Division 2 – Games as a service done right?

Let me set the stage. I’m an older adult gamer. Not an “I’m nearing my expiration date” kind of old, but rather a “some of my kids are also adults” kind of old. When I first got into gaming, the business model was essentially that of a packaged product. Companies told you what they were selling (or in some cases were “allegedly” selling, but I digress), and tried to convince you to part with your cash for it. What you bought was what you got. It didn’t get better or worse, it just was.

A couple of decades later the model shifted a bit towards selling a packaged product but also selling add-ons. These go by many names such as DLC, extras, expansions, etc. Now, when you bought a product there was potential for it to expand later on. There could be new levels, new missions, new characters … or some really swanky horse armor. You got a game up front, with the possibility for optional additions later.

Now, let’s be frank a lot of the time, A LOT goes wrong with this model. You can buy a game that gradually *cough* Evolves *cough* into something completely different from what you paid for, stripping out entire modes and gameplay styles you loved when you bought it. Instead of getting a fully fleshed out experience on day one that will gradually grow into something even more robust, a lot of the time the day one experience is simply bare bones. Look at the Anthems, the Destinies, and the Battlefields for some quick examples: systems that just don’t work at launch, promised modes completely missing until months later (sometimes at additional cost when they do show up), server and/or game instability hampering the play experience, lackluster gear drops, etc. In a lot of cases, the day fans (I’m in this demographic most of the time) pay the price for buying in early; and that price is a game that rests at the intersection of “Decent street”, “Mediocre road”, “Terrible drive”, and “Unplayable alley”. Why is there no exit on this traffic circle anyway?

Lately, there’s been a shift towards a new business model: the so-called games as a service model. In this model, you’re not so much being sold a packaged product as much as you are being sold an idea, a promise, and an experience. You’re sold the idea of what the game may become, a promise that the game you buy will grow and improve, and an experience that will change over time. When this is done well, it’s really something else. It’s, pun completely intended, a bit of a game changer. However, when it’s not done well, all kinds of things can go wrong.

Enter, The Division 2. No, it wasn’t a perfect launch. In decades of gaming, and decades of online gaming, I’ve never seen a launch I’d call perfect. But let me tell you; if more games as a service titles launched like this, there wouldn’t be such a negative stigma attached to the phrase. The game was stable at launch, players could get into the game without issue at launch, the servers were up to the task for *most* players to stay connected without disconnects at launch, the game systems worked at launch … and the content? The game was packed with a story to experience, lore to discover, items to earn, collectibles to gather, skill trees to unlock, extra difficulty modes to unlock, etc. There was single player, there was co-op, there was PVP, and there was a hybrid PVP/PVE mode. There were different tiers of enemies to unlock, each packing more than just better damage and bigger health pools; enemies would be introduced that used different abilities and tactics entirely. Missions would get updated to play differently with different enemy types, different layouts, different objectives, etc.

Put simply, the game was full featured *at launch.* Ubisoft sold a promise, and an experience, but they didn’t just sell an idea. Instead of selling an idea of what could be they actually sold a competent, feature complete, content packed game on day one to launch a games as a service model title. Activision, Bungie, Bioware, EA, take notes. Another agent has joined the team; they have been promoted to team leader.

See you in the DZ. Kenpo signing off.

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