BLAST R6 Esports: A Year In Review

Andrew Czysz Jr. 2024-03-07 12:34:45
  Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege Esports has officially completed their 2023-24 Competitive season, after a historical Six Invitational this past February. A huge contribution to the year's success lies in the multi-year partnership between Blast.TV and Ubisoft. This article aims to uncover BLAST R6 Esports' impromptu 2023 season by highlighting key events and viewership. Furthermore, we will uncover what viewers can expect shortly for 2024's season. Origin Story of BLAST R6 Esports 2023-24 Competitive Season Before Ubisoft paired with Blast.TV, the Rainbow Six developer was pressured to create a new tournament format. Previously, Ubisoft had worked extensively with the Electronic Sports League (ESL). That pairing from March 4, 2017, to May 19, 2020, created the infamous Pro League era. Through 11 seasons and various Six Invitationals, Siege thrived in ESL's Pro League moniker for roughly four years. It encapsulated the legacies of G2's Niclas "Pengu" Mouritzen, and TSM's Jason "Beaulo" Doty, It even brought us one of the best esports casting duos of all time with the late great Michael "KiXSTAr" Stockley and Parker "Interro" MacKay.
Also Read: Parker "Interro" Mackay - From Call of Duty player to R6 Caster
However, when the 2020 Six Invitational arrived, Ubisoft and ESL mutually parted ways. Ubisoft then struggled to gain traction with their mecca title. Then, R6 Esports went through huge structural changes to tournaments by opting for a regionalized format. The 2020 and 2021 format introduced an overhauled point system to award teams who performed well at the Major events. Additionally, the Six Invitational's format was largely untouched with a few tweaks here and there. Furthermore, Ubisoft finally had operations under control, until COVID-19 sent plans up in smoke. At this point, Ubisoft stuck with the regionalized format through unprecedented circumstances until late 2022. On December 12, 2022, Ubisoft would ink a multi-year partnership with BLAST.tv. This Denmark-based esports media company held a series of tournaments for Counter-Strike: Global Offense (CS:GO) for six years prior. After this moment in time, BLAST promised to deliver fans of R6 Esports "direct-to-consumer streaming, to create an ecosystem that the community can be proud of, and excited about." This was stated by Leo Matock, the Managing Director of Development of BLAST via Esports Insider. Thus, BLAST R6 Esports was born, holding a new format with a point system deemed valuable throughout the season. Teams aimed to earn as many points as possible to qualify for Majors and the Six Invitational.
Also Read: Rainbow Six Esports' Evolution After ESL's Departure
Transitioning to the present, BLAST R6's 2023-24 season finished with groundbreaking statistics and a gigantic amount of smiles on the faces of fans. BLAST and Ubisoft's partner debut was something unprecedented to Rainbow Six Esports' world after ESL's withdrawal. However, not everything was sunshine and rainbows throughout. After the pairing was announced, a Global Timeline for the 2023-24 season was revealed: For our analysis, we will focus on the content from Majors and Six Invitational, and then track viewership numbers. Let's begin by looking at the Copenhagen Major from April 2023 held in BLAST's home country of Denmark. Copenhagen Major (April 24, 2023 - May 7, 2023) We begin with Copenhagen, the first Major under BLAST and Ubisoft's multi-year partnership. Each of the two Stages containing a Major has a regional competition attached. These competitions allow teams to fight for the right amount of points to qualify for the bigger events. Continuing, Copenhagen saw a slew of incredible teams make the jump from Regional League play to Major qualification. Teams from Brazil, Europe, North America, Japan, South Korea, and other regions were present. Two groups of teams made up the bracket, Play-In and Playoff teams. First, Play-In teams for this Major consisted of; MNM Gaming, Ninja in Pyjamas, REVEN ECLUB, SpaceStation Gaming, Soniqs, Team Falcons, W7M, and Wolves Esports. These squads battled hard in the play-in tournament and qualified for the 16-team Swiss bracket. They were a part of their Groups (A-D) categorically. Second, Playoff teams in Copenhagen included: DarkZero, Dplus,  FaZe Clan, G2 Esports, M80, SCARZ, Team Liquid, and Virtus. pro. These squads pre-qualified for the 16-team Swiss bracket format by earning enough points in their Regional Leagues. Moreover, once the Swiss bracket playoffs were over, the top 8 teams would reach the single-elimination Finals. Teams such as; G2, FaZe, MNM, Ninjas in Pyjamas, SCARZ, Soniqs, Team Liquid, and W7M pulled through. Now that we have identified teams who competed in Copenhagen, let's look at the results from the Finals: In their inaugural Rainbow Six Esports season, the Brazilian powerhouse of W7M Esports defeated Team Liquid 3-0 to win their first Major. Additionally, BLAST and Ubisoft scored larger in viewership according to Esports Charts: Subsequently enough, BLAST R6 had a huge amount of support from their fan base. According to Esportscharts.com, The BLAST R6 Copenhagen Major registered a 79% increase in watch time than the Six Jonkoping Major, which happened in November 2022, right before BLAST joined the Rainbow Six Esports family. Needless to say, Rainbow Six Esports was regaining traction lost from years of structural changes to the core program. However, this was only the beginning royalties of a stoic journey. Next, we'll envision Stage 2's Major, held at the Gas South Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta Major (October 31, 2023 - November 12, 2023) Our second destination on this evaluation is the BLAST R6 Esports Atlanta Major. The last time an R6 Major was in the United States was in Charlotte on May 16, 2022, when DarkZero Esports defeated Astrails. Much like Copenhagen, the format of regional leagues earning teams points to qualify remains. Once again, a pair of team groupings formed the bracket for Atlanta. Play-In and Playoffs are factored into the equation. First, the Play-In qualifiers consisted of; Bleed Esports, DarkZero, G2, Geekay, LOS, Ninjas in Pyjamas, SpaceStation