Ubisoft Massive COO Alf Condelius' opening panel discussion at the Sweden Game Conference in Skovde, Sweden caused a stir when he told the audience that making overtly political games is "bad for business."
Speaking about the upcoming The Division 2, Condelius says, "It's a balance because we cannot be openly political in our games." When it comes to The Division Condelius says "it's a dystopian future and there's a lot of interpretations that it's something that we see the current society moving towards, but it's not – it's a fantasy."
Condelius also admits that politics is "also bad for business, unfortunately, if you want the honest truth... but it is interesting and it is a discussion that we have, and it's an ongoing discussion we have with our users, of course, because people want to put an interpretation into the universe that we create and they want to see their own reality in the fantasies that we give them, and the stories that the games are."
The Division 2 is a sequel to the original Division and is a part of Ubisoft's Tom Clancy line of games. The setting was moved from the original's New York City to Washington D.C. where after a virus outbreak the nation's capital has become a militia state with civilians fighting off marauders and the players take the role of the secret Division soldiers fighting against a corrupt government planning to wage a civil war.
The discussions surrounding The Division 2's politics began at the E3 reveal. Given the current political climate there were questions about setting a story in war-torn D.C. but Ubisoft maintained it wasn't trying to make any political stance with The Division 2.
Condelius compares the "fantasy" of Division 2 with the unnamed Avatar game Massive is also working on based on James Cameron's sci-fi universe which does feature some politics. "James Cameron's vision with the movie is that we need to do something as humans because we're going to destroy the world if we continue the way we are [going]," Condelius says. "That is political, but we're not going out and saying you should vote for that person, or you should not do this; but it's a political statement of course, and we think that it's important, but we're not writing it on somebody's nose."
Here's where things get tricky. Leaving aside the idea that somehow civil war-torn Washington D.C. is somehow more fantastical than Cameron's Avatar series, and therefore not conducive to political subtext, is how Condelius contextualizes each game in regards to the original creators.
Cameron, a well-known environmentalist and activist, created Avatar around metaphors of environmentalism. Something Massive believes is important and has incorporated into its upcoming title even without "writing it on somebody's nose." The environmental politics exist in Avatar because Cameron created the films that way.
Tom Clancy, whose name brands The Division series even if it's not based on any of the author's books, was also noted for his political stance and views as a conservative Republican and it was part of both his public persona and his literary work.
That Massive can divest The Division and its U.S. military themes from the Tom Clancy brand has always been a prickly creative choice, not just in The Division, but all of Ubisoft's Tom Clancy titles. And perhaps comparing The Division 2 to Avatar which Condelius admits is political as per the vision of James Cameron seems a little hypocritical and in and itself a political decision. But that'd be bad business.
For more information about The Division 2 we have an Everything We Know guide for the latest info, release date, and more.