News that Ubisoft is considering a franchise league for Rainbow Six Siege broke on VPEsports, based off what seems like a single job advertisement posted by the game publishers. According to author Radoslav Kolev, the group is looking for a Senior Esports Manager to execute the “development of strategic business plans for franchise esports programs” as well as “design and implementation and support of owned and partnered esports programs”.
It seems to be a huge leap to go from this single posting to the assumption that Rainbow Six will be franchised, especially with the size of the Ubisoft portfolio overall, but for now we’ll assume that there is a connection and the good folk in Montreal really are thinking about going down the same road that League of Legends, Overwatch and Call of Duty have already embarked upon, and why that is a terribly bad idea.
On the face of things, a game with a crowd-funded, $2m tournament earlier this year would seem the ideal area to experiment with growth, but that event actually paints a false picture of the strength of Rainbow Six esports. The reality is a game that is incredibly top-heavy, dominated by a single org, and lacking the depth to justify such an ambitious expansion.
She sells sanctuary
It’s fair to say that franchising has been nothing more than a semi-successful addition to the esports space despite the claims about it being 'better for owners', with only one game and publisher really making it work at present. That game is, of course, League of Legends, run (with an iron fist) by publishers Riot, and has a few crucial differences to the other main franchise game Overwatch, and the new Call of Duty proposals. For the details, you can read more in our look at the value for money provided here.
One of the problems that Overwatch has faced with their own attempts to sell the franchise model is the fact the esports scene lacked the depth to support an ecosystem below the ‘top tier’ when the franchises were sold, and the deals to put the teams in place actually exacerbated that issue. Even if the OWL were thriving, there would still be an issue with player production due to a lack of real competition outside of Blizzard’s own events, which leads to a reduction in quality long-term.
That lack of depth also applies to Rainbow Six, but in an even more extreme fashion, as the top level is incredibly small by any standards. The Penta team that G2 Esports paid a reported $3m to sign is the best by a considerable distance, with the likes of Evil Geniuses and Team Liquid a distance behind but dominating their own regions for the most part. Below that, the standard falls away even more, with the earnings a great example of the disparity.
According to esportsearnings.com, the G2 team has earned between $250,000 and $300,000 each, depending on their time in the org, and the drop off to the next best after those five is steep to say the least. EG’s Yung and Canadian sit in 6 and 7 respectively, around the $75k mark, with the Team Empire trio of Shockwave, JoyStiCK and ShepparD filling out the top ten, due almost entirely to their second-place finish at the most recent, $2m event in Montreal.
Eyes on the prize
Then you have viewing figures. Due to some great streamers, and the love Shroud has for the game, Rainbow Six has a decent presence on Twitch, but the ration of views to prize money is way off for an elite game. At the Montreal event, with a $2m prize pool, the viewing figures peaked at a sans-China mark of 316,000 people, which is a great number for R6S in isolation.
However, when you compare that to other games it becomes less impressive. The CSGO Major that had half the prize pool got to 1.2m without the Asian audience included, and League of Legends claims more than 30m viewers on a fairly regular basis these days. Even Super Smash Bros Melee hit 195,000 viewers in 2018, for a tournament with a $30,000 prize pool, Evolution. Even Call of Duty, the most expensive franchise league by a distance, has better value, with Worlds paying out $1.5m and attracting 325,000 viewers.
As a game to stream and play, it’s a different story, with very respectable numbers and a consistent level of attention, but that doesn’t translate to the competitive scene, in the same way it doesn’t in Call of Duty. All in all then, right now the franchises would need to be the cheapest in esports, lower than the $8m-$10m that League allegedly charges, to represent good value for any honest investor.
It may be that Ubisoft have done what OWL did, and managed to finagle a method of selling the teams where the owners are happy to pay big initially, with the promise of cash down the line and friendly reporting from big outlets when there is a late payment. If not, the idea of a franchised league is a risky and potentially misguided one, and should be shelved until Siege has a stronger foundation, if that ever occurs.