From a conceptual standpoint, The Division is fairly unique: it is intended to be a loot and level based, third-person, “MMO-lite” shooter set in a modern time frame. In other words, it’s basically a modern, third-person Borderlands. But at the end of the day, all that matters is whether or not a game plays well, not whether it has an interesting premise.
Unfortunately for The Division, there is a bit of a stigma attached to “MMO-lite” games on consoles, most of which can be attributed to Destiny. After all, they are similar games in theory, even if not in practice. And who can blame people for being skeptical over promises that carry little weight until the actual game comes out?
Fortunately, it seems like Ubisoft is aware of the problems that caused portions of Destiny’s audience to drift away to other games, or at least aware of the need to show people that The Division is going to respect the time that they put into it.
What The Division (might be) doing right
Given the fact that The Division pits players against human enemies, it really makes no sense for certain RPG mechanics to be carried over for the sake of preserving some degree of immersion. As a result, it seems as though Ubisoft made the (wise) decision to omit enemies with egregious health pools.
Similarly, Ryan Barnard, one of The Division’s Game Directors, has stated:
“…we don’t want this to become one of those loot-based RPGs where it’s all about gear and there is a ridiculous gap between old and new players.”
While this may drive away portions of the hardcore, “must min-max everything” crowd, such a goal may appeal to those who just want to sit down, play the game for an hour or two, and then do other things — people who are generally accepted to be the target audience when talking about console users.
Throw in the fact that there is PvE matchmaking, and you’ve got a game that can potentially attract (and more importantly, keep) both a casual and dedicated audience from beginning to end.
Are you ready to be underwhelmed?!!!
On the other hand, Ubisoft has been rather quiet in regards to how much content and post-launch support players can expect in The Division. True, there has to be a degree of secrecy when it comes to talking about games that haven’t been released yet, but it is naive to think that Destiny’s “content drought” hasn’t made some potential members of The Division’s audience very skeptical.
Players may also be wary of The Division’s setting, and how it may actually hurt the diversity of content within the game. Make a game based on shooting aliens in space, and there’s a lot more freedom in regards to designing content compared to a game that is based on reality. For example, you know for a fact that there isn’t some kind of super-powerful laser rifle with a rocket launcher attachment that can only be obtained by beating some elite commander in The Division simply because it would be too immersion breaking.
If anything, it is entirely possible that The Division may suffer from being too familiar to people. There are already so many games that have a modern setting. Just like the over-saturation of the WWII shooter market, the modern shooter market has become rather crowded, and The Division isn’t helping in that regard.
On the other hand…
All that Ubisoft has to do is support the game after launch with regular (meaningful) content to keep people happy. Sure, that’s like saying that the President simply has to run an entire nation and keep its entire population reasonably content to be re-elected, but at this point the game mechanics are already set in stone, and if you don’t like how The Division looks or feels, it’s too late to change that now.
After all, multiplayer games like Call of Duty and Halo thrived on consoles because they’re essentially offering unlimited fresh content (let’s face it, no two multiplayer matches are ever exactly the same) that can be played on a whim. The Division may be capable of recreating that experience, but only time can tell.