Ubisoft recently boasted that the number of people playing Rainbow Six: Siege has almost doubled since launch. That becomes even more impressive when you compare it to The Division; a more recent Ubisoft offering which took less than three months to lose 93% of its players.
With that in mind, here are the lessons that publishers can learn from Siege on how to create a multiplayer-only game that won’t wither and die in a matter of weeks.
Don’t Segregate Your Players
Multiplayer shooters often release with 10-15 maps, with more added later as paid DLC. The problem with this model is that it splits the community into haves and have-nots, and the haves can only play their shiny new maps with other haves.
This creates a cycle of longer matchmaking queue times, leading to players getting bored and moving on to other games, leading to longer queue times, and so on. Few games ever recover once they go into this tailspin.
Take EA’s Titanfall for example. Much like The Division, Titanfall lost most of its players very quickly. When the first batch of new maps released as paid DLC, it divided an already diminished player base.
Ubisoft’s approach with Siege has been to release one new map and two new characters for free at three-month intervals. Every time one of these free updates has dropped, the player count has spiked as players who got bored with the game have been lured back with free content.
Don’t Cut Corners
If you’re making an online multiplayer shooter, particularly one where players can shoot each other through walls, don’t skimp on the anti-cheat system.
You wouldn’t know it if you started playing now, but Rainbow Six: Siege’s PC version was a wild west of aimbots and wallhackers until very recently.
After months of outcry from players wanting a solution, Ubisoft finally implemented the “BattlEye” system as part of the “Skull Rain” update in early August. Since then, over 3800 players have been permanently banned from the servers!
It’s no coincidence that this update saw the biggest spike in player numbers since the game’s release. Many people who gave up on the game out of frustration with the rampant cheating problem have come back into the fold.
Use Microtransactions Responsibly
“Releasing free content and implementing a competent anti-cheat is all very well,” says a hypothetical publisher, “but those things cost money. What’s in it for us?”
I’m glad you asked, Hypothetical Publisher; this is where responsible and unintrusive use of microtransactions comes in. Microtransactions have never made a game better, but Ubisoft has shown that when used with restraint, they needn’t make a game worse.
In Siege, the items you can buy with real money are purely cosmetic (custom headgear, weapon skins etc.). No player can gain an advantage by lightening their wallet, but it means Ubisoft can continue to make money from the game post-release without having to charge for new maps and characters.
The more players, the more profitable this approach becomes. It’s in the publisher’s interest to spend money on making sure the game retains its player base, rather than focusing solely on selling as many copies as possible and then moving straight on to the sequel.
Rainbow Six: Siege’s road to success hasn’t been the smoothest, but Ubisoft are now reaping the rewards for their commitment to the game’s long-term health. This consumer-friendly approach is why Siege has survived and thrived where many bigger budget games have run out of steam.