Following the conclusion of First Strike regional majors, what is the future for VALORANT?
After a successful first event in major regions across the globe, the future is definitely looking bright for the competitive side of the VALORANT, with fans eager to see what Riot has planned next and who can claim the throne of the best team in the world.
For an esports title barely six months old, playing in an online era lacking the hype moments that a live crowd can provide, one would be forgiven for expecting there to be a lack of interest in the early stages of the game’s lifecycle. However, the First Strike event managed to defy the odds and reach viewership numbers that a majority of esports titles would be over the moon with.
According to Ryan “Fwiz” Wyatt, head of gaming at YouTube, the final in the North American section of the tournament between TSM and 100 Thieves peaked at around 320,000 viewers across Twitch and YouTube streams. Even for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), a game nearly a decade older than VALORANT and a direct competitor in the FPS esports scene, these viewership numbers would be seen as good in the COVID online era.
One reason that helped viewership reach such monumental numbers was the decision by Riot to allow selected streamers co-stream the event. Streamers such as Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and Ali “Myth” Kabbani, streamer for TSM, were the headline streamers for the event, with both at some point overtaking the official stream provided by Riot. In the short term, this seems like a great way to bring in viewers and try and get them hooked on watching the game, as fans of the individual streamers themselves that may have no interest in the game otherwise may now become fans of the esport from watching the hype moments alongside faces they recognise already.
Although, with co-streaming comes the obvious questions that can be asked regarding whether or not the viewers will remain if the streamers decide they no longer want to participate in streaming the matches alongside the official stream. Will casual fans who only tuned in because their favourite streamer was watching decide to stick around if they no longer decide to stream it? For now, this isn’t a question that can be answered, and it will be intriguing to see what viewership for future events will look like either with or without the co-streams.
LAN events will be hype
Given the nature of the game itself, with each kill being crucial in terms of winning rounds and earning ultimate points, it is very easy to imagine, when in front of a live audience, VALORANT will easily produce highlight plays that will get the crowd off their seats. With ultimates such as Phoenix’s Run It Back which allows players to rush into sites for a limited time and have the ability to be reborn if killed during this time, or Jett’s deadly Blade Storm, which combined with her other abilities can break a defence down in the blink of an eye, it is clear to see how fans will more than get their money's worth attending these events and being there to witness these moments in person.
As well as this, given Riot’s reputation for hosting some of the best events across all of esports with events such as the yearly League of Legends World Championships that take place in different countries across the world, fans can be sure that the viewer experience from attending the official Riot events will be second to none.
The international competition
Whilst most of the focus has been on the North American side of VALORANT so far, it is unquestionable that there is definitely stiff competition across the world. So far in Europe, it had been the dominant G2 roster led by former OpTic CS:GO star Oscar “Mixwell” Canellas that had been wiping the floor with the competition. However, during the recent First Strike Europe event, the team fell shockingly in the semi-finals to eventual champions Team Heretics, showing that Europe is definitely not just a one team region.
Without a doubt, the most dominant regional team so far though is South Korean juggernaut team Vision Strikers. So far, they have been the clear number one team in the region, winning all of the tournaments they have participated, and appear to be ahead of the meta compared to other teams in the region. However, until we get to see them on LAN against international competition, it will remain unclear whether they are a big fish in a small pond, or a legitimate international title contender.
Hopefully, these questions can be answered in the 2021 season, with fans clamouring to be able to return to live LAN events and watch the best from across the globe compete to be able to finally name which region, and most importantly, which team is truly the king of competitive VALORANT.
Images via Riot Games | ESPN