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For this past weekend’s $500K USD Rainbow Six Siege Six Major Raleigh 2019, Ubisoft chose the North Carolina city for a number of reasons. According to Che Chou, senior director of esports at Ubisoft, the publisher wanted to ensure that it found some balance as it varied the destinations for significant Siege events.
“We looked at a number of cities. One of the philosophies was that we wanted to make sure that as we look at cities to host a Major, that we are distributing the fanfare,” Chou told The Esports Observer at the Six Major Raleigh 2019. “The last big event we did was the U.S. National Finals, and that was in Vegas, so we felt like we wanted to do something on the East Coast to pay tribute to the fans here.”
Chou said that Ubisoft identified cities that it felt were “hungry” for an esports event, and that Raleigh was “very aggressive” in convincing the publisher to host the event there. Raleigh helped subsidize costs for the competition, held at the Raleigh Convention Center, and also provided out-of-house branding for the event.
Chou, who previously served as global franchise lead for Hearthstone esports at Blizzard Entertainment before joining Ubisoft this past January, said that he’s noticed a rise in cities effectively competing to be the best locales for prominent, large-scale esports events.
“They’ve been great partners for us, and I think having been in esports, we’re starting to see a trend where cities are really vying for big esports events to come to their town—to be more associated with that kind of lifestyle,” he said. “In my previous position at Blizzard, we saw a lot of cities—for instance in China—that very much wanted to sort of transform their reputation into being an ‘esports city,’ and it’s heartening to see that it’s starting to happen in the U.S. as well.”
Ubisoft also has a studio, Red Storm Entertainment, based just outside Raleigh in Cary, North Carolina. That provided some built-in tech support and event assistance for the publisher, and while that was ultimately a small point in the grand scheme of things, it only helped to make Raleigh a stronger destination for this year’s event from the company’s standpoint.
“Raleigh was a really nice convergence of all of those things,” added Chou.
Looking Global, Yet Sticking With Montreal
Balancing the spread of events across North America is one thing, but the Rainbow Six Siege esports ecosystem is global. The ESL-hosted Rainbow Six Pro League spans the North American, South American, European, and APAC regions, and the Season IX finals were held in Milan in May, with the Season X finals heading to Tokoname, Japan, this November.
“Rainbow Six is a super-global esport. It’s coming in kind of fresh into this role; I’m really surprised to see a lot of penetration not only in America as a shooter, but also Europe and Asia as well, along with Japan and Brazil,” said Chou. “At a high level, our philosophy for how we want to hold Majors going forward is that we want to be where our fans are, and we want to spread the love around the world. North America gets one right now, Japan’s coming up with the finals, and there’s always Montreal in February [for the Six Invitational].”
As the Rainbow Six Siege ecosystem expands, it’s adding more and more destinations on the map. Alongside the aforementioned events, this year will see a Six Masters event later this month in Melbourne, Australia, as well as a Minor in Croatia this December. As much as Ubisoft wants to “spread the love” far and wide, player demographics may also play a role when determining the most ideal locales for Majors.
“When we look at the future roadmap of where we should have Majors, I think we’re going to be looking very broad at a global level. We do want to bring it to all different parts of the world,” he said. “Whether or not gaming demographics play into that, I mean, sure. For instance, if we feel like we want to do an event in APAC, I think we would look at player populations there to see how many hardcore fans show up.”
As Chou mentioned, Montreal seems to be the one exception to this world-spanning approach, as the Six Invitational—the de facto world championship, which awarded $2M to teams via a partially-crowdfunded prize pool in February—has established a seemingly permanent home there. Siege developer Ubisoft Montreal is also based in the city, so there’s heritage rolled up in the decision. But it also brings to mind annual events like ESL One Katowice and ESL One Cologne, which have each planted a flag in their respective cities and become fixtures on the competitive calendar.
“Right now, in our current system, we have Majors and Minors, and those are fairly well distributed—they’re kind of all over the place, which is great for us,” said Chou. “At the same time, the dev team has done a great job of creating this tradition with Montreal and the Six Invitational that I think now is just a part of the branding of our esport. It feels like the dev team is really passionate about having the event there.”
Wei Yue, product director for Rainbow Six Siege at Ubisoft Montreal, chimed in to affirm Chou’s point, suggesting that there is significant meaning in the locale throughout the competitive community.
“I’d say the Six Invitational each year is really coming back to the birthplace of Rainbow Six Siege. It’s a celebration of not just esports, but also the community and the dev team,” said Yue. “That’s where everything comes back together.”
Check back tomorrow for our continued conversation with Chou and Yue, who spoke about the future of Rainbow Six Siege esports and the newly-announced revenue-share pilot program changes.
Editor’s note: Interview conducted by Trent Murray.
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