Rainbow Six Siege – What the Hell is Going on?

When Xbox Live Gold launched all those years ago, and players subscribed just for multiplayer (regardless of most PC titles requiring the same), few could have envisioned the sheer penetration of the subscription model in today’s world.

Sure enough, we now have Game Pass with its many tiers, Nintendo Switch Online and Expansion Pack, PlayStation Plus and its three tiers, Apple Arcade, Nvidia GeForce Now and EA Play alongside individual subscriptions for games like World of Warcraft, Fortnite, Fallout 76 and so on. This doesn’t count subscriptions to other services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, etc.

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Such is the sheer range of subscriptions that “subscription fatigue” is now a thing. Not that this stops publishers, especially the more self-indulgent ones, from pushing them onto players to make extra revenue. Cue Rainbow Six Siege.

“Wait, Rainbow Six Siege?” you’re probably asking. Yes, Siege, the 2015 PvP tactical first-person shooter. It’s still seeing updates – heck, the franchise is entering Season 2 of Year 9 in terms of content – and is currently one of its publisher’s largest and most successful games. Upon revealing all of the changes and content coming soon, the development team announced the R6 Membership during the recent Manchester Major.

That’s right – for just $10 per month or $80 annually, you can receive the premium Battle Pass with 10 Battle levels, a Bravo Pack (valued at over 4500 Credits), an Epic Operator bundle and a time-limited Legendary. Those who hop in from June 11th to 18th also get an Epic Ash Bundle and 600 Credits as a “thank you for joining early.” As you might expect, the announcement has met with some backlash, to the extent that clips are circulating of Manchester’s audience booing.

There are already comparisons to Fortnite Crew, Epic Games’ monthly subscription service for Fortnite, and the value it provides. It also doesn’t help that the Battle Pass’s cosmetics have leaked and received a relatively mixed response, particularly the weapon skins. For many players, the real issue is the sheer lack of content that the next season, Operation New Blood, is offering.

Rainbow Six Siege - R6 Membership

No new map, weapons or Operators unless you count the “remastered” Recruit – who is getting separate offensive and defensive kits – as “new.” Also, balance adjustments to different Operators and some quality of life changes to Stadiums Alpha and Bravo. At least Attrition Arcade is coming back. Hurray.

All this would feel somewhat underwhelming without the announcement of R6 Membership. However, even if the teams working on balance changes and skins are separate, there’s no denying that management opted to dedicate resources to the service and present it up front as a major new feature. Meanwhile, players see less content and existing issues alongside yet another avenue to pay more money in addition to the existing microtransactions and Premium Battle Passes.

When there’s barely any other content to enjoy over the cosmetics, you can hardly blame players for feeling fleeced. It’s been the case for every live service game over the years, and the development team should have realized this sooner.

Furthermore, it’s not like Rainbow Six Siege is necessarily hurting in terms of revenue and resources either. The publisher’s recent financial report revealed that net bookings had grown by over 50 percent this year while boasting “excellent results in terms of acquisition, activity, viewership and monetization this year.” Session days are up by 38 percent year-on-year, while session days per player are up 24 percent. Everything, from the Marketplace beta to the Rainbow Six Invitational, has been received well by those in charge.

Rainbow Six Siege

Such is the success of Siege that its net bookings stand alongside Assassin’s Creed for its publisher. The peak concurrent player count on Steam isn’t too shabby either, with over 200,000 players on March 17th and a solid 73,587 in the past 24 hours. Even without considering players on Connect and other players, it’s still a solid figure.

If that isn’t enough indication that the game is doing well and very much alive, Redstorm Entertainment’s The Division Heartland was cancelled so it could work on the Rainbow Six franchise. How deeply involved it is with Siege is unknown at this point, but just the fact that the developer has allocated more resources is enough evidence that it sees further opportunities.

So, if it’s doing so well and has the resources, why is the season so barren in content? Why does the development team need to lock content behind a membership to entice players to sign up? Forget about the cadence of content updates – there’s also the question as to why Rainbow Six Siege is making such demands of its players on top of not being free. You can also push for free-to-play-like monetization so much without actually being free-to-play.

Several of these decisions come down to studio management and the leadership above them. The latter has the final say in revenue targets and potentially targeting new avenues to make more money off their player base. Even if Siege is doing exceptionally well, those in charge aren’t just going to sit on their laurels and be satisfied. If anything, it means there’s further opportunity to bleed even more money from players on top of everything else.

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This may only really be the beginning from the publisher – lest we forget, Assassin’s Creed Infinity is in the works and promises a dedicated platform for the series’ content. While not confirmed to offer a subscription, it seems like a foregone conclusion.

Then again, there’s a reason the subscription model is becoming even more pervasive as the years go by. There’s the feeling of exclusivity on top of the value; of receiving so many Credits at such a discount alongside cosmetics that won’t be available otherwise. It’s not always about regular content that fundamentally changes the game for some players, and as unappealing as that sounds, the value of money simply varies to such a degree.

If this is your main game, $10 monthly could feel like nothing, even if you’re dishing out cash for other services like PS Plus and Xbox multiplayer. It all adds up over time, sure, but some measure that in terms of hours of gameplay, be it in terms of value or sunk cost. You’ve already spent so much time with the game and amassed an extensive range of skins and Operators – why not splurge a bit more? You’re not playing anything else, right? Then there’s the pressure of “getting the most” out of the subscription by putting more time in, creating a vicious cycle. But you’re still having fun, right? Besides, even if you hate it and swear to uninstall it, you’ll be back.

Any game that’s doing so well shouldn’t have to resort to such measures when it comes to continually generating revenue, but that’s unfortunately not how leadership thinks. For now, R6 Membership will be yet another revenue stream on top of everything else that it can brag about or spin when the next financial report is out, regardless of the state of the game. Maybe things will improve next season, though. Maybe the development team will consider feedback and reassure fans that it’s committed to addressing core issues while still taking more of their money. Either way, the chances of back-pedalling on this are slim.

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