Rainbow Six Pilot Program creates controversy as excluded teams leave

Hunter C. July 3, 2019

Big things are happening in the Rainbow Six Siege community, as two EU Pro League rosters were abruptly dropped from their parent organizations over the past two days. 

LeStream and Mousesports have decided to pull their support from Pro League rosters after not making it into Rainbow Six Siege developer Ubisoft’s lucrative revenue sharing Pilot Program. 

Currently, the ex-LeStream roster has the number one spot in EU Pro League, with 12 points after four matches. 

Why did they get dropped if they’ve done so well? Is Ubisoft’s Pilot Program that important, and how does it relate to the future of Rainbow Six Siege as a competitive title?

R6 is not a massive esport. It’s been growing steadily, as shown by big organizations such as Luminosity and TSM picking up NA Pro League rosters. However, it still can’t compete with the massive prize pools and followings of League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Dota 2. 

To help attract esports organizations and brands to R6, Ubisoft announced their “Pilot Program,” in which they would code team-specific operator and weapon skins into the game and give the organizations a significant chunk of ensuing revenues.

For the first flight of skins, Ubisoft chose organizations and operators that have history in R6, resulting in the Evil Geniuses Pilot Program skin that was given to operator Pulse, who EG team captain Troy “Canadian” Jaroslawski has played extensively. 

The skins are widely used in-game and have been rumored to have been profitable for the organizations that were chosen. Due to the massive success of the first series of skins, Ubisoft announced a new phase of the program, which would include more organizations. However, the program would only include 16 total teams, which would leave some pro league brands out. Ubisoft included an application to get into the Pilot Program in the hope that the teams included would help promote their game and competing rosters on social media and generally treat their players well. 

This has led to where we are today, with at least two high-profile organizations, Mousesports and LeStream, bowing out of R6 after not making it into the second round of the program. Mousesports was a part of the first phase, as their Pilot Program set was for the operator Vigil, and is more than likely now discontinued. 

This has led to a discussion that could set the pace for the future of the growing R6 esports community: Does Ubisoft have an obligation to teams to help them out with financial issues by doing a small amount of extra work, or should prospective R6 organizations have to prove that they want to be a part of the community and aren’t just looking for a quick cash grab? 

On the one hand, several teams in R6 have been accused of buying in specifically for the Pilot Program’s benefits. There are unproven rumors that massive organizations like TSM only bought in for the program’s revenues.

On the other hand, R6 isn’t a massive esport, and making one set of skins for one operator for a team doesn’t seem like that much work for the tradeoff of having huge esports brands in your game. These organizations are ultimately businesses first, and if the Pilot Program is that important to them, why wouldn’t Ubisoft just expand it?

There’s no way to tell right now what the correct path forward for Ubisoft is. Teams are pulling out of the scene because they didn’t get into the Pilot Program, and it’s up to the game’s developer to determine how to proceed from here.