Why the next Division game is going mobile

The Division: Resurgence
(Image credit: Ubisoft)

The Division Resurgence is an ambitious undertaking. It's The Division as we know it – a robust action-role-player with tactical combat, looting, shooting, and the general chaos tied to urban dystopia – but for mobile devices. It's an offshoot of the main series' timeline, it's free-to-play, includes microtransactions, and, according to the game's executive producer, Fabrice Navrez, aims to be a "benchmark" for mobile games moving forward. 

"We've been cooking The Division Resurgence for a long time," says Navrez. "It's a very ambitious game. It's followed the same timeline as a classic console game. We have the same constraints, the same challenges to make it work and play smoothly. We've done everything in our power to make a genuine Division game, but in the form of a mobile game – something that feels the same despite the obvious differences in hardware. We've also spent a lot of time making sure it's consistent with The Division and The Division 2's stories, so that existing players are discovering something new, while newcomers also have plenty to enjoy."

No divisions

The Division: Resurgence

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

In doing so, Navrez says packing The Division Resurgence's reveal trailer with in-game footage was a key part of presenting it to the world. With each passing console generation, or the rollout of the latest high-powered graphics cards, players expect new visuals and effects in-line with advancements in hardware. And while we're made aware of the latest Apple or Android phones' new features and quirks ahead of each annual release, the same marketing rarely extends to mobile gaming at any length. In a spectrum otherwise dominated by the likes of Pokemon Go, Subway Surfers, and Clash of Clans, PUBG Mobile burst onto the scene in August last year, and is now the most-played mobile game worldwide. Whether or not The Division Resurgence can carve itself a slice of that pie remains to be seen, but Ubisoft clearly wants its incoming project to shake things up in this space. 

Navrez adds: "I've worked on mobile games for a long time, and, personally, what I love about the platform is its scope to touch a large pool of players. Everyone has a smartphone these days, you can bring your entertainment, your universe to a large pool of people that would not necessarily have the chance to play it on console or PC – and this outlook is at the core of the mobile division at Ubisoft. "

"Coming back to The Division itself, we think it's the right time to bring this type of game to the mobile market, one that can be slower paced at times, it's third-person, and it's convenient to play on a smaller screen and with a touchpad. With free-to-play itself, it comes back to having no barriers, no friction to play and enjoy the game. And behind this, it's crucial that the game is fully-accessible and fair to everyone, whatever pace they play the game or how they consume it."

Unity and accountability

The Division: Resurgence

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

"If we don't listen to the community, and if we don't act upon their feedback, then we're going to have a hard time".

As a free-to-play mobile game, it's impossible to talk about access and playing fairly without discussing micro-transactions. Navrez says he and his peers plan to reveal more about the specifics of monetization as it applies to The Division Resurgence in due course, but stressed that listening to the game's community, and adapting to its needs will be crucial. James Berry, the game's community developer, couldn't agree more. He says: "I feel like I'm biased, because the whole reason I'm here is to listen to the community. That said, I'd always felt that a game might be built by developers, but the beating heart of any game is its community. So, if we don't listen to the community, and if we don't act upon their feedback, then we're going to have a hard time. For me, the community is a core pillar in creating a game for the future."

Berry adds that monetization is and will continue to be an ongoing topic of conversation behind the scenes, not just among the devs but also among the community in its earliest stages. As a mobile game, The Division Resurgence, by Berry's reckoning, will inevitably attract players less keen on sinking chunks of time into the game in one sitting; as well as those with a penchant for customization.

The Division Resurgence

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

"I'm actually still amazed by it, personally. Like, wow, we can do that, that's cool."

Again, striking a fair balance between all types of players will remain key throughout this process – something which Navrez believes is potentially easier to manage in the mobile space. Navrez describes smartphones as a "flexible" platform, and the free-to-play model as one which affords "instant" feedback from players. Given the fact that The Division is an established series, with a playerbase who already know what they want from these games, means Navrez and the rest of the Resurgence team have a better  sense of player expectations, even in these early stages. And it's all of this combined that has Navrez et al pushing for that coveted 'benchmark' status. 

"Mobile devices are more and more powerful, that's easy to see," Navrez adds. "But with The Division Resurgence, I think it will be the benchmark in terms of quality. It's really impressive what the team has managed to pull off on a mobile phone – I'm actually still amazed by it, personally. Like, wow, we can do that, that's cool. Today, mobile is a legit gaming platform, which I don't think was the feeling 10, maybe even five years ago. That's the big switch that we're seeing now. And in the interest of making the game as approachable to all playstyles as possible, Resurgence will also support controllers if that's how you want to play." 

However you choose to play, assuming The Division Resurgence is pushing your buttons, both Navrez and Berry can't wait to welcome players to the game's upcoming closed alpha playtests – the first stage in gathering that much-sought after player feedback both agree is vital to the long term success of free-to-play mobile games. And for anyone out there who may be interested in The Division, but who isn't quite sold on the idea of a mobile spin-off, Navrez's message is pretty simple: "Download it. Make your own opinion. It's free! We're really doing our best to make a genuine Division game. I love The Division games, I think they're super-cool, and I love the universe. The gameplay is intense, and, soon, you'll have that on your mobile phone. So try it!"

The Division Resurgence is as yet without a solid release date, but we'll keep you posted as and when we hear more on that front.  

The best action games will keep you on the edge of your seat all day long. 

Joe Donnelly

Joe Donnelly is a sports editor from Glasgow and former features editor at GamesRadar+. A mental health advocate, Joe has written about video games and mental health for The Guardian, New Statesman, VICE, PC Gamer and many more, and believes the interactive nature of video games makes them uniquely placed to educate and inform. His book Checkpoint considers the complex intersections of video games and mental health, and was shortlisted for Scotland's National Book of the Year for non-fiction in 2021. As familiar with the streets of Los Santos as he is the west of Scotland, Joe can often be found living his best and worst lives in GTA Online and its PC role-playing scene.