You can't move forward if you keep kneecapping yourself in the name of hype. That's the message that I desperately want to give Ubisoft's Massive Entertainment. This week, Massive Entertainment announced Warlord of New York, the first expansion for The Division 2. The expansion is coming alongside a huge overhaul of the game's gear system and a few returning features from the first game.
It's clear that Warlords of New York is Ubisoft's way of righting the ship in regards to The Division 2's endgame. Fans have complained about the complex gear system, the reliance on heavy RNG to get the gear you want, and missing Division 1 features like global events. It's good that Ubisoft is addressing those complaints, but did we have to be here in the first place?
Massive Entertainment has gone through this song-and-dance before. The Division also had several issues that the studio dutifully tackled over the course of several updates. Eventually, The Division reached Update 1.8, the patch that the community and critics crowed over. With 1.8, The Division was finally worth playing. And then Ubisoft released The Division 2, starting completely from scratch.
Ubisoft isn't the only studio that's done this. Under the umbrella of Activision Blizzard, Bungie released the first Destiny back in 2014. It was generally well-received, but even then there were problems within the fanbase. The storytelling was a bit of a mess, the light leveling system was obtuse, and the loot system put players completely at the mercy of random chance. Then came a number of updates, culminating in The Taken King, which is seen by some to be the pinnacle of Destiny.
But again, Bungie moved on to a sequel. The graphics were better, the environments were new, butBungie made all-new mistakes. 2018's Forsaken expansion fixed a number of problems, but it wasn't as widely lauded at The Taken King. In fact, some players still load up the first Destiny to recapture the magic.
Both The Division and Destiny are technically MMOs. The benefit of the MMO side of thing is players never really stop playing, meaning they never stop engaging or feeding money into your game. But Activision Blizzard and Ubisoft also want the benefit of ongoing AAA releases: the massive launches with all the pomp and circumstance, and the massive sequel number on the cover. The problem is these ideas are frequently at odds with each other. The strength of an MMO is a long line of connection from beginning to end. I've had my mains in World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy 14 for years. If there's ever a World of Warcraft 2, all that will be lost.
Even when a WoW expansion doesn't hit the community that well, many keep playing, waiting out the storm. And if you move from strength to strength like Final Fantasy 14 and Warframe, then the size of your community just keeps growing. Those latter two games are as big as they because the community wasn't left behind with a sequel.
With Destiny 2, there was a character transfer from the first game, but it was limited to bringing over the visual look of your character and a few accomplishments. All the armor and weapons you had previously earned stayed behind. The Division 2 has no transfer option at all. Not only are the developers making new design mistakes or repeating those of the past with the sequels, you also don't get to keep your characters!
There are ways around this. Grinding Gear Games recently announced Path of Exile 2, featuring a brand-new campaign, a new engine, a complete visual rework including physics-based rendering, and brand-new mechanics for the existing character classes. But everything transfers over, even your cosmetics, because Path of Exile 2 is not technically a new game. That's fantastic.
Or there's a model like Phantasy Star Online. I've argued before that Phantasy Star Online 2 is showing its age and that it's probably time for a sequel. The difference is the timeline is looking to be 8-10 years between games, not the three years in-between Destiny/The Division and their sequels. Widening that gap makes the reason for the upgrade more worthwhile, as you're literally changing console generations.
I'm glad that Bungie and Massive Entertainment remain committed to their games, fixing them and updating them with new content. But if they really want to build on what Destiny and the Division are, it's best to keep supporting the current versions. Build upon the foundation that you've patched up and strengthened, instead of starting anew. You can still get the excitement of something new from an expansion or overhaul that carries everything over. There's no reason to tear everything down every few years and start over.
"I don’t have any good announcements to make about the next bold moves we’ll make in the franchise," Bungie studio communications director David 'DeeJ' Dague told PCGamesN when asked about Destiny 3. "Right now our commitment and our attention is to make the seasons that will unfold over the course of the next year interesting and sustain a perennial story arc that will keep players engaged."
To that I say, fantastic. Keep making the right moves and the community will follow and support you. Just say no to sequels (without a sufficient gap of time between them)!