If you've been paying attention to recent developments of the ongoing space fantasy action MMO, Destiny 2, you'll know that new details have been coming out regarding its upcoming premium expansion. While we've gotten an in-depth showcase of The Witch Queen showing off new weapons, mechanics, locations, and even new enemies to challenge players, a more recent development has been making the rounds. It was confirmed recently that all new Dungeons releasing as part of The Witch Queen will only be available to those who bought the Deluxe Edition. They will not be available as part of the Season Pass and will be sold separately down the line. This is a bad move on Bungie's part, although it is affecting the player experience itself more than their wallets.
First, a brief explanation of Dungeons and their part in Destiny 2's content ecosystem. Dungeons are a three-player PvE activity. Unlike other similar activities like Strikes or seasonal content like Battlegrounds, Dungeons are characterized by having much more demanding arena fights and complex overlapping puzzles and mechanics. They more closely resemble six-person Raids in this respect, but in at a smaller, more manageable scale.
This is important when it comes to understanding why having these freely available is so crucial. Even as someone who has completed almost every Raid in Destiny 2 at least once, getting a six-person fireteam together is exhausting. Not only do you have to put up with the headaches and stress of an LFG app and the constant unknowns of communication, patience, and the level of personal homework you have to do for each dedicated role in each encounter (looking at you Last Wish), there is also the case of scheduling.
This is common in a lot of online games when it comes to endgame content, but for the longest time, there was a major gap when it came to the skill level required. Destiny's progression basically went, “finish the new campaign, grind up better gear with PvP or repetitive strikes, maybe do the more challenging Nightfall and Iron Banner modes, then immediately do a bunch of research and jump through a bunch of hoops to do a Raid.” For many players during this time, this gap was a huge barrier to entry to some of the game's most rewarding set pieces.
This changed with the launch of Forsaken in 2018 and the reveal of its first Dungeon, The Shattered Throne. Smaller teams of friends could learn the ins and outs of an encounter that was more than just a damage sponge. The logistical issues of getting six players together for a Raid that can last north of two hours - assuming this is a blind run with a bit of prep work - is slimmed down to a three-man affair that can take roughly an hour of time. Because of this, more players became less daunted by the objectives found in more complicated encounters. In other words, Dungeons became that perfect middle step for players to go into the bigger, more demanding endgame content.
In fact, Bungie seemed to understand the importance of Dungeons for this very reason. The release of Shadowkeep in 2019 released a second Dungeon, Pit of Heresy, and the game's third Dungeon, Prophecy, released in 2020 during Season of Arrivals. Each and every one of these Dungeons (which released as a part of the premium expansions and Season Pass respectively) had their own special appeal and challenges while keeping this midgame consistency.
To be fair, there is a bit of logic at play with this paywalling happening. As part of The Witch Queen's marketing, the developers did say they would be adding new difficulty levels to the campaign, giving it more replay value for veteran players. This is even branching out to the most recent content, Season of the Lost, with Legendary difficulty being added to the Astral Alignment and Shattered Realm activities. But as nice as these additions are, upping power level requirements and throwing on some modifiers aren't a suitable replacement for the mini-Raid design that the Dungeons provide.
Finally, there is the matter of consumer confusion. As it stands right now, this means that if you buy the standard edition of The Witch Queen, you get access to the campaign, a new location, free access to a new Raid, and a weapon crafting system... but no Dungeons. If you are just now coming into Destiny 2, this omission will leave you feeling cheated and confused. Why is this sold separately and why is it a smaller version of a Raid? What is the point of locking this away specifically?
I've been critical of Bungie's monetization of Destiny 2 in the past, all while still being an active and passionate player. I hated how they did transmog. That got slightly better. I absolutely loved how they've done with this year's Festival of the Lost, even if I'm not too big on the dinosaur costume designs. I've even defended their highly divisive Destiny Content Vault in the past. But this recent decision isn't just an issue of misguided monetization, paywalling Dungeons is going to have a negative effect on player progression itself and the entire Destiny 2 community going forward. Unless something big comes around that fundamentally shakes up the content ecosystem with the launch of The Witch Queen, this is going to do more harm than good.