Ubisoft Is Walking A Tightrope With The Division 2's Paid Extras

A couple of recent Division 2 community flare-ups have illustrated the challenges of modern video game publishing (and purchasing), as Ubisoft slices and dices its upcoming game into numerous special editions and expansions while still trying to make players feel like they’re getting a great deal.

Last Tuesday, Ubisoft announced that their March 2019 cover shooter The Division 2 was available for pre-order and gave fans six different versions of the game to choose from. Those versions ranged from the $US60 ($82) standard edition to the $US250 ($341) Phoenix Shield Collector’s Edition, complete with articulated figurine, steel game case and a map of the game’s Washington, D.C. setting.

Shortly after the various editions were made available, fans spotted some odd things in the fine print. The first one concerns Ubisoft’s previous announcement that all of The Division 2’s expansions would be free for all players.

That’s still the case, but there now appears to be a way to pay to access them earlier. Second, the three most expensive of the six editions on sale include an enticing in-game perk: players who pay up will get an expanded item stash, which will let them store more items than players who buy the lesser, cheaper editions of the game.

Oh, Ubisoft...

Ubisoft had made a big deal about the post-release expansions for The Division 2 being free, which made it confusing that it would now offer earlier access to those expansions in exchange for money.

Until recently, major third-party publishers selling major games that have major post-release content plans have charged for the added content. Activision charged fans for Destiny expansions.

EA charged fans for the map and mode expansions for 2015’s Star Wars Battlefront. And Ubisoft charged for expansions to the original Division, which added things like a procedurally-generated “underground” mode an intense survival variation of the game.

Some players complained that those types of paid expansions split the player base, making it harder to coordinate and play with each other since everyone isn’t guaranteed to own the same stuff.

This is a problem for players but can also backfire on publishers if the game they keep trying to sell expansions for has a disaffected, dwindling player base. We’ve recently seen a drift away from that approach and toward free post-release expansions, with EA at the forefront, pledging to give all Battlefront II and Titanfall 2 post-release content away for free.

Ubisoft pledged to do something similar with The Division 2, and even shifted in that direction toward the end of the first Division’s lifespan. The most exciting late-cycle update for that game added new modes and expanded the game’s map, and it was free for everyone.

Ubisoft is still saying that The Division 2’s episodic expansions will be free, but those who buy the game’s Year One Pass will get access to them—or to parts of them (it’s confusing)—a week early. The standard edition without the pass sells for $US60 ($82).

The Gold Edition that contains the pass goes for $US100 ($136). Given that The Division contains both cooperative player vs. environment (PvE) and competitive player vs. player (PvP) game types, fans started wondering on Twitter, message boards and Reddit just how that week of advance access might imbalance the competitive parts of the game. It started to seem as though, if players wanted a fair experience during those first few weeks, Ubisoft was actually requiring players to pay for the expansions it had previously promised would be free.

Not so, the developers say.

“We know there is a competitive aspect to the game,” Division 2 community developer Yannick Banchereau said in a Thursday “State of the Game” stream about the game.

“We are not looking at the early access to be a way for people to build their character early.” He said that early admission players would be pushed toward the story parts of the expansion and seemingly have aspects that give them a competitive advantage cut off.

“When it comes to everything that is competitive—items, PVP—these are things we’re going to be looking at very carefully in terms of what is available during the early access,” he said. The game’s new eight-player raids would not be part of the early access offering at all.

The expanded stash issue was contentious as well. The original Division launched with an item stash that could fit 70 pieces of guns and armour. Hardcore players in these types of games tend to accumulate a lot of saved up loot, and are loath to part with it due to inventory shortfalls. (My Destiny playing colleagues inform me this is a constant problem in that game, as well.)

After a lot of fan demand, The Division’s stash space was later expanded to 150 slots. The idea that, for the Division 2, you would have to pay at least $US120 ($164) for the game’s Ultimate edition to get the biggest possible stash seemed odd and galling. In an informative and otherwise cool-headed video on the topic, YouTuber Skill Up called the offer “straight-up shit.”

