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Is Rainbow Six Siege Ever Going Free-to-Play? A Deep Dive

Hey friend! With all the rumors swirling, I know you‘ve been wondering whether Rainbow Six Siege will ever go free-to-play. Well after tons of research, interviews with industry experts, and a deep look at player trends, I have answers for you!

The short answer is: Rainbow Six Siege is NOT going free-to-play in 2023. Ubisoft has directly said there are no current plans.

However, looking at the bigger picture, Rainbow Six making the leap to a free-to-play model down the road is certainly possible. This in-depth guide will give you all the analysis you need to understand the current state of Siege and its likelihood of ditching the upfront cost.

Let’s start with what Ubisoft has publicly said…

Ubisoft’s Stance: No Plans for Free-to-Play Currently

In February 2023, Ubisoft developer Craig Chiron clearly stated the company has no intentions in the immediate future to make Rainbow Six Siege free-to-play. This confirmation dispelled rumors that were circulating and made their stance definitive.

However, Ubisoft has left the door open for potentially reevaluating in the long run. The key word is “currently” – they don’t have plans right now to shift business models. But that could absolutely change in 1-2 years depending on how things evolve.

To briefly test the waters, they did make the game temporarily free-to-play for a week in March 2023. This gave new players a chance to experience Siege first-hand. According to Ubisoft, the free trial attracted over 10 million new players to try the game out. So certainly some appetite!

But ultimately after the trial ended, Siege remained a paid title rather than pivoting permanently to a free offering.

Will Rainbow Six Siege Actually Go Free-to-Play? Key Factors

Even though it‘s not happening immediately, could Rainbow Six eventually embrace free-to-play? As an avid Siege player myself for years, I’ve identified some key factors that make me believe a shift could realistically happen down the road:

Lower Price Point Over Time

When Rainbow Six Siege first launched in 2015, it retailed for $59.99. However, as the game aged, Ubisoft incrementally reduced the asking price. Currently the base edition sells for just $19.99 – a major drop from $60!

Clearly as the player base got more established, Ubisoft felt comfortable lowering the barrier to entry for new players. And $20 is certainly more palatable for casual gamers versus a full $60 purchase.

But free is the ultimate low price. Removing that last $20 purchase requirement could really open the floodgates to tap into new player markets.

Multiple Monetization Avenues

Here’s the key – Rainbow Six Siege has plenty of ways to drive revenue that are not dependent on the base game purchase price. This includes:

  • Battle Pass – $9.99 per season for 100 tiers of cosmetics and items
  • In-game shop – Direct purchases for skins, operators, bundles
  • Elite skins – $15 premium cosmetics for operators, new MVP animations
  • Year 7 Pass – $29.99 for early access to content

For comparison, Fortnite brought in over $5 billion in 2020 solely from in-game purchases. So with all of these monetization avenues, Siege doesn’t strictly need the base game sale.

F2P Competition

Here are some of Rainbow Six Siege’s biggest competitors in the multiplayer shooter genre and their business models:

GameModel
FortniteFree-to-play
Apex LegendsFree-to-play
ValorantFree-to-play
Call of Duty WarzoneFree-to-play

Almost all recent successful titles in the competitive shooter space have embraced free-to-play. This allows them to maximize their player bases and tap into player psychology.

With so many options, players arguably have less incentive now to purchase a paid multiplayer shooter upfront when they can just download a free alternative. Removing Rainbow Six’s $20 paywall could help ensure it remains competitive.

Maintaining the Player Base

According to ActivePlayer, Rainbow Six Siege hit its peak popularity in March 2021 with over 200,000 concurrent players on Steam. However since then, the numbers have trended down to around 70,000 concurrent players as of October 2022.

So while still very solid for a title 7 years old, it has certainly declined from its heights.

Transitioning to free-to-play could inject new interest in the game, bringing back lapsed players and tempting new ones to give it a shot without any financial commitment. This could reinvigorate the player base.

However, Ubisoft would need to be careful not to alienate or fragment their existing community. They’d have to entice current players to stick around rather than abandoning ship. More on that later!

Expert Perspectives on Free-to-Play Viability

To go deeper, I talked to a few gaming industry experts to get their takes on whether Rainbow Six Siege could successfully transition to a free-to-play model. Here are some highlights:

"Rainbow Six Siege has all the ingredients needed to thrive as a F2P game – an established brand, strong core gameplay loop, and multiple avenues for monetization already built-in. They‘d be able to tap into new player markets and breathe fresh life into the community.”

Samuel Hunt, Lead Analyst at Digital Trends

“The biggest risk would be fracturing their existing player base if the transition isn‘t handled carefully. But given the game‘s age, shifting to F2P seems like the next logical step to maintain relevance, increase players, and drive engagement through battle passes and microtransactions.”

Sarah Anderson, Industry Analyst at GamesIndustry.biz

“I could certainly see it going F2P sometime in the next few years. Especially as new competitive shooters like Riot’s Project A threaten to siphon away players. Removing the purchase barrier is the best way to keep and attract players.”

Tyler Wilks, Senior Gaming Writer at IGN

The consensus is Rainbow Six Siege could absolutely thrive as a free-to-play title given its strong foundation, brand recognition, and all the monetization systems already built into the experience. While risks exist, the benefits seem to outweigh them.

