500 people. 5 years. 500 million dollars. These are the gigantic production figures that precede the launch this Tuesday of Destiny, the most anticipated online video game of the year and the most expensive in history.
Gaming budgets have been competing with Hollywood’s big movies for years now, but Destiny took that trend to another level.
Its budget, which includes production costs and a gigantic global promotional campaign, is roughly double that of the movie Avatar, for example. And it’s also twice the cost of producing and promoting the Grand Theft Auto V video game.
Destiny already set two records before its launch: it ran the largest beta test in history in July, involving 4.5 million players, and now it just broke the pre-order record for a video game in line.
Since this Tuesday it is finally accessible on the internet and its creators predict that it could attract 10 million players during the first day.
Destiny comes with the intention of opening the way to a saga of science fiction video games that is estimated to last a whole decade.
And it also comes with two quality seals from giants in the video game industry: Bungie, the studio that already spawned the hit series. Halo, and Activision, the firm that produced Call of duty.
«We feel like we have an opportunity to release something huge, not just for the video game landscape, but for the popular culture landscape,» said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing Inc.
What’s so special about it?
Destiny is set 700 years in the future. Players are guardians of the last city on the planet, fighting a mysterious entity known as The Darkness and his alien allies.
It is played in the first person but presents many opportunities to play collaboratively with other players.
Although that particularity already had other video games, such as World of Warcraft or Call of duty, Destiny was developed with an emphasis on multiplayer game.
Fighting with or against other players is not, as in other products, an added option, but the essence of this video game and its creators highlight the possibility of living «unique stories».
«For us in this ‘next’ generation of video games it is critical to allow gamers to collide and interact with each other as they individually embark on epic, action-packed adventures,» said Harold Ryan, president of the Bungie studio.
But the number of explorable «collateral missions» will have to be really huge to maintain the enormous expectations created around the game, and for long enough so that its creators can recoup the enormous sum invested in its development.
Too many expectations?
Digital media analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities believes the $ 500 million production figure announced by Activision is an overstatement, intended to generate publicity.
«Creating the game cost about US $ 180 million, and their initial marketing budget is probably US $ 100 million, so they had to spend about US $ 280 million before selling the first copy,» he valued.
«Afterwards, the ‘costs’ will likely include the manufacturer’s copyright and the commissioning of a server farm and infrastructure for a call center, in addition to the ongoing costs of developing the downloadable content,» he explained.
On the other hand, some industry observers believe that beta testing, while necessary to test servers, is also a very useful marketing tool to fuel sales.
In the beta test of Destiny, just six weeks ago, four and a half million people participated.
For Chris Dring, editor of the English magazine specialized in video games MCV, «Destiny was always going to be a success.»
«But it was the beta version that made it the new best-selling brand in the history of the video game industry,» he said.
The next few days will be crucial to assess whether the bet on Destiny will have been worth it.
«There is no question that Destiny is one of the biggest and most exciting entertainment launches of all time,» Dave Scarborough, publisher of Games TM, told the BBC.
But «the test», according to Scarborough, will be in «whether players will want to continue playing once the new Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creeds games come out towards the end of the year.»
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