Ubisoft, developers of popular squad-based FPS Rainbow Six: Siege, seem to be considering a franchised future for their esports titles. Ubisoft’s latest job listing is looking for a Senior Esports Manager who is 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”.
If Ubisoft implement a franchised esports program for Rainbow Six: Siege, they will join the likes of Riot Games and Blizzard Entertainment who employed such partnerships programs across their main titles. League of Legends led the way with China’s LPL, followed by NA LCS and EU LCS (now LEC) and Blizzard implemented a franchised system for the Overwatch League. Activision’s Call of Duty is also reportedly on the same path.
Based on American traditional sports models, the purpose of these franchised leagues is to ensure long-term stability and profitability for the involved partners. An esport where relegation is a thing means having a slow season can lead to being eliminated from the main league of the game and with that — risk losing sponsorship deals. Franchised leagues also tend to come with some form of revenue sharing, where both the franchises and the game’s developer split income from broadcast deals, merchandise sales, and so on.
Ubisoft already have such revenue sharing system in place for the Rainbow Six Pro League. Through the so-called Pilot Program, Ubisoft sell in-game promotional items with the colors of Pro League teams and these orgs then get a 30% cut from the revenue. The Pilot Program is also used to fund the prize pool of the Six Invitational (Rainbow Six’s world championship event), which exceeded $2.5M for its 2019 edition.
Franchising would therefore be a logical next step for Ubisoft and Rainbow Six. The developers are already working with major esports organizations for their Pro League event, including G2 Esports, Natus Vincere, Fnatic, Evil Geniuses, FaZe Clan, Team Liquid, Ninjas and Pyjamas and Immortals. Many of these also have a franchised presence in other games (Fnatic, Team Liquid and G2 in League of Legends and Immortals in Overwatch) and doubling down on another esport on the rise would make sense. Prize pools in Rainbow Six are still small (with the exception of the Six Invitational), so a franchised, revenue sharing system would mean further financial stability for the involved parties.