Destiny 2 Is Removing Access To Past Paid Content And That’s Not Okay

June 10, 2020

You might have seen our post earlier today regarding Bungie’s plans for Destiny 2. There is a wealth of content coming to the game over the next couple of years, but there was a part of the announcement that you might have missed. As part of the ongoing updates and to keep the size of Destiny 2 to a reasonable level for Bungie to work with, they have introduced the Destiny Content Vault. Think of it like the Disney Vault of yesteryear, a metaphorical location that content will be selectively cycled in and out from. This means that some content previously accessible will become inaccessible in the future, becoming replaced by new content or other content that was previously cycled out of rotation.

Sounds pretty simple right? That’s because it is, and in theory, it’s totally a non-issue. As per Bungie themselves,  the ‘vast majority of content we choose to vault will also be from destinations and activities that have been free for all players for several months prior to their departure’. Free content being taking out of a free to play game and replaced with other free to play content is in itself fine. Sure, I’d prefer to have all content available all the time, but who am I to complain about not being able to access something that was free? Except, free content isn’t actually where this stops.

One of the first pieces of content announced to be removed is the campaign from Destiny 2 expansion Curse of Osiris. When Destiny 2 went to a free to play model later last year, Curse of Osiris was made free as part of the package. Prior to that, however, Curse of Osiris was a fully purchasable DLC expansion that launched three months after Destiny 2. This was something that people have directly paid money for, or indirectly through the expansion pass or with future collected editions of Destiny 2. And now, as of the start of the next year of content for Destiny 2, those paying customers will now no longer be able to access that campaign.

Digital ownership rights are, at the best of times, an utterly murky subject as far as the law is concerned, especially here in Australia. While technically you’re only purchasing a license to access a game with you buy something digitally, as opposed to ownership of a physical object, the way this works with Australian Consumer Law is an unknown. Given the multiple lawsuits brought against gaming companies by the ACCC for flouting consumer protections for refunds as an example, there is the potential that an action like this could potentially be considered unlawful. Of course, only the court system can confirm this, and without a similar case having been taken to the courts in the past there is no way to know for sure.

At the very least, what we do know from this is that the concept of digital ownership is becoming muddier and muddier as time passes. There are constant situations with publishers shutting down the multiplayer servers to games over time, which in the case of a multiplayer-only title would completely cut off your access to the game. Now, we have paid, campaign content being patched out of a game that is still a live product. This potentially sets a precedent for other developers and publishers as well, especially if this move is widely unchallenged or ignored by the general gaming population.

One specific worry I have with this is that other developers could see this as an acceptable way to try and herd people towards new paid content in ongoing games. Think of Overwatch for example. What would it be like if Blizzard made the game free to play for 12 months, and then pulled two of the characters and modes from the game, while simultaneously offering a couple of free new game modes and the option to spend $20 to purchase two brand new characters for the game. The overall content level hasn’t changed at all, but as someone who purchased the game before it went free to play, you’ve lost access to content you paid for and would have to make another purchase to return to the same level of content.

I have reached out to Bungie through their Australian media partners for clarification on if there will be a way for people who have paid for content that is subsequently added into the Destiny Content Vault to access it, but at present have not yet received a response. As it stands, in a world where digital game purchases made up 51% of all PlayStation games revenue for FY2019, we’re seeing the concept of digital ownership become even murkier than it once was. I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly not looking forward to the precedent of even more content being fair-game for removal from my library.