Rainbow Six Siege review bombed amid China censorship backlash

Following last week’s announcement that Ubisoft would be tweaking the aesthetics of Rainbow Six Siege maps and UI to comply with Chinese game regulations, the most vocal corner of the game’s community is in an uproar. Over the weekend, upset fans bombarded Siege with negative reviews, dropping its reception to “mixed” on Steam. In the past few days, almost 1,500 negative reviews have appeared, the vast majority of them condemning Ubi’s alterations for the Chinese market.

The fervor has been mostly centered around the game’s official subreddit. Many users see Ubi’s willingness to change anything about the game to appeal to China as offensive, as posts with tens of thousands of collective upvotes rose to the top of the subreddit.

“By adhering to Chinese censorship they are cooperating with a dictatorship. Like wtf Ubi you can't do this shit! This against what the West stands for!” exclaimed a post by redditor Zarvoth. The most active post on the subject, with more than 28,000 upvotes, came from redditor Qwikskoupa69, who said “If you are changing the game to fit a fascist countries' [sic] standards then you might as well remove [Tom Clancy’s] name because he is rolling in his grave right now. This game resembles nothing of that what he wrote.” Other popular posts include a military veteran who is quitting Siege over Ubi’s “surrendering” to China and someone who crushed their copy of the game in protest.

The most recent batch of Steam reviews for the game read like an echo of the subreddit. “A well-known game company to bow his head to a fascist government is disgraceful. Why should every player in the world obey a bully? You're sending a message that bullying works. Restricting liberty works,” said user Cthonic.

The passion behind these posts may make it seem like Siege is being overhauled completely for a new market, but the reality is much less dramatic. Ubisoft is planning an expansion for Siege into Asian territories, most notably China, which has a historically harsh and slow regulation process for games. It’s not uncommon for developers to change their game for its Chinese release, as things like gambling references and excessive gore aren’t allowed. What’s uncommon is a developer adopting these changes for all versions of the game, not just a regionalized Chinese release. This is why Ubi is taking heat, as it has decided to adopt some of these changes to its global version. As seen below, the global alterations are limited to small aesthetic features on maps and bits of the user interface.

For more drastic changes that would affect gameplay, Ubi is creating a separate region-locked build, like many other developers do. Ubisoft’s explanation for making the smaller aesthetic changes global is simply that it's practical. “By maintaining a single build, we are able to reduce the duplication of work on the development side,” the dev blog reads.

Part of the backlash is at least in part due to the confusing way Ubisoft went about the announcement. Its original post makes no mention of a region-locked branch of the game, only a single global version. It wasn’t until hours later that community representatives clarified that a regionalized version will exist. But that update didn’t seem to reach everyone and has caused plenty of misinformation, as redditor CoupeontheBeat’s post with more than 12,000 upvotes (written hours after the clarification had been issued) exemplifies.

Some prominent members of the Siege community have shrugged off the alterations as no big deal, as long as they don’t impact gameplay. Pengu, a member of Siege’s top rated esports team G2, doesn’t believe all the backlash is warranted. “I truly do not see people’s issue with this, it literally does not affect you in ANY WAY POSSIBLE,” he said in a Friday Twitter thread. G2’s captain Fabian had similar thoughts. “You lose something you never knew you had before aka slot machines on the wall or some preset blood on a wall in Skyscraper, no biggie.”

Siege Pro League commentator Parker “Interro” Mackay dismissed Reddit’s backlash in a sarcastic tweet, then elaborated by calling them “harmless aesthetic changes that allows hundreds of millions to now access the game.” Fellow Pro League commentator Michael “Kixstar” Stockley shared a similar stance. “Guess I'll weigh in on the aesthetic change: Gameplay not changing? Don't care.”

Reddit has made enough noise that we could see a response by Ubisoft this week. Perhaps the work saved by implementing some alterations to all versions simply isn’t worth the headache of the past few days, misinformation or not. Either way, with Year 3 Season 4 on the horizon with two new operators and a new map, this is probably the last thing Ubi wants dominating conversation around the game.