We learned a couple of days ago that Ubisoft Massive is now working on a brand-new game based on James Cameron's Avatar. That led immediately to two thoughts. One, why? And two, what might it mean for the future of The Division, the big-budget online shooter that's already under the stewardship of Massive? Even the timing seemed suspect: The Avatar project appeared on the same day that the final expansion to The Division, Last Stand, and the 1.6 update were released.
It took Ubisoft awhile to put together a response to our inquiries, but today it issued a statement indicating that the projects would have no impact on one another. “Avatar is a new project with its own dedicated team and Massive is currently recruiting top talent to work on it. Avatar’s development has no impact on the team working on The Division or on our plans to continually support and update the game and brand for the long term," it said. "We’re proud of what the team has accomplished with The Division, thankful for our community’s dedication, and looking forward to sharing more about what’s coming next for the game very soon.”
Despite that reassurance, I have to think that The Division is under the gun at least a little. We still don't know anything about the style and scale of the Avatar project, although the involvement of Fox Interactive and James Cameron's own Lightstorm Entertainment production company suggests it will be significant. But that's not the only source of pressure that The Division is up against. Ghost Recon Wildlands, which is just a few weeks out, may be an even bigger factor: It's an MMO-ish multiplayer Tom Clancy shooter too, and if it becomes a major success while The Division is still trying to find its way, I have to think that will factor into Ubisoft's decision making.