It seems that every major video game publisher wants their own perpetually-updated mega-game that has a post-release content plan longer than a thousand trips around the Earth. The pinnacle of this is Ubisoft, which does everything extra large and appears to be testing the gaming world’s appetite by trying to do this with two similar games at once.
That’s the risk and reward evident in yesterday’s unveiling of the year-one content for Ghost Recon Breakpoint, the Tom Clancy-branded co-op shooter coming in early October that offers both PvP and PvE.
According to Ubisoft’s year-one plan:
It’ll add three new story-expanding episodes that will be released in its first year.
It’ll add co-op raids.
It’ll add a roll-out of three new character classes.
It’ll add new daily and weekly challenges.
It’ll be all the Clancy gaming you could possibly play, right?
Except we’re currently approaching the halfway point of the year-one content for The Division 2, the mid-March Tom Clancy-branded co-op shooter that offers both PvP and PvP.
It’s in the midst of having three new story-expanding episodes released in its first year.
It’s in the midst of adding co-op raids.
It’s in the midst of a roll-out of three of new character classes.
It’s got daily and weekly challenges.
No, these games are not identical. The Division 2 is more of a loot-based cover-based shooter and is set in a partially destroyed Washington, DC. Ghost Recon Breakpoint is more of a tactical stealth shooter and is set on a private island that serves as the headquarters of a high tech weapons maker.
They are, however, both giant-sized Ubisoft games based on the fantasy of being a badass with guns, both third-person adventures set in massive worlds, and both seem to be designed to be as all-consuming of one’s playing time as other contemporary mega-games like Destiny 2, Fortnite, Anthem or even Ubisoft’s own Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which is at least winding down its year-long deluge of post-release add-ons this month.
Perhaps Ubisoft is betting that there are people who have time for both games, or that the games are different enough to attract large but distinct audiences. But there’s also the awkward prospect of one game showing up the other and pulling away its players.
The Division 2’s community has been cranky about the state of that game, with many players hungering for more updates or at least more news about them. A lot of that news tends to be delivered in the development team’s weekly State of the Game livestreams, but those have been on hiatus in August.
The show’s return today was cancelled at the last minute. It’s set to return next week. Tomorrow, Ghost Recon Breakpoint begins a quasi-public beta that is available to people who pre-ordered the game or who registered to be randomly selected to play it. That’ll no doubt further the hype for that Clancy game.
To the extent that Ubisoft does appear to be rolling out two overlapping games, the distinctions will be all the more interesting. The Division 2’s raids, for example, called for eight-player groups and wound up being played by a tiny percentage of the player base. Ghost Recon is promising raids designed for four.
The Division 2 is offering all its story episodes for free, but giving people who pay for a year-one pass the content a week ahead of time (though, bizarrely, they put it on a free test server for PC players before that). Ghost Recon’s team is offering the first hour of each expansion for free, but asking people to pay to play the rest.
The previous games in the Division and Ghost Recon series were given more breathing room thanks to release dates separated by a full year. They probably still competed with each other for players’ attention, but not quite like this.
Is it better or worse for people who play games when a publisher seemingly competes with itself? This is not quite Nintendo trying to sell its American customers Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong Racing in the same year (1997, remember? What? You’re too young?), but is it that far off?