It’s become increasingly clear over the years that games which primarily focus on the multiplayer experience without offering anything significant in the way of single-player should be free-to-play. Prime examples of that include Fortnite, Apex Legends, Valorant and many, many more, so it’s somewhat staggering that Rainbow Six Siege is still a premium game.
Granted, the price for the main game on its own has dropped considerably from the original release back in 2015, with the base game costing around £16/$20 on both PC, Xbox and PlayStation. This isn’t even including the fact that the game is almost always on sale on at least one of the platforms at any one time. The barrier to entry for Siege is a lot lower than it ever has been, but it’s still not free-to-play. The question is: should it be?
Siege right now is pretty much structured like a free-to-play game anyway. Even if you purchase the base game, you still don’t unlock the operators straight away. Players need to earn Renown by either clearing Situations, the single-player missions that are honestly more of a distraction than a genuine reason to play, or by completing co-op and multiplayer missions. You’ll get more Renown for playing online, so it pays to play. Well, play online, at least.
On top of the method of unlocking operators, Siege also features some typical free-to-play trappings, such as seasonal battle passes and an in-game store where players can purchase cosmetic items with real world currency. Considering that players already have to pay for the privilege of playing the game, the fact that there’s extra opportunity to throw money at the game is perhaps too much for some. Siege even includes paid-for boosters, which allow players to increase the amount of Renown and battle pass points they earn per match.
There are more versions of the game that players can buy, including the Deluxe and Operator versions of Rainbow Six Siege, which include additional operators as part of the bundle. The Deluxe edition bundles in the operators from Year 1 & 2, which will be unlocked immediately, while the Operator edition features all the operators from Years 1-6. Again, all the operators available in that bundle are unlocked immediately.
Perhaps the biggest signifier that Siege should go free-to-play is that it’s already a prominent part of a few subscription services. The Ultimate version of Siege is included in the PC version of Ubisoft+, while the Deluxe version of Siege is currently a core multiplayer pillar of Xbox Game Pass. While Siege isn’t available as part of PlayStation Plus Extra or Premium yet, Ubisoft have partnered with Sony to bring Ubisoft+ games to PS Plus. It’s not hard to imagine Siege being next.
While being part of a subscription service isn’t the same as being a straight up free-to-play game, to the layman it functions pretty much the same. Subscriptions work in the background, you don’t have to think about them too much, so when you see new games added to the subscription’s library, you tend to think of them as free.
With all of these different aspects, it feels like Siege should just go free-to-play, and the best time to do it would probably be soon. Ubisoft have confirmed that cross-play across Xbox and PlayStation, along with cross-progression across all platforms, will be making its way to the game during Year 7. Considering how old the game is, cross-play combined with a free-to-play launch would be a great way to ensure a healthy player base for years to come.
However, going free-to-play might not mean too much given how old Siege is. At a certain point, most players who have had some kind of curiosity about the game will have tried it already. The window of opportunity regarding Siege’s growth by going free-to-play is shrinking over time, and given how the game is so readily available via sales or subscription services, it might not be worth anything to make the game free-to-play.
What will be a great litmus test for Siege’s free-to-play viability is the success or failure of Overwatch 2. The hero shooter is re-launching as a free-to-play game, with new heroes and maps, but the hype for OW2 seems to be just a fraction of what the hype was for the original game. This could be due to many factors, but the end result is what’s going to be important Siege’s potential as a free-to-play game.
While it seems like a great idea for Siege to go free-to-play, especially with how most of the game is already structured around established free-to-play-esque monetisation, it’s not clear right now how much growth Siege would actually enjoy from such a move. If there was a time to do it, it’d be when Siege finally adds cross-play for Xbox and PlayStation players, otherwise it might never be worth happening.
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