With Destiny 2: Forsaken, a heap of previously PlayStation 4-exclusive content was added back into the game for Xbox One and Windows PC players — just as new PlayStation-exclusive content was added for Year 2.
For the first few weeks, it was exciting to see all of these new activities in the game. But as I was playing with the previously PlayStation-exclusive sniper rifle, Borealis, which is now available to Destiny 2 players on PC and Xbox One, I was reminded how frustrating a system this truly is.
On its face, the Borealis is a pretty bland weapon. It’s a sniper rifle that can rotate between Destiny’s three primary elements. However, the gun is fun as hell to shoot; Borealis feels amazing. Recent additions to the weapon to make its shots more potent when matching elements to enemies adds an intriguing new layer.
When I first played with Borealis on PS4 last year, I wasn’t impressed. A year later, on PC, it handles like a dream. I love it, and I’m so excited that I can use it whenever I want now. But every shot fired reminds me of how long I had to wait to use a gun that other players had access to for the past year.
PlayStation exclusives have always been this way. Sure there are total dud weapons like The 4th Horseman, but Destiny players on PS4 also got Hawkmoon, one of the best hand cannons in the game.
The practice of platform exclusivity creates a cycle where players on non-PlayStation platforms must contend with gear that exists that they can’t use. Even worse, when that exclusive content does become available, another exclusive piece will move in to take its place. Wavesplitter, for example, is a new exotic void trace rifle exclusive to the PlayStation 4 version of Forsaken. This weapon is the only one of its archetype, and has a truly unique perk set. I’m excited to use it, but it’s a real bummer that I’ll have to wait until fall 2019 to do so.
Even if trace rifles weren’t my jam, it’ll probably be someone’s favorite weapon once they get it on PC. That’s how weapons work in Destiny. It doesn’t matter how good something is, someone, somewhere out there will fall in love with each and every gun that Bungie releases. But Xbox and PC players will be denied that privilege with Wavesplitter until next year, just like they were with Borealis.
The same problem exists for the exclusive strikes in the game, although that’s even a bad deal for PlayStation players. The old PlayStation exclusive strikes like Insight Terminus aren’t able to be in the Nightfall rotation until they’re available to everyone, meaning you can’t run them for points and you don’t get strike-specific loot from them for a full year.
The content is completed, and is absent for two-thirds of the game’s players. And for the one-third of players that can actually play it, it’s only half a strike — with no real reason to replay it.
A lot has changed in the first year of Destiny 2, and I’m thrilled with the results. But these PlayStation-exclusive weapons are harmful for the game. It’s only a matter of time until one of these weapons is a must-have for raiding. And if that never happens, then are the guns intentionally not worth using until all players can have their hands on it?
It’s not uncommon for players to get frustrated when they don’t have access to something, but Borealis wasn’t even something I was excited about until I played with it more. The opportunity to take a gun that sounds worthless in Destiny and play with it anyway, only to discover that you love it or hate it more than you could possibly imagine, is core to the franchise. That kind of discovery is Destiny, in many ways.
It’s frustrating to see that four years later, Destiny players still have to put up with exclusives. The new Broodhold strike looks very cool, and I can’t wait to play it next year. But who knows what Destiny could look like then.
With Sony experimenting with cross-platform play, there’s hope for the future of these exclusivity deals. These exclusives should be cool and cosmetic, not gameplay-changing — especially in a game like Destiny, which is all about the loot you get. In 2018, we shouldn't be punished for playing on the platform of our choice when it comes to Destiny or any other game.
The industry learned this lesson years ago with pre-order bonuses, back in the days of the terrible Batman: Arkham City Catwoman missions or the Mass Effect 3 Prothean squadmate. That type of content-blocking became unsustainable, and is pretty rare nowadays as a result. But for Destiny players, all we can do is hope that the same thing happens with exclusive guns — or we’ll be waiting until next year over and over again.