Ubisoft and ESL are launching Xbox One and Windows PC Rainbow Six Pro Leagues.
Ubisoft is gunning for the massive global eSports audience, which research firm Newzoo estimates is over 205 million gamers today. The French game publisher has partnered with ESL and Microsoft to launch the Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Pro League, a new global competition that will debut at Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice, Poland in March. Gamers will compete separately on the new first-person shooter, Rainbow Six Siege, across Xbox One and Windows PC. Each league will have an initial $50,000 prize pool.
David Hiltscher, vice president of gaming communities at ESL, says that no one has ever run an eSports project on this scale on two platforms simultaneously.
“While it is unprecedented, it feels so logical to me for a multi-platform title,” Hiltscher says. “Traditionally, the focus is always on one platform, excluding a significant chunk of the player base.”
Alexandre Remy, brand director at Ubisoft, says with players from both console and PC being able to follow platform-specific competitions and teams, this program has the potential to reach a bigger audience and engage more members of the Rainbow Six community.
This game also gives Microsoft MSFT a popular modern combat shooter to fill in the void of losing Activision’s Call of Duty eSports exclusivity to Sony SNE this year. Microsoft had worked with Activision on the Call of Duty Championship over the last five years, but Sony is now the official partner for that game. Microsoft also has built up eSports around its futuristic shooter, Halo.
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Rainbow Six offers a different gameplay experience for Microsoft, and fans. The team-based game combines tactical planning with shooting as one group of players infiltrates a building to rescue a hostage, while the other team defends that building and the hostage with the latest weapons and gadgets.
“The difference in pacing—it’s slow and tense; the importance of sound, which is key to locate your enemy; and the overall brutality of the firefights —one-shot-one-kill lethality, combine to make Rainbow Six Siege feel different from most shooters on the market,” Remy says. “In the shooter genre, Rainbow Six has carved its place over the past decade with its focus on tactics and team play.”
Remy says Rainbow Six Siege was designed from the ground up for competition with features like the Cast Cam, which allows professional “casters” to follow the action and provide commentary to the live and livestreamed audiences.
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Hiltscher says Rainbow Six Siege matches are more about the tactical approach, the movement on the map, and the coordination between teammates, rather than just moving your crosshair quickly and accurately, or getting to the objective as fast as possible.
“Rounds last longer, and it’s a constant tug of war of positioning, to gain the upper hand once the actual confrontation happens,” Hiltscher says.
This is important in forging a new audience in the growing eSports landscape. One of the fastest-growing titles out there today is Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), which is also a tactical shooter between elite soldiers and terrorists. And on the console front, Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is the leading console eSports shooter.
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SuperData Research CEO Joost van Dreunen says it will be difficult for Ubisoft to displace either Call of Duty or CS:GO as the dominant shooter titles for competitive gaming.
“However, Rainbow Six is a strong enough franchise in its own right that Ubisoft’s focus is likely equally spread between attracting new players and retaining existing fans,” van Dreunen says.
The Rainbow Six franchise dates back to 1998, when the game launched on PC alongside a Rainbow Six book written by Tom Clancy, who also owned the game studio behind the title. Ubisoft now owns that studio, Red Storm Entertainment, as well as the rights to the Tom Clancy brand and all of its games.