Rainbow Six: Siege is the newest competitive gaming craze. What are the reasons for its recent breakthrough and what are its prospects for long-term successful in the world of eSports?
Since hitting the market more than two years ago, the latest installment of "Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six" game franchise, which It draws its prime inspiration from traditional first-person shooters has developed a solid fan base.
Sometimes the player needs to disable a bomb, or a room needs to be captured or a hostage extracted. While this sounds an awful lot like a copy of Counter-Strike, it is much more complex with a wide variety of characters (called operators), who bring their own unique abilities to the table.
This makes for a gameplay experience that comes close to other eSports titles like League of Legends or Dota, but with guns, grenades and a first-person perspective. Every couple of months the game receives a major update with new playable characters who further expand on the tactical aspect of the game and make the strategical approach just as important as the player's shooting abilities.
"Rainbow Six combines many aspects you'd see in other games into one seamless experience: Characters with different storylines and abilities that tailor to your own playstyle and to a combination of operators that are proficient at certain tasks both on attack and defense," explained eSports commentator Ghassan "MiloshTheMedic" Finge.
A breakthrough in eSports
With a Pro League that is spanning three seasons each year and an annual super-event called the "Six Invitational," eSports clubs were drawn to the game early on. While the viewership numbers initially struggled to get going, the 2018 Six Invitational in Montreal set records for the game. The Grand Finals had a peak viewership of over 300,000, which put Siege on the eSports map next to other big titles such as Hearthstone or Rocket League.
Along with this boom in viewers came a rise in the number of players as well. On the gaming distribution platform "Steam," the game recorded a peak of 176,000 concurrent players after the launch of the newest update, Operation Chimera. Of course, these statistics do not compare to the likes of Counter-Strike or Dota, which boast well over 300,000 players at any time of day, but nonetheless the game has inserted itself firmly into the top five on that platform.
Many factors are responsible for the game's recent success. However, a lot can be attributed to the dedication of the developer, Ubisoft.
"The game has been successful in the past year due to constant updates and improvements on the part of the developer team at Ubisoft, but also a combination of professional level play in Pro League showing what the best can accomplish in such a tactical team-based game," Ghassan said.
The difficulty of the game makes it particularly suitable for eSports. Many gamers criticize the "skill ceiling" of other titles such as Overwatch, in which some core components are widely seen as being too easy to master. In comparison, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has got such a vital player base, because even five years after the game was released, players are still finding new ways to beat their opponents.
Keeping the players on their toes is imperative when it comes to tying them to a game, but Ubisoft made a mistake when it recently introduced a new operator. His special ability was too strong, allowing him to dominate the game in an instant. However, the developers were quick to respond, issuing adjustments to render his playmaking abilities less overpowering in comparison to the other characters in the game.
The roadmap for 2018
Can Rainbow Six: Siege sustain its early success in eSports? Ubisoft certainly hopes to make sure it does. Apart from Pro League and the annual Six Invitational, there haven't been a lot of tournaments around for the teams to participate in, but this is bound to change.
Finge is one of the commentators of Pro League,which will be cut down to two seasons per year. The gaps is to be filled by the Challenger League, a second division that offers an easy path into the biggest tournaments of the game.
"Ubisoft has released its roadmap for Rainbow Six and the Pro League, having signed a 2.5 year extension on it and added more regional tournaments and events set around the circuit," Finge said. "For viewers and fans of Six Invitational, the Paris Major in the summer will be the next big event outside of the Pro League Finals in May."
DreamHack, a renowned tournament organizer, has announced that it is to regularly feature the game in its upcoming events. The game is also to feature in a second super-event, the Six Paris Major, which is to be held in France in early August.
The player base for Siege is continuing to grow, even if this growth hasn't been nearly as steep or explosive as for games such as Overwatch. The title is gradually making a name for itself as an eSport and should be around for quite some time.