since going free-to-play.
- Steam reviews sit at Very Positive with 87% rating.
- Google Trends shows search interest near all-time highs.
- The Reddit community has steadily grown since 2019.
While the transition hasn‘t been perfect, Bungie has delivered enough free value to keep veterans happy while also catering to a huge influx of new players. Given Destiny‘s traditionally fragmented community, this achievement alone is praiseworthy.
Anecdotally, many of my previously skeptical friends have fallen in love with Destiny 2 thanks to the generous free content. I‘m hopeful Bungie can continue improving new player experience while balancing community feedback and monetization efforts.
The Future Looks Bright for Destiny 2
Destiny 2 entered its fourth year in September 2020. Historically, Bungie‘s previous games faded quickly after year 3. Yet according to Bungie, Destiny 2‘s daily active users just reached their highest point since the Forsaken expansion in 2018.
The game‘s shift into a free-to-play model has clearly given it new life. This lays the groundwork for many more years of evolutions versus launching a Destiny 3 sequel anytime soon.
Thanks to ongoing content drops like Beyond Light and seasonal activities, there‘s never been a better time to try Destiny 2. It offers hundreds of hours of quality sci-fi loot shooting for free. And if you love it, the full experience only gets bigger and better.
So if you‘re on the fence, take it from this long-time Guardian: Destiny 2‘s move to free-to-play was a game-changer. I hope you‘ll give it shot, even if you bounced off Destiny in the past. It just might become your new hobby, like it is mine. See you starside!