Destiny’s hellish Halloween microtransactions

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Destiny’s Halloween event, Festival of the Lost, has returned, with significantly more rewards, and significantly fewer of them are free. Haven’t heard of these rewards yet? Don’t worry, Bungie and Activision made a trailer showcasing all of the exclusive microtransactions!

Many new masks and other cosmetic items are up for grabs, but there are three in particular that players are gravitating towards: the bright green ‘Jealousy’ sparrow, the animated ‘Firewolf’ mask, and the ‘Ghost’ ghost which dresses your Ghost in a sheet like a ghost. These items are random drops from Treasures of the Lost (TotL) packages, which are obtained using Silver, which is in turn acquired with real money. One TotL is 200 Silver, and pricing starts at $7.45AU for the minimum amount of 500 Silver, with discounts if you buy large quantities at once.

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Yes. A Ghost dressed as a ghost. How could you not understand that sentence?

After completing the Festival quest, players can earn one free TotL per character, a maximum of three per account. I was hoping to get the ‘Ghost’ ghost, so I completed the quest on each character, and got nothing I wanted. Fortunately I had some spare silver from when I had bought my ‘Jazz Hands’ emote (worth it!), and after buying four more packages I received the Ghost. It turns out I was very fucking lucky to get that.

On his Youtube channel, Patrick Casey opened fifty Treasures of the Lost, spending $100US, and came up with the following averages, which he notes is fairly consistent with other streamers.

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Remember when Bungie supported its community rather than squeezing them?

I have yet to see any streamer say that they think the loot box system implemented in Rise of Iron has a positive effect. And with the Treasures of the Lost, many streamers are actively criticising the low drop rates versus the price of the packages. These are the people that get payed to play Destiny and get tax refunds for these purchases.

The ornaments are weighted at around 10% each, but will be available after the Festival is over. But if you’re after a particular Festival exclusive, there’s only a 2% chance of it dropping, which is significantly lower than what anyone was expecting. So spend over $100 and you’ll probably get the item you want.

Or you might not. And that’s pathetic. I already have some issues with the standard Radiant Treasures, which reward ornaments, but at least they will probably be available for another year, giving you up to fifty-two free chances to get any ornaments you want, and you have a much higher chance to earn a particular ornament compared to a Festival exclusive. Treasures of the Lost are only available for two weeks, and you can only earn three for free during that time.

If you don’t receive those particular items, you still get masks and respawn effects, right? As respawns are timed consumables, once they’re gone, they’re gone forever, and the masks have a good chance of being duplicates if you already have some from last year. Fortunately, duplicate masks break down to Silver Dust, which you can spend on ornaments or other non-Halloween micro-transactions. Unfortunately however, you only get three Dust per mask which is less than Radiant Treasure Ornaments, even though they cost the same.

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MY WALLET!

Personally, if I didn’t have leftover Silver, I wouldn’t have bothered to actually buy anything. You might be wondering why I’m so frustrated by the system if it’s something I wasn’t even going to take part in. I want other people to spend money so that they can fund free content for me to play. Not very altruistic of me, but unlike Bungie and Activision, I at least want players to have a positive experience while doing it.

If you’re willing to risk your money for the Festival of the Lost items, my one tip is set yourself a budget and do not go over it, no matter what. After all, that’s how to gamble responsibly.

But there’s no point in people funding these ‘free’ events when there’s almost no new content (there’s only one quest that has you revisit old activities), and the vast majority of rewards are locked behind a paywall. And you have to feel sorry for the players who opened their free packages only to receive masks from last year.

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Micro-transaction wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing.

Reddit user ‘TwistedMexi’ actually created a timeline of all the micro-transaction changes over the past year, and you can see it get more toxic as time moves on.

There were a couple of other times Bungie did random number generator micro-transactions well. During the Sparrow Racing League, each exclusive sparrow was a random drop, but you were guaranteed to receive a new one if you bought more. Last year’s FotL also sold Treasures of the Lost containing masks. The difference was, if you received a duplicate or a mask you didn’t like, you could use it to make a permanent version of another mask.

These methods promoted spending, whilst adding a safety net for vulnerable players, such as minors or those prone to gambling. Because yes, paying money for a chance at a reward is a form of gambling and yes there are people that are vulnerable to that. It’s typically this minority that makes the majority of the purchases.

But that’s not even the worst part.

The ‘Eververse Help’ Forum is filled with players who say they have paid for Silver but haven’t received anything. There are multiple reports of people who paid over a month ago and are still waiting for a resolution, while Sony or Microsoft claim that the issues resides with Bungie or vice versa. You know, standard business practice. If this has happened to you within Australia, then Sony or Microsoft (depending on which store you purchased through) is liable under Australian Consumer Law, and you can demand they give you a refund. PSN’s refund policy states in-game consumables that have not been delivered can be refunded, and if they refuse you can threaten to go to the ACCC Ombudsman. They should give your money back at that point.

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Bungie will soon expand its payment options to include the souls of you and your children. No refunds.

Bungie and Activision are both profit-driven businesses, and the majority of players are capable of making rational decisions and purchases. But currently, Destiny’s micro-transactions are some of the most toxic in AAA gaming, which is astonishing as there’s no significant pay-to-win element in the system. At least in Overwatch’s RNG loot-box driven Halloween event there’s no cap on the amount of free drops you can get, you’ll just have to play it a lot to have a good chance of scoring what you want.

But Bungie is gradually alienating its player-base, which is troubling for what’s meant to be a community driven game and developer. I’m sure that Bungie will eventually adjust their micro-transactions under the guise of, “You asked, and we listened! We care for our community, etc!!” We’ve already heard that a lot throughout Destiny’s lifespan and we’re only a fifth of the way through their ten year plan. Who knows what the future will hold?

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