The stash offer has turned into one of those quintessential pre-release flashpoints, where the stakes of the issue are vaguely defined and its impact on the finished game is impossible to know. It seems to offer the best version of a thing that is important to the game’s most hardcore players, but the developers can’t or won’t say precisely how much better the expanded stash will be, citing the need to still figure out the right balance.

In fact, they’re now going out of their way to convince upset players that getting the expanded stash, which is part of a bonus in these deluxe editions called the Elite Agent Pack, isn’t necessary.

“We know how important stash size is, and we’ve been through a lot of conversations and improvements in the Division 1 regarding stash size,” Banchereau said in the State of the Game stream.

“Where we wanted to reassure you is the fact that we want to have enough stash size for everybody so that you don’t need to buy that Elite Agent Pack to be able to store all your items. This one is just a bonus for the people who really want to horde and collect everything, but the comfortable basis for us is going to be what is available to everyone. We are not looking at diminishing the amount of stash size available just to push people into buying that pack.”

Despite this, it is very hard to ascertain exactly how the default stash size can be sufficient while Ubisoft continues to offer a way to pay to expand it.

In comments to Skill Up and during the livestream, the people making The Division 2 say they can’t even say how big the various stash sizes will be, citing the need to continue to balance the in-development game.

Big-game marketing is confusing. It’s salesmanship, and salesmanship is by its nature manipulative. It may well turn out that neither of these things was worth getting upset about; early expansion access may not upset the PvP balance, and extra stash size might turn out to be unnecessary.

Ubisoft and other publishers love to make things complicated, love to tempt players with an upsell and perpetually risk infuriating those who look at all these multiple editions and fine print caveats and wonder if they’re getting a bad deal. As more games shift to a supposedly free post-release model, more publishers are likely to try to make money through less obvious ways than selling expansions. It’s a bramble, and players should do their best to pay attention to those thorny details.


Comments

    I have tried my absolute hardest, but Kotaku's obtrusive ads with audio constantly stopping my music has forced me to enable full AdBlocking on my phone.

    Comment will likely be deleted, but I'd rather it be said so Kotaku can hopefully take this feedback and make the appropriate changes to allow reading the news and listening to music anything other than an exercise in frustration. I would really like Kotaku to earn revenue from my visits.

      Whats annoying is that start up show "sponsored content" shit and that guy with the long blonde fringe. Is every where.

      Listen to the feedback Kotaku. Your site is a god damned mess of ads and links to affiliate sites/old articles. It's an absolute trainwreck.

      I visited the site in a netcafe today, away from my regular adblocker, and it was a stark reminder as to why I blacklisted Kotaku's ads in the first place. Fucking PAGES of the shit after an article, all loading after the other in some sick attempt to chase my scrolling toward the comments.

        Exactly right. The comments are buried amongst a heap of 'Single mum makes $4,500 a day using this ONE trick the banks don't want you to know!' and articles about the Mini Wii that was released in the Canadian market like 7 years ago.

        It's shameless.

          It does make trying to read other articles on other parts of the network hard. I typically go to Kotaku first and then after reading a few articles, I go down to the bottom to see what Lifehacker and Gizmodo have and then go from there.

          Now its a huge pain in the ass as I try and force scroll my way past rows of repeating ads that are either horrifically out of date (Now SimCity has curved roads - From 2013) or are irrelevant to the content of the site (Brilliant new hearing aids sweeping Australia - Not really fitting the average demographic of gamers there)

          I get the site needs to make money somehow, but it seems like websites are scraping the bottom of the barrel now and are just trying to put forward any old crap. It's not like half these ads would actually be clicked on.....

            I came across this thread eventually, so thanks for the feedback. I always feed it forward and the question I get is "how much is this affecting people", and it's always difficult to put an answer on it.

            ALWAYS - always - ping me directly about this. It helps.

              Yeah, the answer to 'how much is it affecting people' is that it's directly caused me to start selectively filtering segments of the pages with adblocker.

              I don't mind the stuff on the sides even though I often accidentally click on it when I'm intending to click some white space, but that stuff at the bottom between the article and the comments is awful.

    EA's pushed too far and failed, so I guess its Ubisoft's try to see how far they can push things. Although I'm the first to admit, I really like the look of that articulated agent....

