It’s been a difficult few months for consumer games journalists.
They’ve found themselves facing what feels like never-ending accusations of corruption. YouTubers like Total Biscuit are proudly declaring that they hold ‘more power and influence then any games journalist’.
And this week Destiny launched and broke all records for a new IP launch, all without the need of reviews. Activision scored huge levels of hype from the game without the need for the press; it did it via a well-timed summer beta, which sent pre-orders soaring.
In fact, when MCV asked Activision UK MD Roy Stackhouse if he was excited to see reviews, he dismissed them.
I’m more excited, to be honest, about the consumers getting it,” he told us. There’s something like 3m people on social media and Destiny fan sites that already feel like they’re part of this family. And when that translates into people actually playing the game, you will see this word of mouth. I think that is what will drive sales.”
But critics do matter. Destiny’s reviews have been, on the whole, okay. It has a 77 on Metacritic. But it’s also scored a number of 6/10 scores from prominent websites. The consensus is that the game is lacking a certain something. And that will reflect what some of the gamers will be thinking, too.
I actually feel a bit sorry for Destiny, and Watch Dogs and Titanfall before it. New IPs don’t normally launch with the level of expectation and hype that these games have had. New IPs are rarely perfect; developers are trying new things, and some will work, while others won’t. It tends to be the sequel where they nail it. We saw that with Mass Effect, Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed during the start of the last generation. Good first games with masterful sequels.
But the pressure was on Destiny (and Watch Dogs and Titanfall) to be astonishing from the outset. The number of midnight openings these games received, the number of units they sold… these are the things you would expect from the latest game in a long-running sequel.
How many of these millions will feel disappointed by what they’ve brought? How many will line up to buy Destiny 2?
I’ve always felt that new brands ought to be nurtured and grown over time. Call of Duty and GTA didn’t become the size they are today overnight. They weren’t launched with the level of unobtainable expectation that Destiny has been.
Critics may not have impacted the launch of Destiny this year. But it will be interesting to see if the mixed reviews have in anyway damaged the franchise’s ‘10-year’ ambitions.