Triple-A studios take a lot of criticism for their monetisation practices. The current crop of blockbuster titles all have their own post-launch plans: mission packs, skins, in-game currency, new multiplayer modes, additional areas and season passes that bundle all of that together while chipping a miniscule figure off the total price. But in Rainbow Six Siege lies the antidote to the unending wave of DLC detritus that’s being dangled in front of gamers.
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With its R6 Credit Packs, purchasable Operators and innumerable aesthetic add-ons, Rainbow Six Siege at first glance appears to be a particularly awful offender. But nearly everything on the game’s store is purchasable with Renown, which you earn plenty of from playing the game and completing Ubisoft Club challenges. Of course it involves some grinding, but so does any multiplayer progression system, and the only items that give any form of gameplay advantage are cheap enough that you can purchase one or two after every match. New Operators are significantly more expensive, requiring roughly 20 hours of gameplay each to unlock, putting them out of reach of casual players but still very attainable for anyone putting ten hours a week into the game. Double and Triple Renown events make this even easier to overcome.
Each release of new Operator sets also ushers in a new map, but these are made available to everyone for free, ensuring the player base is never split up across DLC-centric playlists. A free content shake-up also comes to the game in the middle of each season, rolling out significant additions to Operators such as weapon and equipment changes. Even Ubisoft Club events routinely offer up exclusive rewards like unique weapon Charms that can only be attained by completing one-time challenges.
So what do you get from the pricey Season Pass that you can’t just earn through gameplay? A few exclusive weapon skins, some R6 credits and 7-day early access to each season's new Operators. It’s one of the least essential season passes around, and that’s a good thing.
The post-launch support for Rainbow Six Siege hasn’t just been skewed towards Season Pass owners and microtransaction-hungry players, it’s offered plenty to the players who haven’t dipped back into their wallets since launch. That commitment to every cross-section of their audience has earned Ubisoft a great deal of goodwill with Siege’s audience, who through enthusiasm for the game have helped it grow over the past year, so much so that more people play it now than did when it launched.
According to Steam Charts, that’s an increase from an average of 7,941 concurrent players in December 2015, to an average of 15,355 concurrent players this November. It’s not difficult to get a game in Rainbow Six Siege, which isn’t something you can say for most multiplayer shooters a year after release.
And yet, the announcement of a Year 2 Pass still came as something of a surprise. So often we see the same fire-and-forget release format applied to triple-A games: a year of paid DLC followed by total silence. Any remaining signs of life are usually from modders and hackers trying to eke something interesting out of a dying online space. For a lot of franchises, that silence then precedes the announcement of a sequel, thus completing the cycle. We’ve already seen the end of the road for Evolve, Star Wars Battlefront, Fallout 4, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, Just Cause 3 and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
Rainbow Six Siege is the sole game of 2015 with any meaningful content left to announce, and that’s a pretty big deal in an industry that expects players to be over and done with a game within 12 months. That expectation might work for a single player title that has a finite number of systems and potential outcomes for players to explore, but the staying power of multiplayer is potentially much longer, and few publishers are giving their games the support they need to outlive their prescribed sell-by date.
But Rainbow Six Siege’s success isn’t some happy accident, it’s come as the result of careful planning, commitment and attention to detail. Minor updates have helped steady the foundations of the game to the point where it’s essentially bug-free. Harsher penalties for team killing have made it a barren wasteland for prospective griefers, and the addition of BattlEye means that most cheaters are removed from games before they can even make an impact. Balance changes have kept the metagame lively and interesting, and while there’s still fine-tuning work to be done, there isn’t a single overpowered Operator in the game.
Confirmation that Ubisoft are delivering another year of patches and content updates will only attract more people to the game. People who might have held off purchasing Rainbow Six Siege for fear of its community being dead or on the decline now have one less reason not to give it a try. Thanks to that potential longevity - aided further still by the unlikelihood of a sequel coming any time soon - Rainbow Six: Siege is one of the most appealing prospects on the multiplayer FPS market: its community have stuck with it, the developers have stuck with it, and it’s on the rise.
Sure, it’s not going to make a dent in CS:GO’s player count, but it’s managed to establish its own niche in a fiercely competitive genre. A second year of post-launch support only shores up its position, so while some new Operators and maps might not seem like a big deal, it could be all that Rainbow Six Siege needs to cement its reputation as an online game that’s here to stay.
What game of 2016 would you most like to see second-year DLC support for? Let us know in the comments below.