Destiny 2’s Shaders and Bright Engrams are a Sign That Microtransactions are Evolving

In Gaming, Op-Ed by Anthony Spark1 Comment

There have been a lot of controversies lately revolving around questionable business practices in the video games industry. Nowadays it’s becoming nearly impossible to simply buy a game and be sure that you’re getting access to the full content with no strings attached. Much like traditional internet gambling services, a lot of online titles now incorporate systems that let you pay a bit of money to essentially roll the dice in the hopes of getting that extra content you wanted. Loot boxes immediately spring to mind as they are basically a form of gambling whether publishers like to admit it or not. Lately, however, companies seem to be getting more and more creative when it comes to nickeling and diming gamers, with a number of examples of this surfacing just over the past month.

Destiny 2 Is one of the latest examples of how you can piss off your community even when you’re a good game. By all accounts, Destiny 2 is better than its predecessor in pretty much every way. Well, every way except one. As you may or may not already know, the shader system from the original has been changed for the worst. Shaders are now one-time consumable items that players can spend real money to unlock piece by piece because, of course, they no longer work on a full set of armor but must be used on each individual item. In order words, if you care about how your character looks (and who doesn’t in an online game?), you’ll want to collect a whole bunch of shaders.

Although players can get them for free by playing the game, it does take quite a bit of time and effort to collect a matching set. This wouldn’t be such a huge problem, however much like its predecessor, Destiny 2 will get grindy after a while and the last thing you want is to farm shaders every time you find a new item. Well whaddya you know, you can spend some real money and just buy them. How convenient. What’s that? These are cosmetic items and don’t really matter? Don’t worry, Activision and Bungie have got your back because they also have Bright Engrams up for sale, which are essentially loot boxes.

Remember how I mentioned gambling earlier? That’s exactly what you can expect here. By buying and opening Bright Engrams you can expect to receive a random item from a variety of categories like ships, Sparrows, weapon ornaments, and more. The problem here is that while most of these are just cosmetic items, the engrams also drop mods that have a real and tangible effect on the gameplay. Admittedly, the engrams only drop blue mods so you’ll end up switching them sooner or later. But still, for a certain period of time the mods will make your character more powerful, albeit only slightly, which kinda makes Destiny 2 pay-to-win to some extent.

Now, just because you bought some Bright Engrams and got a couple of these mods it doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically be able to outperform other players who haven’t spend money on microtransactions. Again, these are slight improvements. However, this could be the beginning of something much worse. As Warner Bros. already demonstrated with Shadow of War, microtransactions in full priced games are taking a turn for the worse and it might not be long before we can expect F2P-style microtransactions in AAA titles. Hopefully, Bungie and Activision were just testing the waters with Destiny 2 and will resort to more consumer-friendly business decisions in the future. But if gamers decide to let their wallets do the talking and support the current model, I’m afraid things will continue to get worse before they get better when it comes to microtransactions.


  1. Do it like GTA5. You can grind in game currency for loot boxes or pay so you won’t have to grind. Make the shaders a bit more rare but permanent. Also keep them individual. You still have 5 places to shade so it makes customization better.

Care to share your thoughts?