Cherish the Valorant Circuit while you can: It’s all about to change in 2023

Declan Mclaughlin
A close up of the Valorant Champions trophy
Wojciech Wandzel/Riot Games

Valorant Champions Tour Stage 2 Masters Copenhagen and the upcoming Valorant Champions in Turkey will bookend the end of the open area for Riot Games’ tactical shooter. With a move towards partnered organizations in top international leagues, the title will no longer feature the open system responsible for some of its best storylines come 2023.

Fans of League of Legends and its franchises already know what is in store for Valorant in esports after seeing many of their own leagues scrap promotion and relegation in the late 2010s.

VCT Masters Copenhagen features four new teams to the international Valorant stage, that’s two more than last year’s League of Legends World Championship.

While having unique teams at the highest level of competition isn’t the only thing that makes those events exciting, it is a fun quirk of an open system that Valorant will lose.

While the best teams do often rise to the top in the current system – Fnatic and DRX have been staples at international events for the past two years – the odd addition of a Leviatán, Guild Esports or NORTHEPTION adds another layer of storylines for fans to consume.

LoL fans may remember how this felt before franchising hit. Europe had a streak at one point of sending newly promoted squads from the European League of Legends Championship Series to the World Championship. Counter-Strike fans don’t have to reminisce about years past.

At the PGL Major Antwerp 2022, Bad News Eagles, an orgless Kosovan team, qualified to one of the biggest tournaments of the year through the European RMR. They even made it to the Legends Stage, one stop short of the playoffs, before bowing out amongst all-signed squads.

Valorant esports won’t have the chance for those storylines in 2023 if what we understand as the current system comes to pass. No longer will squads like FULL SENSE show up at Champions in 2021 and get a shot at world championship glory in their first appearance internationally.

Mediocrity and fans discontent could be on the horizon

What fans will also not see come next year is the same level of scrappiness across the world to get into international tournaments. This stage in Valorant has been one of the most competitive by far, with tight races to make the Copenhagen stage across the Americas. EMEA and APAC. But with teams already guaranteed the chance to fight for those spots, that level of ambition may lessen.

While we sometimes poke fun at the endless qualifying system in VCT, in 2021 it felt like every tournament but Champions was a qualifier for the year-end event. It kept each squad on its toes and desperate to adapt to the changing meta.

The opposite of this phenomenon can be seen across all franchised esports, with bottom of the barrel teams staying at the bottom with seemingly no intent on improving. For specific examples, look toward Immortals in the LCS, Paris Legion in the Call of Duty League and Misfits in the League of Legends European Championship Series.

FULL SENSE group shot
Lance Skundrich/Riot Games
FULL SENSE battled through the APAC Last Chance Qualifier to compete at Valorant Champions.

Three franchises with little in the way of results without much of a fanbase to show for their years of competition.

The partner system may discourage that level of mediocrity. Riot will reportedly have to renew organization’s partnerships every four years, but the days of watching big name orgs struggle against surprise Tier 2 teams in the qualifying stage will be gone.

The partner system may also create a disconnect between fans when it comes non-native orgs setting up shop internationally. The three leagues reportedly had more than 150 teams apply for a chance to get in and not all of those could conceivably be for the region that they are based out of.

Right now, Valorant fans have become accustomed to regional powerhouses and small upstart squads staying in their original lane. So if G2 Esports comes to the Americas, or Version1 gets a spot in EMEA, the local comradery will likely be shattered for fans that have been there since the start.

Valorant esports is in for massive changes in 2023. Riot has had years to look over its current franchise system and iterate on what has worked and what hasn’t in LoL and apply it to its new title, so our worst fears may not be realized.

But the chaotic and upset-rife system currently in place will be no more after Champions so we as fans should enjoy the randomness, underdog stories and new teams while they are here, before they leave forever.