What reaching 25 million users says about Rainbow Six Siege and games-as-a-service

Siege is an outlier, and one the publishing giants can learn from

Ubisoft has announced that two years after launch, Rainbow Six Siege has over 25 million registered players.

Now entering its third year, Ubisoft has lined-up more content to prolong the life of the game for another season, proving that games-as-a-service can be done properly in the AAA space.

When Siege launched at the tail end of 2015, critics took the game to task over its threadbare offerings, which featured a single PvP mode, no campaign, and only a handful of maps, not to mention a litany of bugs.

Since then, however, many of the criticisms have been dealt with and Siege has held a regular spot in the UK top 20.

What's especially interesting about the success of Siege is how quiet it's been. With each competitor that shambles onto the market, whether that be Star Wars Battlefront II or the latest addition to the monolithic Call of Duty franchise, Siege has rarely attracted the same level of controversy, despite employing the most common games-as-as-service monetisation techniques.

With games-as-a-service reportedly having tripled the value of the industry, and EA looking to replace annual sports games with live services, has Ubisoft laid out the framework for how to do it right?

"Player investment has been core to the success of the game with longevity being always very important to us. As the game progressed, we continued to develop it with the community in mind," said Alexandre Remy, Rainbow Six Siege brand director in a statement.

A community-centric approach is the obvious answer to increasing the longevity of any game. Over recent months, we've seen a great deal of discussion around finding the "sweet spot" for monetisation techniques, and we've also seen the fallout of what happens when communities feel disrespected. Loot boxes and season pass DLC can work, Siege has demonstrated that, but striking that delicate balance is something publishers have long struggled with, and continue to do so.

That said, it's important to consider the particular niche that Siege operates in. Yes, it's a competitive online shooter, but unlike many of its contemporaries, it's a much more strategic and team-focused affair. While there is definitely a crossover between Call of Duty players and Siege players, the latter has a niche appeal the former cannot possibly hope to replicate without disenfranchising its mainstream audience.

The likes of Activision and EA can certainly learn from Ubisoft's approach to games-as-a-service. With no immediate Siege sequel on the horizon, a further cash investment into the game is a relatively easy thing for consumers to justify.

However, when players know that the life of a game will be artificially shortened by an annual release, rather than extended by DLC, it becomes difficult to rationalise spending anything above the $60 entry price, especially when the monetisation techniques are perceived to be so aggressive.

Ubisoft is not the only publisher to have successfully implemented these techniques with minimal backlash. Blizzard, for example, kept its hands relatively clean with Overwatch and only recently got caught-up in the Belgian Gambling Commission's investigation which mainly cast its attention towards Star Wars Battlefront II.

But with Siege, Ubisoft has employed the delicate and reasoned approach that's been missing from the industry's clumsy, heavy-handed adoption of the games-as-a-service model. As a result, the two-year-old game boasts a large, dedicated community that numbers in the millions and is willing to spend.

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Latest comments (4)

Donald Designer / Game Developer, Satsuma Droid2 years ago
Reaching 25 mil is about gameplay selling everything else, not about games as a service. Without the key technology of Siege, the environmental destruction tech, Siege is just another MP shooter. Dont miss the forest for the trees. Ubisoft had little to do with that decision, it was the heroic efforts of hard working devs that found this approach to shooters and succeeded despite mismanagement and interference from out of touch brand suits.
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Ian Griffiths Product Owner, Hutch2 years ago
@Donald: When the game came out it had pretty meager review scores. It's only games-as-a-service that allow games to be constantly developed to where they can become so popular. I think it's unlikely that Ubisoft didn't have a hand in this game's success, it takes a lot of people to make a thing like this work.
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Donald Designer / Game Developer, Satsuma Droid2 years ago
Obviously, Ubisoft paid for it and shipped it, so in that sense they had a 'hand'. But don't make the mistake of assuming that management planned it all out this way, the truth is the success of Siege is largely a mystery to Ubi execs and was not at all anticipated. It had none of the boxes that they usual tick off for their titles, such as single player campaign, story, open world grind, all the usual stock elements of Ubi games they repeat at nauseam. They have largely been playing catch up and, based on the flow of cash into the franchise which they did not plan for. Do not minimize the role of good game design in confounding the expectations and assumptions of fossilized corporate group think.
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Donald Designer / Game Developer, Satsuma Droid2 years ago
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