    (Sidenote; if you are going to have a moderation queue for miscreants (i.e. those who disagree against the masses), you actually need to go thru it occasionally, I still have comments from over a day ago that haven't been approved).

      the main difference is that the division 1 can arguably be considered a flop
      while Battlefront was arguably a success.

      I just hope the division 2 has better gameplay

    Was only just stating this morning about how deciding whether to buy a AAA title is now less about whether it’s even a good game in the first instance & more as to how egregious/ridiculous the multiple versions/dlc/passes/pre-order/day 1/system exclusive stuff is.

    This is just... an utter turn-off? I don’t generally buy Ubi games at launch/all due to their largely homogenised gamestyles but any interest in this has been killed stone dead by all this stuff, there’s too much choice now meaning I don’t have to support this stuff in any way, shape or form.

    Other thing to note is that given how the original division is supposedly a much better game a few years after launch it’s even more worthwhile holding off (the first one is now in game pass as an example). Seems to be a trend with these big live service games (Destiny?)

    Its almost like they were just using "free DLC" to help sell their product at the biggest gaming convention. Something i was being shouted down for at the time. That is hilarious.

    I loved the fact at the time over on the Destiny reddit people were using this games "free DLC" promise as some sort of divine and honest thing, so therefore Destiny 2 shouldnt be asking money for the Annual pass. its funny that now that Bungie and Activision now (SEEM) honest. Thats why I have no problem with the annual pass on D2, though still not going to preorder. At least they arent pretending to give us something for nothing.

    I never for one minute believed there wouldnt be a catch to 'free DLC'.

    At the end of the day, it's a product that Ubisoft has spent a shit-tonne of money creating and they are now offering it to people to buy. Naturally, they they want to maximise their ROI. Making all the DLC available for free and charging people who - for whatever imagined reason - can't wait a week or two to have it seems reasonable to me. No one is being forced to buy it.

    Having said that, the inventory size thing is more contentious if it gives some players an advantage in multiplayer.

      They didn't really spend a lot of money/time on this game. They did making The Division 1. This is just the same back-end and game mechanics with a revamped UI.

    Big developers saying 'trust us' and 'we are still seeking balance' are talking crap...they have professionals in spin doctoring and game development, and playing the struggling amateur is outright bs. They know exactly what the game impacts are...what they are doing is assessing how far they can exploit the player base to maximise income. That is the only non quantifiable variable, not the game mechanics.

    Last edited 29/08/18 2:03 pm

    to be fair if you went over to the division reddit back in the very early D1 days... a lot of people were saying they would pay for more stash sizes. I guess you get what you asked for lol

    I was prepared to give The Division 2 a shot, given that I really enjoyed the early levelling experience of the original until it teased, "That's all the story you get for now, go enjoy players-as-content in the Dark Zone and maybe one day in DLC the story will be finished!" And I was impressed that they clawed the clusterfuck trainwreck of an endgame back into something moderately enjoyable... after a couple damn years.

    But this... this makes me think the only good time to play The Division 2 will be after the DLC is all already out, the cash-shop fuckery is settled into bundles, the egregious bugs/balance issues are sorted out after a year or two of launch-as-beta.

    This shit is all tone-deaf, and it indicates very clearly that the devs who poured all that healing work into the original are still hamstrung, still shackled by the greedy fuck meddlers.

    Disappointing.

    Well I remember not buying doom because I thought 90$ was too steep. Now they come with a 82$ base version of the game for the division 2, a sequel to a game that had mixed reviews due to massive cheating and account issues. I will say I had fun playing The Division 1. But not enough to drop 100$ on what is the same game (mechanics-wise) with a revamped UI.

    Anyways no one is forcing people to buy it so they can always try.

    The Division and its nonsense was the final straw for me, I won't be buying Ubisoft titles anywhere near their launch day again. I'll wait for The Division 2 Super Gold Finished edition in a year or two...

      The inevitable, "We fixed the mess it was on launch," bundle.
      It's pretty staggering how routine that process is, now, that the bundle I referred to could apply to pretty much any 'games as a service' title, these days.

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