On a chilly weekend in February 2020, the perfect Rainbow Six Siege groups on the earth gathered collectively in Montréal, Canada, for the most recent version of the Six Invitational. Followers of the sport flew in from all corners of the world to cheer on their favourite groups, take footage with cosplayers, and join as a group.
In the course of the occasion, Che Chou, Ubisoft senior director, esports, spoke with The Esports Observer about massive plans the corporate had for the way forward for R6 esports. North American groups have been within the means of relocating their gamers to Las Vegas for an in-person league, regional infrastructures have been to be overhauled – it was set to be the largest yr in Rainbow Six Siege esports historical past.
It has now been greater than a yr because the R6 group was capable of come collectively in particular person. The LAN league in North America was placed on maintain shortly earlier than its launch because the world went inside to endure the COVID-19 pandemic. Talking with TEO once more, Chou recollects the tough telephone name he needed to make to staff house owners on that day. “We have been all very disenchanted that we couldn’t fulfill the imaginative and prescient for the LAN league final yr.”
Like most esports, R6 soldiered on all through the pandemic, returning to on-line competitors and canceling any deliberate in-person occasions. Ubisoft remained dedicated to the sport’s regional competitions, however one thing was lacking.
“I feel we had nice manufacturing,” Chou mentioned, “…however we had no worldwide competitions. That’s the lifeblood of Rainbow Six, the regional rivalries. I feel we simply reached regional competitors fatigue – the identical groups enjoying one another many times.”
He famous that worldwide competitors is on the core of esports, and that doing so in-person is a should. “With out the spectacle, with out the power, it’s probably not esports to me.”
The R6 group appears to align with Chou’s view of issues. Earlier this yr, Ubisoft was lastly capable of debut its LAN league for North America. That in-person spectacle and power introduced a surge of viewership to the esport, in line with Chou, with viewership rising 300% in comparison with 2020 and the total Stage 1 of the R6 esports season producing a median minute viewers of 67K.
Now the worldwide part has lastly returned. All week lengthy, groups from the world over have been battling one another in Paris, France, on the 2021 Six Invitational. The occasion was nonetheless pressured out of its Canadian residence and regular February date because of the pandemic, however the competitors has been no much less fierce in Could. Chou famous that this iteration of the occasion has seen stunning upsets and an elevated degree of competitors from new areas.
Whereas the yr with out reside occasions was a problem, Che famous that it got here with some vital classes as properly. The complicated nature of working a aggressive ecosystem introduced residence the symbiotic nature of the connection between publishers and the groups competing of their leagues. “Ubisoft and the professional groups, we’re in a partnership. League selections, league improvement, it’s not simply purely me or purely Ubisoft. It’s mixed with all the professional groups which can be enjoying. One of many issues that I actually worth now’s the dialogue now we have with groups. We have now month-to-month calls with them…as a result of what we’ve realized is that if you don’t do this, issues come up, and that they’re stakeholders on this enterprise and so we have to make them really feel included.”
Chou described the final yr as studying this lesson in a “trial by hearth.” As a result of always altering nature of the pandemic disaster, Ubisoft needed to make many choices on the fly, and would sometimes notice after the truth that a choice might have been made higher had the corporate consulted extra with professional groups. “Powerful classes, however I feel going ahead now we have a extremely good relationship with the groups now.”
A core a part of constructing that relationship has been R6 Share – a sturdy revenue-sharing program launched final yr which gives 40 groups from around the globe with a stake within the sale of themed in-game gadgets.
“R6 Share is critically vital to the ecosystem of Rainbow 6. Groups clearly respect it, however what we’re seeing is that audiences additionally like it. These skins do very properly, I feel as a result of gamers simply like to have them…they simply do properly as merchandise.”
Regardless of the obvious success of those merchandise in Rainbow Six Siege, these types of revenue-sharing packages stay one thing of a rarity in esports. Till this yr, outdoors of its monumental prize pool Dota 2’s battle go didn’t directly support esports teams. Apex Legends lately introduced a crowdfunded prize pool program, however there have been no accompanying staff skins. Exterior of franchise programs, most esports present few direct strategies for groups to generate income outdoors of event prize winnings. To Chou, nevertheless, such initiatives are the pure evolution of a sport dedicated to esports competitors.
“To me, it comes all the way down to the dedication of the dev staff that began Rainbow Six Siege. That dedication out the gate was ‘we need to make a hyper-competitive sport that’s esports-ready.’ Extrapolate that imaginative and prescient out, and it will make sense logically that you’d arrive on the conclusion that you could assist the groups which can be enjoying your sport. If you wish to decide to esports, then that’s only a needed step that you just notice in some unspecified time in the future – that it’s a symbiotic relationship.”