It’s been a rough week (or ten months, depending how you look at it) for Destiny fans, but today the game’s publisher, Activision, announced a new partnership that should alleviate all the fans’ grievances in one fell swoop.
Just kidding: players who buy special Red Bull cans from 7/11 and Walmart stores in the US and Canada this summer will get access to an exclusive quest and rewards in Destiny. The rewards include experience boosts that will help players level up their gear more quickly over the summer, and the quest will launch in September, after the game’s next expansion, “The Taken King,” arrives.
The hilarity of this promotion is nearly infinite, from its very specific timing—smack in the middle of the game’s most contentious week ever, amid a hailstorm of player anger caused in part by the way “The Taken King” is being sold—to the press release itself, which is being gleefully dissected and autopsied all over Twitter.
Choice quotes from said press release:
Access to the quest will be available on specially-marked cans of Red Bull and leverage themes of speed, tenacity and strategy inspired by the energy drink…
From Activision Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Tim Ellis:
“Whether a player is new to Destiny or with us since launch, the special quest promotion will help give them the ‘wings’ and experience boost to take on The Taken King.”
Here’s Michael “Flamesword” Chaves, a pro gamer who will “offer his expertise and experience as an eSports athlete and coach to help guide players through the quest,” whatever that means:
“I love that Red Bull and Destiny have a shared sense of adventure, camaraderie, and pushing boundaries that both brands embody.”
All that jargon is borderline nonsensical, but the partnership itself isn’t. Bungie’s previous franchise, a little-known series called “Halo,” was constantly involved in branded snack-and-drink marketing schemes orchestrated by Microsoft, the games’ publisher. Activision, Destiny’s publisher, is no stranger to this type of arrangement. And Red Bull is heavily involved in the world of gaming, particularly where eSports is concerned.
But holy crap is this very obviously the wrong move for Destiny right now. Players who spend their time in this game are driven by a “loot” system that has them always chasing the next prize, and the community is already pissed about the fact that some new gear in “The Taken King” is exclusive to a “Collectors Edition” that costs $80. It also contains the base game, the two expansions that are already out, and the new expansion that’s coming in September—so in other words, players who already have the game need to buy it again if they want everything that’s on offer.
Oh, and they’ll have to buy a bunch of Red Bull too, apparently. How long until these companies start giving away exclusive guns in bags of Doritos and locking game endings behind the codes from 100 Coke caps?
Activision may even now be devising a clever way to assuage its incensed customer base, but it would have done better to reveal that plan before this announcement went live. The biggest game publishers have been hurtling down this slippery slope for decades, and it looks like we may reach the bottom soon. Hopefully there’s an exclusive in-game emblem waiting there.
Mike Rougeau is Playboy.com’s Gaming Editor, in charge of all things video games but mostly concerned with maxing his Destiny characters. He lives in Los Angeles with his girlfriend and two dogs. Follow him on Twitter @RogueCheddar.