Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six: Siege is one of the greatest modern case studies on how to build an esport. Last weekend, the Six Invitational dominated streaming platforms with over 5 million hours watched over the entire event. The year-over-year growth of Rainbow Six is a testament to Ubisoft’s focus on competitive gameplay, willingness to implement community suggestions and focused growth of the esports scene.
A game that was once a distant fourth in the FPS genre behind CS:GO, Overwatch and Call of Duty now see itself rivaling those giant titles. R6 is Ubisoft’s crown esports jewel and is only poised to grow in future years.
“Rainbow is a really weird animal,” said Che Chou, Ubisoft Senior Director of Esports on the Esportz Network Podcast in Spring of 2019. “It’s a very hardcore tactical shooter with an incredibly high skill ceiling but when you look at the community, how they express themselves, it’s very diverse and warm. Coming in as a newcomer to Rainbow, to Ubi, it was eye-opening. This is not your typical shooter community. The passion and engagement was nothing like I have ever seen before.”
At the Six Invitational, one of the Reddit moderators was literally cheered by the crowd according to The Esports Observer. For people who spend a lot of time on esports subreddits, you know what an insane feat that is. Much like Rocket League, this is a community that pulled itself together from being a niche esport into being one of the more impactful titles in the world. According to Chou, a big reason is the developers being willing to try new things and bring in new players.
“As Rainbow has developed as an esport, the dev team has done a remarkable job of evolving the game aesthetics and the game itself to continue to be more accessible,” Chou said. “They’ve gone from military characters to more fantastical elements with some of the new operators.”
While games like Fortnite and Overwatch have struggled with outpacing the casual player, R6 has seen a steady growth of new players while keeping existing players interested in the title. That may sound standard but is actually one of the tougher challenges for esports developers.
Looking towards the future, Ubisoft has announced a regional structure with leagues in North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. The model seems to most closely resemble Riot Games’ League of Legends structure with a more narrowed scope. Still, given the five years since release, R6 is outpacing where League of Legends was at that time.
In these early days of the new decade, Rainbow Six has solidified itself as one of the key esports to watch.
Check out the podcast below with Che Chou that was recorded in May of 2019. Chou had just moved from Activision Blizzard to Ubisoft and we talk about the differences between AB and Ubi, what makes R6 unique and the role that third-party tournament helped play in the formative days of R6 esports.
Article and Podcast by Mitch Reames