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How did Destiny finally end up getting private matches?

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Why Bungie didn't just leave Rise of Iron's major, marquee feature for Destiny 2

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With next month's Destiny: Rise of Iron expansion, Bungie is honoring one of its fans' biggest requests: Players will finally be able to engage in private matches. That's something that the game's community has asked for since Year One of the ever-evolving shooter — and yet the developer hasn't obliged until now.

"You always look for, especially with an expansion like this, the entire package and how the features will complement each other," executive producer Scott Taylor told Polygon during Gamescom 2016. "The game was in a really good place with leveling and the Infusion fix [which simplified the gear upgrade process]. It seemed like a good time to work on this feature."

That's because, in Rise of Iron, Bungie is zeroing in on Destiny's multiplayer mode. Private matchmaking is the headlining addition in next month's new content pack, which is touted as the game's last before a sequel. Players can design Crucible matches against any number of friends, creating their own rules and effectively taking total control over their multiplayer experience.

To fans of the game, the arrival of private matches has been a long time coming. With every major monthly update, Bungie has been bombarded with community requests on social media for the feature to finally, finally be announced. Yet, until now, the developer has ignored the onslaught. With a sequel on its way in 2017, why was the very last expansion pack the right time for the team to relent to its fans' wishes?

"It seemed like a good time to work on this feature"

"For us, it's looking for opportunities to do these things," Taylor answered. "You want to do them when it's really impactful. We looked at Rise of Iron having Saladin [the vendor who runs the recurring, intensive Iron Banner Crucible challenges, on the cover], bringing him into the story and campaign. It just felt thematically that it fit really well."

More than just fitting into the developer's overarching goals for Rise of Iron, though, the introduction of private matchmaking indicates that Bungie has been listening to the people who invest thousands of hours into the game. Although Destiny's Year Two, marked by the release of last year's Taken King expansion, received a much warmer reception than "vanilla" Destiny, the game still faces its fair share of criticism on a daily basis. Either a glitch has yet to be fixed, or there aren't enough regular content drops, or — until now — the big monthly update still isn't bringing the matchmaking players want, they'd say.

Yet with this week's confirmation that the feature would be introduced, many community members feel sated. On our way to meeting with Taylor on the Gamescom show floor, we bumped into two self-described huge Destiny fans. Asked for their thoughts on Rise of Iron's biggest addition, they expressed complete satisfaction.

"The announcement was perfect," they told us.

Still, those looking for a more specific reason for the ability to change up Rise of Iron in these big ways without going whole-hog on Destiny 2 might point to the lack of the expansion's release on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Unlike the previous expansions before it, Rise of Iron is leaving legacy consoles in the dust.

"Ninety percent of our player base is on PS4 and Xbox One," Taylor said, "and we aren't leaving those guys [on legacy consoles]. They're gonna be able to keep playing Destiny. But we really wanted to add without having to subtract. If we continue to support those legacy consoles, we'd be making choices we didn't feel like were good for the Destiny community as a whole."

Of course, no one at Bungie is willing to talk up Destiny 2 yet, but it goes without saying that the sequel will skip the older consoles as well. Consider Rise of Iron not just a refinement, perhaps, but also a first step toward that current-generation-focused future.

And for private matches, although it may have not seemed that way, Taylor insisted that they had, in fact, been a long time coming for the original game — not some big holdover for the sequel. Overall, Rise of Iron is just a natural progression for Destiny, a game that seems to always be in flux.

"We had this amazing opportunity to not just ship a game and leave it there," he said. "We're trying to take full advantage of that, not just add a mission here or there. For Rise of Iron, we're really excited that we've had that opportunity.

"We created a game that we were lucky enough to not ship and forget." Remember this date, then, Guardians: Rise of Iron launches Sept. 20.