Bungie has had a tough time since the launch of Destiny 2 and its expansion, The Curse of Osiris. The latest issue is the accusation by fans that previously-accessible content is now locked behind the expansion, which you can only get through the Expansion Pass.
Destiny 2's endgame has harder difficulty modes for veteran players; if you're up to the challenge, you can take on "Prestige" versions of the game's Raid and Nightfall Strikes. For the Leviathan raid and Nightfall Strikes, the recommended power level was previously 280 and 240 respectively. The Prestige versions had a recommended power level 300, which was the soft level cap (you could actually hit 305 at the high-end).
Enter Curse of Osiris, which brings that soft cap up to 330, but also raises the recommended levels for the rest of the endgame content. The Leviathan raid is now 290, the Nightfall Strikes are up to 270, and the Prestige versions of that content requires power level 330. If you don't have Curse of Osiris, you're capped at a potential 305, meaning you can no longer run Prestige content. Worse, the new Heroic Strikes playlist is locked behind Curse of Osiris, despite only needed a power level of 270.
Without Curse of Osiris, you can no longer run content that you could prior to the December 5 release of the expansion. Should players be mad? Probably.
Let's take a look at other massively-multiplayer games for how they handle this type of content. I'll stick with two of the major titles, World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV, for the purposes of space. It's not abnormal for a developer to lock new endgame content behind an expansion price tag. Every two years or so, the operators of either subscription MMO release a paid expansion, offering new skills, new gear, new regions, and new endgame content. You pay, or you don't get to join everyone else. It's that simple.
Let's look at what Bungie calls an "expansion" though. You get a new story campaign with a total of 8 missions. There's the new planet of Mercury, which would be a new region in WoW or FFXIV. The planet has two new Strikes, three Adventures, some new Crucible maps, and the Raid Lair addition to Leviathan. It's a decent amount of content.
Looking at what you actually get in Destiny 2: Curse of Osiris, this wouldn't be an expansion for World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV. In-between these huge biennial drops, Blizzard Entertainment and Square Enix offer consistent patches, many of which are "named". World of Warcraft Patch 7.3 was subtitled "Shadows of Argus" and offered the new Argus region, Invasion Points, the Seat of the Triumvirate dungeon, a host of new missions, updated animations, and more. It was later followed-up a few days ago with an all-new Raid: Antorus, the Burning Throne.
Final Fantasy XIV's last major patch was 4.1, subtitled "The Legend Returns". It extended the game's main scenario with 11 new story quests, offered the Return to Ivalice event, added a new area for Treasure Hunting, new AI-based Command missions, an all-new Housing region, and more. In the case of both games, there have been small sub-patches since these releases with new content.
Bungie's problem is what it's calling an expansion is just a patch for any other MMO. Players will always consume content faster than you can make it, but World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV have a system that offers new content on a consistent basis. Players might be gone for a bit, but every month or so there should be at least something new for them to do.
Both MMOs are built for this and have an additional benefit Bungie can't rely on: their subscription fees. Those fees are an ongoing stream of revenue that allows their operators to employee the live teams needed to keep these machines chugging. That's part of the give-and-take here; the sub-fee MMOs just have a stronger content pace than their free-to-play counterparts. Bungie can't rely on that: they only charge you for the price of the game and the expansion pass. I'm not really sure how Bungie addresses that content problem in a meaningful way while still remaining profitable, especially given that the second expansion is already a part of the current expansion pass price. Essentially, the slower schedule means each expansion needs more meat to it, but that requires more money.
That's just a side problem to Bungie's handling of this matter though. You can artifically extend existing content with greater difficulty, but Bungie did it in a poor manner. I previously wrote that part of the XP throttling debacle was an issue of perception. Players always perceive loss, so you have to frame things as a bonus or addition. This Prestige issue is similar.
What Bungie needed to do with Curse of Osiris isn't to bump up the Prestige level of raids and Nightfall Strikes. Instead, the company needed to add an entirely new level of difficulty on top of Prestige.
To jump back to our example MMOs, World of Warcraft has three levels of Raid difficulty (Raid Finder, Normal, Heroic, and Mythic) and five levels of dungeon difficulty (Normal, Heroic, Challenge, Mythic, and Legion-added Mythic+ mode). Final Fantasy XIV now has three levels of Raid difficulty (Normal, Savage, and the recently-added Ultimate), two levels of dungeon difficulty (Normal, Hard), and three levels of Primal encounter difficulty (Normal, Hard, and Extreme). The plethora of difficulty levels are those games' respective developers adding new challenges for players with expansions, while not removing what was there before.
Bungie should've done the same, adding a new Extreme or Ultimate level above Prestige with Curse of Osiris. Then players would still be locked out of the hardest version of endgame content, but they wouldn't have lost the existing Prestige versions. Instead, Destiny 2 players without the expansion feel like something has been taken away from them. It's about perception: add new stuff, don't take away old stuff.
Alas, Bungie has stepped into the same mire again. The studio can fix the issue, but the poor reception will continue to dog them. The best Bungie can do is realize this is going to be a problem again for Destiny 2's second expansion and plan accordingly. Add more, Bungie. Always add more.
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