Destiny fans woke up to a surprise this morning: More microtransactions.
Starting today, players will be able to buy "Class Packs" from Xbox Live and PSN (A North American PSN page is not available as of the time of this writing.) For $30, players will be able to instantly boost one character to level 25, max out one subclass, and speed up weapon leveling with a set of telemetries.
I'm not fundamentally opposed to selling level 25 boosts, but then again, my personal use case for that is pretty high. As someone with an end game Hunter and very little free time, I have to admit that it'd be great to quickly gain access to the raids and high level strikes with another class. I'd even pay a couple of bucks for it instead of replaying the game's campaign--which really drags throughout the early going. But asking $30 dollars for this boost is absurd. The Taken King included one of these boosts, and that was a $40 dollar expansion that greatly improved and expanded Destiny. On its face, asking 10 dollars less than that expansion for a level 25 boost doesn't make sense.
Things become a little bit clearer if you stop focusing on the class boost and think about the subclass boost, though. Each of the game's three classes are further subdivided into three subclasses. If you're playing as the spry Hunter, for instance, you can choose to wield the knives of the infused Bladedancer, control the bow of a void-powered Nightstalker, or use the sun-powered hand cannon of the Gunslinger. These subclasses are what give you both your active and passive abilities, determining how you double jump, what your super moves do, and even basic stat boosts.
Play Destiny for 10-12 hours and you'll likely hit level 25, but you'll come no where close to maxing out one of these subclass. Plus, while the Crucible (Destiny's PVP mode) equalizes everyone's weapon damage, it doesn't do the same for subclass unlocks. That means that while a level 20 character and a level 40 character both do the same base amount of damage, the level 40 likely has a more fully leveled subclass and therefore has an array of abilities and options that the level 20 doesn't. It's easy to see how this subclass boost feels like a (very expensive) "pay-to-win" microtransaction for those players who are interested in the game's PVP.
Honestly, this is a bummer. Reports indicate that Destiny won't be getting any more smaller expansions like last year's House of Wolves or The Dark Below, and instead the game will offer regular events (like the current Sparrow Racing League). Without those expansions, the game will need to support itself via optional purchases like October's cosmetic microtransactions, which seemed to go over well. Unfortunately, I can't imagine that today's announcement will be as well received by the community. It sets a bad precedent and it's an incredibly frustrating step for a game that has really improved itself over the last year or so.
But hey, as it turns out, Destiny isn't the only Activision game adding microtransactions today. The company is also rolling out Call of Duty Points for Black Ops 3 today. Those don't seem as poorly conceived as these class packs, but I also don't have a strong enough understanding of that game's design and culture to judge.
In any case, I'm crossing my fingers that the blowback to these packs will be big enough to deter further expansion in this direction, because if it doesn't we might be looking at the new normal.