Bungie has confirmed that the two Destiny 2 dungeons planned for release in 2022 will not be included in their respective season passes, and will instead be sold separately. Traditionally, season passes have been the source of most new content released between expansions, usually in the form of new seasonal activities and exotic missions. Some players thought, as a result, that the new dungeons would follow this trend. It turns out that's not the case.
Technically Bungie announced this back in August, when it revealed The Witch Queen expansion. The two dungeons are available as part of the Deluxe Edition version of The Witch Queen, listed as a separate perk from access to the year's season passes. Nevertheless, by not outright saying that the dungeons weren't included, many assumed the opposite to be true. Even just a couple of days ago, there was debate among players about how exactly dungeons would be introduced.
The clarification finally came from Destiny 2 community manager Cozmo23 in a heavily downvoted Reddit comment. "We’ve seen some debate around the new dungeon content and wanted to clarify how it will be delivered next year," he wrote. "If you get the Digital Deluxe Edition of The Witch Queen you will receive the expansion, all four Seasons for the next year, and the two Dungeons. If you get the Standard Edition, you can still upgrade to the Deluxe Edition to get the dungeons later. We will also be offering a separate way for you to purchase the Dungeons in the future, but they will not be included in the Season passes."
Dungeons have never been part of a Destiny 2 season pass before, but they've also never been sold separately either. The first two dungeons, Shattered Throne and Pit of Heresy, arrived with the Forsaken and Shadowkeep expansions respectively. The third and most recent dungeon, Prophecy, was released during Season of Arrivals, but it was free for all players—much like this year's Vault of Glass raid. And while the next dungeon will be the main content drop in December's 30th Anniversary Pack, this Year 5 release plan still represents a new approach.
Given how good Destiny 2's dungeons have been so far, it could be argued that it's worth the extra cost to ensure a more regular schedule for them. They're essentially mini-raids for three-players—not as mechanically complex, but still offering up unique puzzles and spaces. As part of the Witch Queen announcement, Bungie stated that, going forward, players would see a new raid or dungeon every three months—the two Year 5 dungeons being joined by a new raid released with the Witch Queen and another reprised Destiny 1 raid (confirmed to be either King's Fall or Wrath of the Machine) to launch later in the year. These activities are consistently some of Destiny 2's best content, and it's great to see a more regular commitment to their inclusion.
And yet, part of the reason for player frustration is that this is far from the only way Destiny 2 makes money from its playerbase. The Eververse microtransaction store, and its effect on the reward structure of the game at large, has long been a bone of contention—one that Bungie previously justified by pointing out the extra content it helps develop. "[Microtransactions] help fund ongoing development of Destiny 2, and [allow] us to fund creative efforts we otherwise couldn't afford," wrote Luke Smith back in 2019. "For example: Whisper of the Worm's ornaments were successful enough that it paid [dev cost-wise] for the Zero Hour mission/rewards to be constructed."
There's also the spectre of the 'Content Vault'. Because of it, everything bought in Destiny 2 comes with a theoretical shelf life. In February, when The Witch Queen launches, we'll lose the Tangled Shore destination, Forsaken campaign, and most of Year 4's seasonal content. When you buy something in the game, there's no guarantee it will last.
So far no dungeon has been removed from the game, and I do suspect that the Content Vault is informing Bungie's decision here to an extent. Seasonal content now disappears at the end of a year as standard, and so separating the dungeons out may flag that they're seen as more permanent additions. That may just be wishful thinking, though: Bungie removed five raids with the launch of Beyond Light, so there's nothing to say dungeons are exempt.
Ultimately a lot of the frustration stems from poor communication. It's on Bungie now to explain what the exact method and price of the dungeon purchases will be, and perhaps, more importantly, how charging for piecemeal single activities will affect the philosophy of Destiny 2's monetisation going forward.
The studio also desperately needs a more streamlined, obvious way of letting people pay for Destiny: as someone who's tried to get people into the game, the first question is often "what do I actually need to buy?" For me, personally, not much has changed. As someone with over a thousand hours in the game, I know I'll get value out of the Deluxe Edition, which comes with everything being released that year. For those who play less often, though, I don't think "buy the version of the expansion that costs £70" is going to be attractive advice.