Ubisoft's Brilliant Commitment to Free DLC and Games as a Service

by Matthew Hayes

Ubisoft's VP of live operations Anne Blondel-Jouin has had a brilliant revelation - something that developers and publishers everywhere need to pay attention to and adopt themselves: "No more DLC that you have to buy if you want to have the full experience. You have the game, and if you want to expand it - depending on how you want to experience the game - you're free to buy it, or not."

Anne shared her insights in a recent interview with gamesindustry.biz following the recent successful launch of the last bit of season one DLC for Rainbow Six Siege. The way DLC works in Siege is a bit different compared to competitors like Call of Duty and Battlefield. When a new map and new operators are released, the player-base is not divided. All players have access to every map, and even the premium operators can be had without spending any money if you're willing to grind for in-game currency.

Anne believes that by continuing to provide new content as a service, and not locking out those who don't want to pay extra, that players will continue to stay engaged over the long haul. That's important for Ubisoft, as it recently revealed that it wants to support its games for five-to-ten years. Players have shown that they respond positively to Siege's model of monetization, as they player-base has continued to grow, not wane, as time wears on.

"The way we monetize Rainbow Six is that people are happy about the new characters, and they can customize them with weapons and charms, but even if they don't do it, they will have the exact same experience of the other gamers," Anne said. "It is just an extra piece of revenue for us, which comes from gamers being happy. If gamers were not happy, we would not ask for that extra money."

It is interesting that this interview comes to light on the same day that Ubisoft's biggest launch game ever - The Division - gets its second expansion, Survival. That expansion is something that you either have to purchase separately or else inherit through the purchase of The Division Season Pass. Unlike Rainbow Six Siege, peak and concurrent player counts for The Division have dropped dramatically since launch, so you have to wonder whether or not Ubisoft might consider changing its content model for the MMO moving forward. Season Pass owners want their money's worth, but perhaps after the first season of DLC has come and gone, Ubisoft will open up the full experience to all players and introduce some clever and enticing microtransactions?

Time will tell, but in the meantime, Rainbow Six Siege continues to champion this new paradigm of free DLC and premium extras. It's a model that's worked out well for Ubisoft and for players, and I hope the rest of the industry is paying close attention.

By Matthew Hayes

Matthew loves artistic games, RPG loot, all things Nintendo, and esoteric philosophy - if you want to buy him something for his birthday, that's all you need to know. In person, a meek dog-lover. Online, an overly competitive villain. Favorite games include Persona 4 Golden, Rainbow Six Siege, Dark Souls, Rhythm Heaven Megamix, and Jet Set Radio.