Gaming, and Wolves. Second, we have the Playoff teams who pre-qualified for the 16-team Swiss System Format. A lineup containing; BDS, Dplus, FaZe Clan, M80, SCARZ, Soniqs, Virtus.pro, and W7M. Thus, these teams brawl to advance toward the Finals. After much chaos on the battlefield, the following qualified for Finals; BDS, DarkZero, FaZe Clan, G2, Geekay, LOS, SpaceStation Gaming, and W7M, the winners of Copenhagen. As a result, we saw an amazing Finals period where history was made. Let's now identify the results head-on: The young guns of W7M replicated victory. For the first time in Rainbow Six Esports history at any level, a team won back-to-back Majors. No other team shares this accomplishment. Although there have been teams to win multiple Majors within their history, W7M holds an exclusive candle stick. Which is held in a glass case with unique sentimental value. In the Grand Final, W7M defeated Team LOS who were hot in the upper bracket after eliminating FaZe Clan. Despite a hostile showing from the Atlanta crowd, W7M starred greatly as a villain toward NA soil and walked out victorious. Moreover, BLAST and Ubisoft's Atlanta Major would not necessarily spark a marginal increase in viewership from Copenhagen. However, the viewership remained on pace with previous years. Here is an in-depth view of the statistics as provided by Esports Charts: As BLAST implemented its new Major format, the reception was not strikingly positive in the beginning. According to Esports Insider, the biggest change from BLAST’s R6 ecosystem has been its "Major formatting, which includes the removal of a Round Robin group stage in favor of a Play-In and a Swiss Format Playoffs." Additionally, Esports Insider reports Atlanta had a "drop off in peak viewership that hasn’t been seen in Rainbow Six Siege since the regional online Majors of the COVID-19 era. However, despite this decrease, the competition’s average viewership is in line with last year’s event." So even though the trajectory was high for BLAST and Ubisoft, they hit roadblocks. Thus, it was only the second Major within the construct of BLAST R6 Esports. So there was room for improvement from a production and structural standpoint. In the wake of a slight decline in viewership, the BLAST R6 Esports aimed to increase the viewership during the 2024 Six Invitational. Six Invitational (February 13, 2024 - February 25, 2024) The final destination on this adventure is the Six Invitational (SI). In short, this is the Super Bowl of a Rainbow Six season. Twenty teams from around the world fight for a World Championship title. Six Invitational events are the most lucrative and popular in all of Rainbow Six Esports. For 2024, the Ginásio Do Ibirapuera in São Paulo, Brazil had the honor of hosting. Beginning the analysis, a Group Stage would hold five groups of four teams. They would battle in a Round-Robin format with the top 4 teams of each group qualifying for playoffs. Placement within the group would determine if a team goes into the upper or lower playoff bracket. The bottom team is eliminated. Once the Group Stage ended, Playoffs would begin and they followed a Double-Elimination Bo3 match bracket. Sequentially, sixteen teams played in this stage of SI. There were an abundance of incredible teams representing the Upper and Lower brackets. Some include; DarkZero, FaZe, G2, Sonqis, Virtus.pro, and W7M, the back-to-back Major champions. Representation from across the globe prompted incredible Playoffs and Finals. Below is a visual of the Six Invitational 2024 results: For the first time in Rainbow Six Esports history, a team winning consecutive Majors took home the coveted Sledgehammer trophy. W7M battled excruciatingly hard against another Brazilian rep in FaZe Clan. The fifth Map played in the Best of 5 series was on Nighthaven Labs. FaZe were up 6-1 on match point. All of sudden, the Bulls triumphantly came back to win 8-6 and formulate a dynasty matching that of G2 Esports in the Pro League days. A clip of the final moments can be seen here: Subsequently, BLAST and Ubisoft were not only able to host a passionate crowd on Brazilian soil but also had record-breaking viewership across the board. As supplied by Esports Charts, here are the Six Invitational 2024 Viewership Statistics: BLAST R6 Esports' Six Invitational 2024 presentation drew over 500,000 viewers alone during the FaZe vs W7M Grand Final. History was made and a plethora of fans and talent alike clambered at the success of their passion. Some examples of gratitude for SI's viewership and W7M's history-making performance were expressed on social media: After an era-defining performance, BLAST and Ubisoft proved to the world that Rainbow Six Esports is not temporary, it is forever. Further credibility was given after such a captivating Six Invitational event in São Paulo, Brazil. What's next for BLAST R6 Esports? As the 2023-24 season has officially ended as of February 25, 2024, BLAST and Ubisoft are already planning for 2024's season. BLAST R6 has announced that in 2024; "We have a few core changes to the R6 Esports ecosystem we're excited to share[...], such as adjustments to Major qualification paths & slots, SI points, Regional league formats, and more" This comes directly from Ubisoft's BLAST R6 Esports site which you can visit here to see additional information. Excitingly enough, Stage 1 of the 2024-25 BLAST R6 Esports season begins promptly on Monday, March 11, 2024. Regional leagues will be happening and lead up to the first Major of 2024. Lastly, the next Major for BLAST R6 Esports will take place in Manchester, United Kingdom. The X post can be seen below: In summary, the BLAST R6 2023-24 competitive season was a stoic journey to build Rainbow's Esports scene back up. Although it will never truly replicate Pro League, the new era of R6 Esports is in constant care between BLAST and Ubisoft. Time will determine how this partnership carries R6 Esports into the future.
Andrew Czysz is an aspiring journalist and commentator hailing from Carthage College. If you enjoy his content, follow him on Twitter (X) at @AC_32. Images Courtesy of Esports Charts, Liquipedia, Ubisoft, and X Video Courtesy of Rainbow Six Esports

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