Why it matters: Since going free-to-play, Bungie has needed a way to monetize Destiny 2 to cover ongoing development costs. Paid loot boxes, aka Bright Engrams, could be purchased in the Eververse store to obtain cosmetic items. However, Bungie is now removing Bright Engrams for players who own the season pass. This consumer-friendly move is another blow in the recent efforts to monetize games that have already been paid for upfront.
Since splitting from Activision, Destiny 2 developer Bungie has since went on to release their latest major expansion, Shadowkeep. While players have been able to purchase in-game loot boxes called "Bright Engrams" for cosmetic items, the company is now removing them going forward.
Game director Luke Smith published a new "Director's Cut" blog post in which he talked about the state of Destiny 2 and upcoming changes to the popular action MMO. Smith outlined some of the lessons learned from Shadowkeep including weapon balancing and ensuring that players who play Destiny 2 intermittently won't get left out in favor of more dedicated players. Included in this update was the announcement that Bright Engrams will removed for players who have purchased the season pass. However, those who are sticking with the free-to-play version of Destiny 2 can still purchase Bright Engrams in the Eververse Store.
Smith emphasized that they "want players to know what something costs before they buy it." This sentiment flies in the face of Activision's former plans for the game as well as large publishers like Ubisoft and Electronic Arts who still use paid loot boxes as an ongoing revenue stream. That said, loot boxes and microtransactions in general have been undergoing serious scrutiny lately.
"We want players to know what something costs before they buy it"
EA, in particular, has borne the brunt of the backlash against loot boxes. Star Wars: Battlefront 2 was famously ridiculed for including pay-to-win loot boxes at its launch, leading to the most down voted comment in Reddit history. Representatives from the company spoke in front of a UK parliamentary panel where they described loot boxes as "surprise mechanics" that players find "quite ethical and quite fun."
The tide seems to be changing as of late. Fortnite is a free-to-play battle royale shooter that's completely dependent on cosmetic loot boxes and a battle pass. EA subsequently copied that model with Apex Legends. Destiny 2 seems to be emulating that model also on some level. The game shifted to a free-to-play model when Shadowkeep launched and allowed players to purchase seasonal passes if desired. With the removal of loot boxes from paid content, this may lead to other publishers following suit.