Activision Banks Half A Billion On ‘Destiny,’ But It's Not As Crazy As It Seems

Activision announced earlier this week that it will drop a cool $500 million on "Destiny," the newest IP from Bungie. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, it should: Bungie is the studio that gave birth to the Halo franchise.

But Bungie has moved on from its past success, and it's poured a team of 500 designers and engineers into "Destiny," a massive multiplayer online shooter. That kind of personnel needs funding, of course, and that’s where Activision comes in. You see, Activision's committed half a billion dollars to the project, an astronomical number, no matter how you slice it. To put that into perspective, "Grand Theft Auto V" cost $265 million to make once all was said and done, and that is the record for a single game.

Of course, that amount is a mere pittance compared to what "GTA5" made when it went on sale -- $1 billion in its first three days. It's safe to say that investment paid off. But "Grand Theft Auto" is a well-established series, whereas "Destiny" is a brand new one. Even though its studio has the pedigree of "Halo," it’s going to be difficult.

Destiny-screen-1- Screen shot of upcoming Bungie title "Destiny."  Courtesy/Bungie

To offset the gigantic budget, Reuters reported that Bungie/Activision would need to sell about 15 million copies of "Destiny," which is daunting for any title. Anything less than that could be considered a failure, until you take a deeper look. Activision isn’t banking on "Destiny" rivaling sales of "Halo" -- at least, not yet.

Activision’s money buys more than just a game. While it’s true that the $500 million figure positively dwarfs the single-game record, it’s worth remembering that Bungie agreed to produce four games in the "Destiny" line for Activision. So that $500 million is more of a startup cost or investment than anything else -- the game engine needed to be built from scratch, and the brand needed to be marketed.

Selling 15-20 million copies of the "Destiny" tetralogy is definitely feasible, but the first iteration will have to make a noticeable splash in September, when the open beta is released. Here’s to hoping the series takes off. If it completely flops, then Bungie and Activision will have a big problem on their hands.

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