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History of Rainbow Six esports

Rainbow Six, a series that has evolved so much over the years, it's hard to grasp that it all began as a techno-thriller novel by the master novelist Tom Clancy.

It used to be about a multi-national counter terrorism team at the end of 90s, bringing justice to the bioterrorists, or if you want to delve even deeper the series has morally ambigious themes that delve into the grey area of human vs. nature, Ecocentrism and Deep ecology versus Anthropocentrism.

Well now it’s about esports, nanites and aliens taking over the world.

If there’s one recurring theme that hasn’t been changed since the first Tom Clancy novel that inspired the series, it’s bioweapons though.

With Rainbow Six Extraction hitting the digital shelves and the conclusion of Six Invitational 2022, now is a good time to talk about the history behind Rainbow Six’s esports scene.

What is Rainbow Six

Here’s a quick refreshment for you;

Red Storm Entertainment was formed in 1996 by Tom Clancy, one of the world's best writers and the most well-known figure in the techno-thriller genre.

Then came the concept for a tactical first-person shooter (FPS), which was based on FBI rescue squads at the time. Later, the concept was shelved in lieu of a larger global entity. As a result, the Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six series, or simply Rainbow Six, was born.

In 1998, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six was released. It's the first game in the Rainbow Six franchise, with over 200,000 copies sold. It was first released on PC, then ported to Mac OS, Nintendo 64, PlayStation, Dreamcast, and GameBoy Color.

Rainbow Six follows counter-terrorism squad Rainbow and its elite members from across the world from 1996 to 2000. Director John Clark is in charge of the organisation. Rainbow is dispatched to a series of terrorist strikes perpetrated by the Phoenix Group, a fanatical eco-terrorist group.

Brahma, a highly infectious strain of the Ebola virus, is being developed by the group. They want to release the virus at the Summer Olympics in 2000, with the goal of spreading it to every country on the planet and of course the “good guys” win in the end. Pretty straightforward right.

Well it turned out that us gamers really love to play the role of the good guys that diffuse a very dangerous situation piece by piece like solving a puzzle. It boosted or even kickstarted the whole tactical FPS genre that culminated into the known titles of S.W.A.T. series, Ghost Recon (by Tom Clancy again), and today’s Ready or Not.

Via Ubisoft

Esports

Flashforward to 2017, Rainbow Six has a new vision, It will ditch the hardcore single player tactical shooter aspect and will become the new esports king of the scene, at least that was the theory back in the day. Ubisoft shelved the upcoming game R6: Patriots or rather carried over the plot of Patriots for a better suitable title that is the Legendary Splinter Cell –remember the Double Agent?

Things do not go as expected though.

Infamous Sledge Bug of 2017

The first Six Invitational, the now-annual celebration of enraged men and women with weapons attempting to attack an objective and those who love to stop them, was a modest occasion in 2017 compared to the pomp and circumstance that usually surrounds a Rainbow Six Siege competition.

Ubisoft teamed with ESL to hold a Rainbow Six Siege LAN event in Cologne six months after the game's release. It was a tiny event in comparison to recent events, with only four participating teams and a prize pool of $50,000. The audience was made up of members of the press and event professionals.

It was meant to be the start of Siege's transformation into a full-fledged esport, but that didn't happen. In the first round of the first game between PENTA Sports and VwS Gaming a gamer playing as Sledge discovered that his character's special weapon couldn't smash windows in the very first battle. Sledge's inability to utilise his weapon was a major problem because he was one of the most popular operators at the time, and also it was a live LAN event with money on the line and thousands watching.

"The first round, the first action we see on screen is actually indeed the infamous Sledge bug. At that moment, it felt like a tragedy because that was, again, that first action, first game, our first final ever, and a bug happened.” – Brand Director of Rainbow Six Siege Alexandre Remy.

The massive screw up, also known as the first Siege Invitational, in full 720p quality.

The event was eventually restarted with a gentleman's agreement between teams that they may utilise Sledge as long as they did not use his hammer. However, as you might expect, the harm had already been done. Things were not looking bright for Siege esports after such a dismal first performance.

Recovery and the rise of Rainbow Six Siege

Rainbow Six Siege's ability to come back from the brink is largely due to Ubisoft Montreal's unwavering backing. The game was constantly patched and updated by the makers. Rainbow Six: Siege witnessed gradually growing player counts under Ubisoft's subscription model over the course of three years from its debut in 2015, reaching 40 million registered players by 2018.

Via siege.gg

In addition to bug patches, Ubisoft Montreal added new features to Rainbow Six Siege, including an auto-kick option for players who murder teammates, anti-cheat software, and an active ban on players who use homophobic or racial insults to reduce toxicity. They began by improving the gameplay experience, then the community, and lastly the esports side of things.

LATAM to the rescue

As the second season began, the Xbox side of things was dropped in favour of focusing on PC, the LATAM region became a permanent fixture in the Pro League alongside NA and EU, and viewership continued to rise. The end-of-season LAN tournaments had bigger prize pools and were held in non-ESL studios like Gamescom and a Brazilian esports venue. Ubisoft was not backing away from its ambition to make it a big esports title, and the interest from the South American countries catapulted the game into an esports title that we all know.

Throughout the second year, several of the world's largest esports organisations had dedicated Siege teams: Famous teams like Evil Geniuses, FaZe Clan, and Team Liquid brought in a large number of new fans. Rainbow Six Siege’s esports was just getting started.

Rainbow Six Siege has recovered and found success as an esport despite a very poor beginning compared to its peers. After a sluggish start, the prize pool for the 2020 Invitational has expanded to a whopping $3 million and it still remains so as of 2022.

Winners of Six Invitational 2022, Team TSM via Ubisoft

Before live streaming and the black hole that is the daily uploads on Youtube, Counter-Strike and Call of Duty exploded in popularity and dominated the esports' FPS scene.

R6 success proved that the scene isn't a monopoly, but always in thirst for a new formula.

Several times, game director Alexandre Remy has said that Siege is not intended to be a standalone series, and that no sequels are planned.  The initial idea was for ten years of content and 100 operators, but it turned out there's space for alien invaders in the franchise.

Is Rainbow Six dying?

It's already one of Ubisoft's most popular games, with 70 million players and almost 200k concurrent players in 2021 on Steam, yet there’s a discrepancy in numbers between its players and watchers:

Since H2 2021, the viewership has begun to wane, as seen by the current Rainbow Six Siege 2022. In January 2022, the game is ranked #22 on Steam, after spending more than a year in the top 10. People are also less interested in watching the game on Twitch, with the game's ranking dropping from #10 in 2021 to #44 in January 2022, indicating that the audience might be abandoning the game in Q1 2022.

Siege and its developing esports industry appear to be here to stay a while, thanks to quarterly season upgrades and a dedication to the competitive environment. But developers need to freshen up their game instead of making it more arcadey, or making L4D clones under a different name.

For more esports news and encounters, stay tuned on our news page.

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