Festival of the Lost - Events and Microtransactions

Destiny Events & Silver: What’s the Right Balance?

Published on: Oct 27, 2015 @ 19:04

Yesterday, Destiny players awoke to a special treat. No, it wasn’t a Year 2 Gjallarhorn – it’s The Festival of the Lost! Bungie rolled out the event with practically no advance warning, and the community seems to have been caught pleasantly by surprise.


Holiday Spirit

Considering Destiny’s track record of being rather miserly in the Holiday Spirit department, seeing the Tower fully decked out in autumn attire and some of our favorite NPCs joining in the fun is a welcome change.

Last October Bungie allowed the silly Jackolyte to make the rounds, as well as the Flight of Shadows, but Destiny has been noticeably ignoring the requisite ‘MMO event’ quota. With the introduction of microtransactions just a couple weeks in, it appears we’re already being fed our first taste of no-fuss rollouts.

If you haven’t gotten in on the fun, there’s a whole host of (entirely optional) activities to participate in! We’ve published a comprehensive guide on how to fill your spooky schedule to the brim with amusing quests and friendly challenges in completing the Festival quests, so go check it out!

In the meantime, let’s talk about what this event means for Destiny.

Event Expansion

First off, you’d be hard pressed to argue that the Festival of a Lost isn’t a step up from what’s come before it. Many MMORPGs have paved the way for how to do holidays right (LOTRO comes to mind), but Destiny was previously uninterested. Whether it was to preserve the in-game lore, or that community quests were simply not high on the priorities list, days like Halloween and Christmas would come and go with little to zero impact on the day-to-day lives of Guardians and the denizens of the Tower. Now there are masks, candy, and a host of characters wearing their personalities on their sleeve (we’re looking at you, Cayde).

We’re still a ways out from Xûr donning a Santa cap and making the rounds, but the Tower is no longer just a static locale. Bungie has now established the precedent that they’re willing to shake up the status quo for a little variety. So this is a good thing, right?

Absolutely! Even with the advent of Heroic & Challenge Modes in King’s Fall, The Taken King isn’t quite as new and exciting as it was on launch. After only a month, it’s a little hard to believe; the community’s dedication to mastering and exhausting Destiny’s expansions is both amazing and terrifying for this reason.

We’ve still got a great game on our hands – and per Luke’s recent tweet, a lot more Raid to unravel – but just as a weightlifter needs to change things up to sustain muscle growth, so too does Destiny.

And that’s where the Festival comes in. Make no mistake, this is not an expansion-worthy amount of content, and it doesn’t revolutionize gameplay or shake up the metas. But it’s fun. It’s light-hearted, and the more items we can use to personalize our Guardian, the better. It’s really Bungie putting their heart into the game they love. So you wanted to wear Oryx’s ass as a hat? Well, how about his head as a hat?

Combined with the new emotes, masks are an excellent way to create context out of events that have otherwise been banal and predictable for too long: you just beat the Restorative Mind in a Heroic Strike, and you slap on Atheon’s mask and grieve for the loss; your teammate slow claps as a derisive Traveler.

There isn’t anything to be unlocked or achieved or conquered – the enjoyment is derived from your imagination and the people you play with. Even with the hit to light, dressing up as three Engrams with matching shaders and tackling Vanguard Strikes is funny to even think about. And having a stage quest involving “tripping” off the Tower as Atheon? It’s genius.

If you’re unswayed by paper-mâché and cosplay, you can at least appreciate the new Crucible map. Introducing a fully-realized zone of PvP combat to be added to the rotation post-expansion is unprecedented in Destiny, and is actually quite promising as a realization of the vague mission statement for Bungie’s aims for microtransaction funds.

Cathedral of Dusk adds some much-needed variety to a few PvP playlists that perplexingly exclude several of Destiny’s maps. Once you’re there, you’ll probably run into enemy Guardians dressed up as Crota, trying to hilt-bash you into submission for an amusing leg of a FoL quest.

When you aren’t acquiring a mask, playing any portion of Destiny will have you earning candy like crazy. This is an inspired positive feedback loop, making you feel like you’re advancing in something new even when playing something old. Fill up your bag and turn it in for rewards; receive a new bag and repeat ad infinitum. You’ll be collecting a new mask for every turn-in. If you’re so inclined, you can even use the Paper Glue consumable to permanently save your favorite masks. You’ll get 1 Paper Glue for free, but the rest will have to come with package luck or – yes – Silver.


Silver Downsides?

We would be remiss if we didn’t temper our praise with some valid criticism. That criticism simply boils down to this: microtransactions are front-and-center, fighting for the limelight. Early previews forecasted prices for a single emote at 200 Silver, or a more sought-after one for 500; this amounted to $2 or $5, respectively – though you could always buy in bulk. While undeniably pricey, it’s become clear, many Guardians are willing to pony up the dough so that they can stand out in the crowd.

With the Festival of the Lost, we’re introduced to the Zombie Dance (Thriller) emote, costing a whopping 700 Silver. That’s $7 for 1 Emote – only available on X1 & PS4. Strangely, a popular Reddit “Suggestion” post precipitated this inclusion with the appeal to Bungie to bring “Thriller” into the game. Well, bring it they did. We talked about this exact occurrence in our Eververse analysis; Bungie is going to see that they can sell the community’s ideas back to them, and it seems it’s already begun.

But again, we have to stress that there’s nothing inherently wrong with this. If a consumer has demand, and a supplier supplies, then this is a healthy transaction. Still, we have to wonder how many giddy Guardians forked over their Silver without worrying about buyer’s remorse.

Microtransactions thrive on impulse buying, and jacking up the cost for the flavor of the week is a savvy, if somewhat cynical move on the part of Bungie. Speaking of flavor of the week, do you want to save those masks? If you didn’t know who you were before you could troll about the Tower as Eris Morn, and you’ve exhausted all your RNG glue, you can again spend a little Silver for some packages with Paper Glue to forever immortalize your mask.

paper glue masks destiny
You don’t need to spend Silver to get these Masks!

Like Silver, Bungie gives its players a taste with one free Glue application, then dangles the promise of more for zero time investment. If you’ve got self-control, this is no problem. If you don’t, well, at least you’re funding the game you love? Ostensibly, yeah. That’s what all this is for, right? The pervasive and increasingly specific rumor is that Bungie is going to be giving us “free” DLC because of all the money we’re spending on Silver.

The reality is that Bungie never explicitly said that, at least not yet. Supplementary purchases are going to bolster the development teams, and help them work without worrying about tightening their belts – but an expansion on the level of TTK, funded entirely by microtransactions, seems a dubious prospect.

That’s what it all comes down to, really – and arguments you’ll see on the forums will boil down to this fundamental disagreement. There are those who think Bungie is going to be faithful and frugal with our money, putting it towards things that are going to further Destiny’s growth; and there are those who think Activision, eyes filled to the brim with dollar signs, are cackling and rubbing their palms together as they take us to the cleaners.

We have no evidence to support either side. What we have is the Festival of the Lost. All things considered, this event is fun and harmless, tainted only by microtransactions nipping at our collective heels.


What Side Are You On?

So go out this Halloween, fill a few bags of candy, and wear your masks with pride. The sky is not falling and the sea is not boiling. Spend your hard-earned money if you want, and save it if you think you should.

Optional consumables & cosmetics are going to continue to be introduced, so you might want a little nest egg for that moment you can’t resist temptation any longer. For now, enjoy something extra that was clearly lovingly and humorously crafted by a development team that cares. Happy Halloween, Guardians.