Bungie announced in the latest TWAB that Trials of the Nine would not be returning any time soon and they don’t have any definite plans to bring it back. This has upset a good number of people in the community, particularly on YouTube and Reddit. While it’s clear a good number of people in the community really enjoy PvP and Trials, we have to look at the look at what Bungie’s reasons probably were for not bringing back Trials.
By The Numbers
Bungie made their reasons pretty clear for needing to substantially rework Trials. Trials in Destiny 2 was simply not engaging players enough:
With the introduction of Trials of the Nine in Destiny 2, we made a few changes to the formula which never really hit the same mark. We were unhappy with its role in the ecosystem. The new activity wasn’t achieving the goal of bringing the community together every weekend. Both Destiny and the online PvP scene have evolved since 2015, so we don’t believe that bringing back the 2015 version of Trials of Osiris would accomplish what our goals are today.
Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to get good stats for how players on average spend their time in Destiny. The best stats I’ve found for trials engagement was from a thread on reddit looking at the number of unique guardians who played at least one match of trials, and how many matches were played over the course of the event. The numbers aren’t pretty. The average ratio between matches played and unique players over the first 30 events was 1.7. Week 26 saw the highest engagement ratio at 2.07.
Those engagement number seem very poor to me for a mode with an entire social area, weapons, and armor sets for each class built for it. You’re probably wondering how player engagement in Trials differs from every other mode in Destiny 2, and I have no idea. There isn’t any good way to figure out what modes players are playing the most outside of basic Crucible Statistics on DestinyTracker. However, according to DestinyTracker on twitter, the average player played 22 Iron Banner matches over the course of the first event. We can reasonably assume that Bungie wasn’t seeing the player engagement numbers they were looking for. It’s pretty clear the majority of Trials games were being played by very small segment of the player base.
You might be one of those players in that group who really liked to play Trials. You might just want to see trials added back with no real changes other than an inventory refresh, but I’d urge you to see it from the other side. To even make Trials worth your time with the bare minimum development effort, all the weapons and armor from Vanilla trials would have to be updated to have season 5 style masterwork and mod functionality. Bungie would still need to have developers make the changes and test them on all three platforms. All of this stuff takes development time and costs money for a mode nobody was playing that much.
There’s also the problem of fragmenting the Destiny 2 PvP population further by adding another playlist. Anytime you add a new playlist in any online game, you’re going to split your playerbase up between the existing playerbase and the new playlist. If the population is too low in a playlist you get unbalanced matches, longer matchmaking times, and networking issues. This is a complete turnoff for any game, nobody wants to play a laggy mess against players they just got 5-0’d by. You’ll just stop playing entirely. That’s why games with declining populations tend to axe playlists that aren’t doing so hot. If they were to add Trials, it would likely cause the population to split between the Competitive playlist and trials. Going off the stats on Warmind.IO, only a very small percentage of the population plays in the competitive playlist. If you’ve ever been on the Destiny subreddits, you know slow matchmaking times, unbalanced matches, and networking problems are already huge problems in the competitive playlist to begin with. Cutting Trials was necessary to keep the population of competitive PvP healthy.
Conclusion: Different Destiny
You might argue that the way Bungie changed Trials and PvP as a whole from Destiny 1 to Destiny 2 contributed to the poor player engagement that it saw in Destiny 2, and that’s totally fair. However, you have to agree with the Bungie a little here, Destiny is a different game now than it was back when Trials released. There’s way more unique, powerful loot to chase in Forsaken than there ever was in any previous Destiny expansion. Back in the House of Wolves days you could get to max power through Prison of Elders, Iron Banner, and Trials of Osiris; that was it. You could sidegrade through old raid loot, legendary rolls, and strike specific loot. In Forsaken you can get guaranteed powerful drops from Crucible, Vanguard Strikes, Weekly Story Missions, Flashpoints, Heroic Adventures, Nightfall, Gambit, Petra, Blind Well, Scourge of the Past, Last Wish, Challenge Completions, Bounties, Ada-1 Bounties, and Spider Bounties. The game is way more generous at throwing legendaries at you than it ever was, and occasionally you’re going to get something special no matter what activity you play. I’m just going to speak for myself on this one, my Destiny activity is way more diversified in Forsaken than it ever was in Destiny 1. I only played Trials in Destiny 1 because it was one of the few things I could do power up my character and have a chance at getting cool stuff.
Trials wasn’t played that much in Destiny 2 if the statistics are accurate, so committing the development time to bringing it back doesn’t make much sense from a development standpoint. Bringing back trials would risk fragmenting the already small competitive PvP playerbase between Trials and Competitive. Not bringing back Trials is the right choice so Bungie can focus on designing new content and improving other parts of the game that people play more. Trials as it was isn’t coming back, and that’s okay. Let’s all just hope they come up with a competitive experience more people will want to play.