Rainbow Six Siege has been around for more than a year now, and after a rockier start than most games has consistently grown in popularity since its release, so much so that at the end of last year publishers Ubisoft announced a second season of DLC for 2017. With that new content now approaching fast, let’s look at why, exactly, Siege has been such a huge success.
Here, right at the height of its popularity, things look rosy for Siege. But this success looked far from assured when the game was released.
Simply put, Siege launched utterly broken. The laundry list of bugs, design issues, and net code instabilities was extensive, even to the point where many believed the game was beyond redemption. It was a particularly tough pill to swallow for fans, especially considering the barebones nature of the release on day one, compounded by the total lack of single player elements.
What actually happened, though, was near to miraculous. Developers Ubisoft Montreal set out a punishing patch release schedule and delivered valiantly on their goal to have the game in a working state within months. It was a problem they should not have had to face, but it was one they eventually surmounted.
This high level of developer support continued well after the game was finally playable, and it is this that has, in part, led to the development of the thriving community that surrounds the Siege today, a community that has made a second season of content possible, something nobody would have believed at launch.
Since the initial teething problems were ironed out, Siege has largely avoided major technical issues, which has certainly helped it lose its buggy reputation, and continue to grow its player base.
But players don’t flock to a game merely because it works; they do so because it’s a compelling experience, and that’s something Siege has been that from the very start.
The core gameplay of either attacking or defending with a team of five special forces operatives is fundamentally enjoyable, and the movement and shooting mechanics are smooth and satisfying. Add to this the tactical flexibility offered by the ability to choose from a bunch of operators, each with their own specialist skills, and the extra dimension the game’s procedurally destructible scenery brings, and the Siege’s strengths really begin to stack up.
It’s the destructible scenery that actually ends up being the game’s ace-in-the-hole. Far from the gimmick it could easily have been, mastering how to utilize the destructible levels becomes more and more crucial to the gameplay experience as your skill level and that of your enemies increases. This, coupled with the peerless sound design, which has you and your teammates constantly on edge, make matches of Siege some of the most tense out there.
A unique proposition
So Siege gets a lot of things right, gameplay-wise, but that in itself isn’t always enough to bring success. Plenty of perfectly good -- sometimes even great -- games are released every year just to disappear into obscurity, simply because they don’t stand out from the crowd.
From the outset, Siege intentionally went a different way and set itself apart from the online shooter masses in such a clever way that it’s hard to think of any other shooter experience, at least currently, that can exactly match its style.
Siege foregoes the current shooter trend for fast-paced, action-packed gameplay, and streamlined tactical control, in favor of tons more tactical nuance, and a more realistic take on warfare. The game heavily rewards the contemplative, considerate player: reports that Siege’s player base is, in general, markedly more mature than the usual shooter audience make a lot of sense.
Whether Ubisoft Montreal set out to court this more mature, more niche audience from the beginning or not, they have certainly found a demographic that loves this type of game now, and have generated a demand for this style of shooter, which they can satisfy with sequels or other franchises in the future.
Born out of its strategic nature, Siege is heavy on team mechanics and this is probably much of the reason its audience seems to skew older. The game emphasizes intricate planning, with the best defensive and offensive plays utilizing each player in their specific role, while making the most of each operator’s specialist skills.
One of the most obvious examples of how Siege emphasizes the team over individuals is post death. As mentioned, once you’re dead in a round, you’re dead until the end of that round. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be useful to the team, far from it. In your post-death state, you still have access to the various cameras placed around the map. As you’re no longer involved in combat, this leaves you free to observe the enemy’s movements and relay that valuable information back to your teammates.
Is it unusual to allow this level of communication between dead and still active players? Of course. Is this yet another way Siege is breaking the mold and offering something unique to its player base? It certainly is.
Both the heavy emphasis on team strategy and the deep tactical slant mean that Siege doesn’t have the level of accessibility that many modern shooters aim for. In fact, its lack of user-friendliness would put off most publishers, fearing that this would limit a game’s potential audience.
Not a trace of that here. Siege fully embraces its complex nature, and its players have too. Apart from the layers of dense strategy, the gameplay itself is particularly punishing too. In keeping with the more realistic tone, you generally only need to take an odd bullet before you hit the ground, and when you do die, you’re out for the round’s duration. No friendly respawns here.
This high skill barrier must surely close the game off to many casual gamers, but it serves to create an insider feel, a sort of private club mentality that is similar to that found in that equally beginner-unfriendly shooter, Counter-Strike (currently in its ‘Global Offensive’ guise). It’s not the only thing it shares with that enduring classic, and that’s by no means a bad thing, especially considering CS:GO’s incredible longevity.
There’s no doubt Ubisoft will have learned much from their experiences with Rainbow Six Siege. After the shambolic launch, somehow the team turned it around, and the game has become an amazing success.
Aside from analyzing the mistakes that were made, though, Ubisoft have gained valuable knowledge on how to kick-start and maintain a thriving community for a game that can then be sustained well after release. Considering how much more profitable this approach is, it’s difficult to imagine Ubisoft not trying to put what they’ve learned to use in replicating it for future titles.
Away from the business side, though, and the real reason why Siege is so well-loved, is that it’s just a great game that dares to be different. Its gamble paid off, it found its audience, and now Ubisoft are reaping the rewards