I don't think any of the Stage Rally guys have an automatic in their car. The Yamaha is going to take more skill to drive at pace than a CVT machine, but clearly it can be done.
CVT and Manual both have their advantages and disadvantages. To me it's really about personal preference. I prefer a manual. For me it's just a lot more fun to drive. I like shifting gears. I like the control I have over keeping the engine in the RPM range I want. I like being able to feather the clutch at the times I might need to. I like having more control over breaking the rear tires loose. I like how busy and focused I have to be to drive the machine on the ragged edge. It's like the difference between having a pair of bongos vs. playing an entire drum-set. Not everyone can play drums, nor wants to.
I don't think the other manufacturers will follow suit. Polaris, Arctic, and Bombardier are grounded in CVT's. That's what they do, that's what they know best. I bet the vast majority of the market does prefer the simplicity of driving a CVT sxs. I think Yamaha built a machine that fills a niche that wasn't being filled before. It will probably help them with sales of their entire line though. This machine should do very well in speed oriented competitions when well driven. If they can lay claim to podium finishes and apply it to their marketing it's going to sell machines across their line. Having no CVT power loss and the likely advantage this machine will have in durability should help them with that goal.
No matter what machine they built there were going to be some disappointed people. I do feel for you guys (and gals) that were hoping for something different. I've been disappointed in all the sxs's available up until now. Finally a sxs with a manual. That's what I've been waiting for and apparently a number of other people have been too.