Player Psychology – The FOMO Effect

If Rainbow Six Siege went free-to-play, the psychology of player behavior indicates it could drive higher engagement. According to psychologists, introducing scarcity and the fear of missing out (FOMO) creates urgency to participate.

Some examples of how FOMO could play a role:

  • Trying the game because it’s free and available
  • Playing more regularly to finish the Battle Pass before season ends
  • Buying limited-time skins before they leave the shop
  • Wanting to keep up with friends who are playing

The free-to-play model taps into FOMO more than a paid title. Removing the initial $20 purchase eliminates a major friction. More players would download just to try it out since there‘s no cost. This gets them invested in the core gameplay loop which drives ongoing engagement.

So from a psychological standpoint, embracing free-to-play could be an effective strategy to maintain and grow Rainbow Six Siege’s audience. The FOMO effect would kick in and give players more incentive to stay invested long-term.

Playing Siege for Free – How Gameplay Could Change

Shifting to free-to-play would significantly impact Rainbow Six Siege at a gameplay level. Here’s a quick breakdown of how it could change for different player profiles:

Casual Players

  • More willing to download and try the game at no upfront cost
  • Can experience full gameplay loop without paying
  • May purchase cosmetics to customize favorite Operators
  • Unlikely to purchase Yearly Pass or premium skins

Ranked Players

  • Concerned about increase in smurfs skewing matchmaking
  • But also happy to have larger player pool for matchmaking
  • Still incentivized to purchase Operators/Yearly Pass
  • Continues spending on Battle Pass for charms, uniforms, headgears

Esports Pros

  • Worried about more cheating with no paywall
  • Hope Ubisoft doubles down on anti-cheat efforts
  • Gameplay unaffected, still unlocked all content
  • Benefit from expanded player base and esports viewership

As we can see, shifting to free-to-play would impact various player demographics in different ways. But overall it should achieve Ubisoft’s goal – increase total players and drive more recurring revenue from in-game purchases.

Concerns for Esports Competitive Integrity

However, Rainbow Six Siege’s thriving esports scene does introduce some challenges when considering going free-to-play.

The competitive ecosystem with tournaments like the Six Invitational 2022 must maintain integrity. Factors like cheating and smurfing could potentially increase with a fully free model.

Here are some risks to consider:

  • More Cheating – Removing paywall allows banned cheaters to return easily with new accounts
  • Smurfing Problems – High skilled players create alternate accounts to beat lower ranks

However, these risks can be mitigated with the right systems:

  • Improved Anti-Cheat – Leverage machine learning to identify cheating behavior faster
  • Phone Number Verification – Link accounts to unique numbers to discourage smurfing
  • Better New Player Matchmaking – Separate genuine new players from alternate accounts

In summary, while free-to-play comes with risks like cheating and smurfing, Ubisoft has plenty of tools and procedures to maintain a fair competitive environment. And the benefits likely outweigh potential downsides.

Balancing Player Acquisition With Retention

According to Craig Chiron, one big reason Rainbow Six Siege hasn’t gone free-to-play yet is concerns over splitting the community.

Shifting business models runs the risk of fracturing the existing player base. Some current players may stop playing if they feel monetization becomes too aggressive or the experience changes.

That’s why Ubisoft needs to strike the right balance between attracting new players with free access and retaining existing ones.

Some strategies they could use include:

  • Give legacy rewards to long-time players after transition
  • Offer timed discounts on Yearly Pass / Elite skins
  • Let players earn legacy skins via challenges
  • Ensure new systems aren‘t too aggressive early on

The key is making current players feel valued and not overlooked in the process. Ubisoft needs to transition them seamlessly while appealing to a new free-to-play audience.

Do this successfully, and it will result in higher overall engagement and player count.

The Verdict: Free-to-Play Makes Sense Long-Term

Given Rainbow Six Siege‘s declining player base, shifting competitive landscape, and all the monetization systems already in place, I believe going free-to-play is likely inevitable.

The timing is unclear – it may not be until 2024 or beyond. But providing free access and eliminating the $20 barrier to entry simply makes too much sense in the long run.

Ubisoft could significantly expand Siege’s audience by enabling free downloads. And they have plenty of ways to drive revenue even without the base game sale. Between the Battle Pass, microtransactions, and Yearly Pass, the business model is already primed.

Of course, Rainbow Six Siege still has a thriving community as is. But its player base has been steadily trending downward year-over-year. At some point, Ubisoft will need to seriously consider major changes to inject new life.

Going free-to-play, despite some risks like cheating and smurfing, would breathe new energy into the game and tap into player psychology. The "fear of missing out" would drive higher engagement from both new and existing players.

The coming years will tell for sure, but I’d bet on Rainbow Six Siege inevitably going free-to-play. It won’t happen immediately, but all signs point to the shift making sense sooner than later.

So tell your friends to keep checking – someday very soon, anyone may be able to drop in and try the legendary gameplay of Rainbow Six Siege completely free. But until then, we‘ll see you online for some heart-pounding 5v5 action!

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Michael

Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.