Why Destiny Players Are So Mad About Red Bull

3 minute read

Remember that old Red Bull slogan “Red Bull gives you wings”? Well now Red Bull gives you an exclusive quest in Activision’s Destiny, too.

The kicker: you have to buy specially detailed cans of the $2 to $3 popular caffeine, taurine, B-group vitamins and alpine spring water concoction. (You don’t have to drink it, of course.)

The quest, according to Red Bull’s marketing site, is “a never-before-seen, multi-stage mission in The Taken King that will test the speed and strategic abilities of Destiny players in new ways.” The Taken King is developer Bungie’s third expansion for the game, unveiled earlier this month at the E3 gaming convention in Los Angeles and due out September 15.

The cans will also include bonus XP (experience points) to “help players prepare for the epic quest,” says Red Bull, adding that the marketing push “leverage themes of speed, tenacity and strategy inspired by the energy drink.” Let’s think about the subtext for a moment: buying an energy drink makes you a better killing machine with the athletic output of a person in a chair pushing buttons. The medium is the message!

The bonus XP, which basically ups your XP grabs for a limited period of time, can be redeemed and used from July 1. The new quest itself should be available on or around The Taken King‘s release date.

Destiny, developed by an iconic studio (Marathon and Halo‘s creators) and mega-hyped by one of the largest game publishers in the world, started out as a slightly better than average shooter last fall. It has since, inch by grinding inch, developed into a pretty good one. It’s also sold a bazillion copies, with substantially more registered users (in the vicinity of 16 million) than World of Warcraft when we were at peak World of Warcraft (about 12 million). The Taken King is thus poised to be a major event by forces of numbers alone.

The trouble is, one of Destiny’s weaknesses is that it’s partly a game about doing the same thing over and over. Singular content is thus paramount. Maybe the new Red Bull mission turns out to be tedious rehash. Or maybe it’s totally fantastic. No one knows. But if it’s the latter, I suspect you’re going to have some pretty peeved players.

Is this the future DLC-ification of “leveraged” non-gaming IP? Is the future of nickel-and-dime gaming additives the subsidization of not-universally-beloved corporate mega-brands throughout the food, automotive, banking and big box retail industries?

To be fair, given Red Bull’s move into eSports in recent years — specifically its Red Bull Battlegrounds competition — the deal seems less out of left field than slightly irritating. In the world of inexplicable corporate gaming team-ups, this one has at least that connection to fall back on. And if you’d rather sidestep the Red Bull deal entirely, it sounds like the quest may be available after an exclusivity period that’ll run from September 18 to December 31.

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Write to Matt Peckham at matt.peckham@time.com