The Division 2 – A Potential Breakthrough for Live Services

It’s no secret that “Live Services” have struggled to find their footing. Almost every major publisher has taken a shot at the burgeoning genre and have found difficulties in providing an experience that is worth continuously returning too. The Division was Ubisoft’s first attempt at creating a persistent online-only world and while it was solid, it lacked the content and balance necessary to be sustainable. These experiences are meant to last for years, but due to the dwindling fan base, Ubisoft was forced to ditch the first title and begin working on the sequel.

Enter The Division 2

(Credit to Ubisoft North America)

Live services, especially those that come at a premium costs, are ambitions undertakings. EA’s Anthem, Bethesda’s Fallout 76, and Activision’s Destiny, have all struggled whether due to controversies, lack of transparency, high costs, and a lack of meaningful content. Ubisoft is well aware that if consumers are going to pay for and invest in a premium service, they will want their expectations to be met, which is why their approach to The Division 2 is so refreshing. The endgame is what ultimately will hold players interest regardless of the length of the campaign. Once the credits roll and the player is given free reign over the world, this is where the experience truly starts.

Ubisoft has made it known that all content for year one will be free. Their recently released video details what content is coming and this type of transparency is a requirement when working to build hype for these titles. If this content is varied and interesting, which it looks to be, then the Division 2 may be the breakthrough title that the genre desperately needs. There will be a number of changes from the campaign that will keep the in-game world fresh and challenging. New enemies, raids, strongholds, and continuous content updates can definitely go a long way in building trust with your community.

While it probably would’ve been beneficial to have open testing periods further away from the game’s release, the first beta, left a good first impression. The opening segment sees you storming the White House and quickly establishing a Base of Operations. From there you’re able to experience a few of the main story missions and afterwards you are then allowed to get a taste of the endgame content. Here, you’ll be able to choose a specialist which will grant you a unique weapon that will assist you in tackling the different factions.

Even though it would have preferential to have been able to choose a specialist during the main campaign, it’s understandable that this be withheld until after the ending. The beta showed off the new factions that will invade the endgame and regardless of your gear level and abilities, they will provide a challenge. With new content being pushed out throughout the year, it’s clear that Ubisoft has learned from its previous mistakes. Optimizing the title will require community feedback and Ubisoft is dedicated in remaining transparent as this will affect future updates.

The success of this title would be a huge win for Ubisoft and the genre as a whole. Smaller, more focused titles like Fortnite have found success because they were free to play and were of a surprisingly high quality. These larger, expansive worlds felt empty in comparison as they struggled to meet the expectations that they created through flawed marketing. There are so many negative examples of live services that it’s shocking that it has taken so long for one to catch on. You would think that the ongoing success of Rainbow Six Siege would’ve acted as the foundation for The Division as it laid out a road-map for Ubisoft to follow, but that assumption would be incorrect.

While free content is awesome, what really matters is the transparency as so many publishers have pushed out titles that weren’t ready for public consumption. These should be branded Early Access as it’s clear that what the consumer is getting isn’t the finished product. The Division 2 can change the narrative as long as Ubisoft remains dedicated to its success. Fans will go a long way in protecting a product as long as the line of communication remains steady. People will be looking to the developer to provide answers if content isn’t available or if the experience isn’t as advertised. Social media can quickly become a tool that will negatively impact the reputation of the title and The Division 2 needs all the positivity it can get.

Monetization has been and will remain a major topic in gaming due to almost every multiplayer title having microtransactions of some sort appear. Virtual currency should never impact a title beyond cosmetic enhancements and while it’s almost a guarantee that these will appear in The Division 2, as long as it doesn’t affect the content, the push back should be minimal. Free content in a premium title is generous. Free content for the entire year is a brilliant and bold strategy because it shows that Ubisoft is betting that this game and the endgame content will be a hit. Obviously this remains to be seen, but that alone is enough to pique anyone’s interest.

Now, while the focus will be on year one, it will be interesting to see how Ubisoft approaches the future. If it turns out there is a large community, then it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that all content remains free, which would be great, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they charged a premium if the content is substantial. Live services aren’t going away anytime soon and even though they are ridiculously branded, this is going to be the future of gaming. All it takes is for one title to hit home and then you’ll see a multitude of publishers pounce on the opportunity to one-up the competition. It happens in every genre and can be seen in currently in Battle Royales. Imagine if The Division 2 is that breakthrough hit, Ubisoft would climb quickly past its competitors. Would be great if they would release a new Splinter Cell, then…they would have my full support.

The Division 2 launches March 15.

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