How the ESL UK Premiership is shaping the UK Siege scene
We talk with figures involved in the competition about its impact.
The ESL UK Premiership for Rainbow Six: Siege has already proved that there's a market in the UK for Rainbow Six esports, as we saw when we attended the finals in Leicester back in March, and as of September 12 the Winter season has started, which hopes to keep building upon the success ESL UK and Ubisoft has had with the first season.
After all, Team Enyx proved that they have the talent when they defeated 1UP Esports back in March during the previous finals in Leicester, providing fans at the ESL One Studio with plenty of excitement to match the occasion. As we get into this new season and expect even more thrills, we've spoken to some of the top names involved with the competition to hear their thoughts.
"Siege is extremely important to us here at ESL UK," said ESL Premiership product manager Will Attwood. "We are proud to be supporting one of the most dedicated communities we've seen in the UK in a long time. The game and its community are going from strength to strength, as we've seen with Team Secret in the Pro League, also playing here in the Premiership. We believe there is top quality talent out there in the UK and Ireland and we are excited to see who will shine through next year after a very successful 2018."
With ESL UK's support, this gives players like Team Secret's Matthew 'Meepey' Sharples the chance to play in LAN tournaments for valuable experience, which in turn can lead to future opportunities down the line.
"Siege has a lot of online tournaments and some of them lead to offline events," he explained. My teammates are my friends and getting the opportunity to see them in person again is something that I won't pass up on. Also, LAN experience is something very valuable and our goal ultimately is to make it to LAN."
"We always want to help foster growth in local communities," Attwood added. "Rainbow Six Siege has been a perfect opportunity for both us and Ubisoft UK to work together to help continue the growth by putting on regular semi-professional competition and more for the title, which is growing year on year as the game evolves into one of the biggest worldwide esports titles."
If you've taken even a cursory glance at the UK's esports you'll have noticed that it's not nearly as developed as other areas like Korea, the Nordics, and even the US, which makes ESL UK one of the key players in developing the scene. It's not just about the playing either, as it also gives casters the chance to shine too, as Attwood explains:
"It's one of the main reasons we are here! The Premiership was created to help the UK and Irish esports scenes grow and also to give opportunities to the biggest talents in ways we didn't have 5 years ago. We've seen some great players come through but it's not just the playing talent that is shining, with Harry "Demo" Dempster casting at the Siege Major in Paris and our observer going to Dreamhack!
"We hope to be the focal point for Siege in the UK and Ireland. We want teams to want to compete in, and win, the Premiership and I think we see that desire already. Long term we are working on creating a sustainable ecosystem for Rainbow Six Siege where players can start their esports journey in our community cups (esl.im/R6SUK) and then hone their skills to take on the best regional players before making the step up to Pro League. Everything starts with the grassroots, and moving into 2019 we're looking at how we can get more people playing competitively."
As Attwood explains, Demo is one of the casters who has seen the benefits of participating in the ESL UK tournament, and he agrees that this is an incredibly important competition for the UK players right now:
"The premiership is the new life and soul for every UK player aiming to get to that professional standard. For a long time the PC scene had nothing that a UK player could attend locally so having our own league that anyone from the UK scene can qualify for, be it at a beginner level to a semi-professional level it is easily feasible for a team which puts the effort in and has that desire to win."
Despite the competition hosting Xbox One competitors earlier this year, in the Winter season the switch has been made to PC-only. It might seem odd to some to restrict things like this, but in fact it lines the competition up with the level that the international circuit (the Pro League) is at, as well as competitions in other countries.
"The Premiership is hugely important to us and represents the pinnacle of our local competition for Siege so far," Ubisoft's Chris Place explained. "We started from scratch last year and quickly saw the fruits of our successful partnership with ESL with a fantastic showcase of local talent at the UK Premiership in March. This time around we've increased our Premiership capacity to two seasons over the course of six months and have moved the competition to PC. This marks a significant step forward for us by serving to create a pathway from grassroots through to semi-pro level for UK players."
Attwood also explained that the shift to PC "allows the players to gain the correct exposure on the shifted competitive standard platform so they have a much more clear and defined path into becoming a professional."
We know that the Premiership is important for those involved then, and was set up to help nurture grassroots esports in the UK and Ireland, but the real test comes with assessing its impact, which is already visible.
"This year we've seen British players in the Pro League for the first time and hope to see more and more talented players rise up through the ranks from local to global level in the coming years," Place said.
"Currently this has been the best scene the UK has ever had; having our first ever UK league on PC, from the abundance of players in the UK scene and of course the presence of Team Secret hosting the only three UK players in the Professional League," Demo added. "The UK scene has really flourished since even this time last year with more and more people getting into the competitive side of things, which really does show when we see how many people are invested into watching the current season of the ESL Premiership."
There's clearly a taste for Rainbow Six: Siege in the UK community then, as shown by the fact that the ESL One Studio in Leicester was sold out for the finals back in March, but the innovations aren't stopping with the changes made here though.
"The fans have been great and we're starting to see a strong dedicated audience tuning in week in week out as well as getting involved on social media; we've got some cool plans for some fan engagement coming up soon and hope to grow that going forward," Attwood said.
You can keep up with the ongoing Premiership competition on ESL UK's channels, and it remains to be seen if it'll continue to remain popular in the coming months and into 2019. For now though, it's proved a success, and has shown yet again that Siege is a game to watch in the esports space.