Written by Andrew Busch // Edited by Nate Bentley // Image courtesy of Ubisoft
Last week in a quiet announcement developer, Ubisoft, pulled a bait and switch on players of Rainbow Six Siege. With gamers expecting the release of new operators and a new map, when a very different announcement appeared the community was not too pleased. Instead of new content Ubisoft revealed that Operation Health would be completely obliterating the second phase of Rainbow Six Siege’s year-two roadmap. Instead of sticking to the formula of releasing two new operators with one new map every three months they would be prioritizing fixing server issues and other technical bugs. Moreover, the game’s newest GROM operators would be spread out over the next two seasons instead of their May release and the new Poland map would be completely canceled.
This sounds like a great idea in theory but by pushing back season two for technical fixes players will have to wait until August for new content. As a regular player on the Central North American server I am worried. Some days matchmaking takes upwards of 20 minutes when searching for a ranked match and sometimes 5-10 minutes for casual games. By delaying the release of the next installment of this season Ubisoft may be hammering nails into the coffin of a beloved game with a relatively dedicated player-base.
Don’t get me wrong Siege is an addictive hardcore shooter but it still does not have enough of a player base to make it a long-lasting project. I had high hopes for this game and I even thought for just a second that it had potential to be a more modern Counterstrike. However, counterstrike at any given time has hundreds of thousands of people online. For example, when I checked the number of players on Counterstrike via the Steam charts on a Thursday afternoon as I was writing this article these were the stats: Current Players 378,641 Peak Today 556,999 5/18/17 at 4:24 PM CST. You can check out these numbers for yourself here.
I know that it is futile to even think about comparing a niche game like Rainbow Six Siege to an industry titan like Counterstrike but the numbers really start to make me wonder if Ubisoft will have a follow-up for season two. On one hand, Counterstrike has what it takes to remain a cornerstone of the FPS genre with an immense player base, highly competitive professional play, and elements like ultra-rare weapon skins that have created entire marketplaces in their wake. Any great game that stands the test of time does not necessarily need each of these components. However, Siege lacks in the most crucial area for any multiplayer game. It fails to maintain a substantial number of loyal players.
Despite this glaring issue Ubisoft has managed to disappoint even their most loyal fans by implementing bug fixes instead of extra DLC to the game. As a result, maintaining players with no new content for seven months is simply impossible because in today’s marketplace players have so many multiplayer shooters to pour their time into. Why choose to play game that is going to remain stagnant?
However, even in the face of criticism, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot released an earnings call transcript for where he talks about the community of Siege and the success generated by the seasonal releases of content each year. He states, “Rainbow Six Siege daily active user reached new record high during the last quarter. As a matter of fact, there is no better place than eSports confirm Rainbow Six Siege great momentum. Season one of year two is indeed seeing an amazing 500% increase in number of views,” (WCCFTECH). It is definitely a positive that there are more active players in the game after the release of DLC content and that more fans are willing to watch Siege’s intense professional scene. However, I wonder if Guillemot will have the same thing to report next quarter after the potential blunder that is Operation Health. Ironically, he also talks about the DLC strategy for Siege as he states, “Thanks to the fact that we have more and more players on Rainbow Six, for example. We don’t want to split the community, so we bring expansion or seasons that are actually growing the number of players, so that we can continue to increase revenue without splitting the community,” (WCCFTECH). Despite these claims it seems that the community is already being split. The decision to release no new DLC creates a rift because players looking forward to the new content will likely choose to play something else for the next several months while only the most devoted fans will continue launching Siege every night.
Even though this situation is not ideal I am still looking forward to the bug fixes that will slowly roll out during Operation Health. But when you invest hundreds of hours into a game despite the toxic community and broken matchmaking system it periodically needs the help of new content to keep things fresh. What I find so frustrating is that Siege has the potential to be one of the best hardcore shooters of all time if its developers make the right decisions. For now all we can do is just sit back and hope that Operation Health does not mark the beginning of the end for this stunning game.