For Valorant players in Russia’s Far East, Japan offers a viable career path

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Multiple Russian Valorant players have seen their stock rise since they started playing in Challengers League Japan. Local teams have turned to these players due to a need for experience and a shortage of talent.

Valorant has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity in Japan ahead of this year’s VCT Masters Tokyo event. The country put together a regional LAN in a stadium in 2022, has some of the highest second-tier Valorant league viewership statistics in the world, and almost had a cinderella story on the international stage with ZETA DIVISION at Masters Reykjavík.

With all the interest has come a desire to level up the region. Some Japanese teams have done this by bringing over South Korean players, while others have imported players and coaches from Russia.

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The main stage competition for Challengers League Japan had four Russian players across two teams and one Russian head coach.

While Japan might seem like an odd destination for Russian players, the Asian country is relatively close to Russia’s Far East. According to Maxim ‘Lumo’ Demianovskikh, a Russian player who has been competing in Japan’s VCT circuit since 2022, players on the far east side of the country can easily play on Asian servers, where they get about 30 ping. By contrast, on European servers, located near central Europe, their ping can reach over 100ms.

“We want to play competitively,” Lumo said in an interview with Dexerto. “So with low ping, we show better results than when we play with high ping because when you have low ping you can show all of your potential, so that’s why Russian players right now in the far East are in Japan. They want to prove their potential so we play with Japanese teams.”

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Lumo is from Khabarovsk, a Russian city that is a little under 1,000 miles from Tokyo. It is much closer to the Japanese capital than it is to Moscow, which is over 3,800 miles away, not to mention the European servers, located in cities like Frankfurt, Paris, Stockholm, and London.

Russian players were among the top players in the first split of Challengers Japan. Sengoku Gaming’s Ilya ‘something’ Petrov, who recently set a new record for most kills in a pro match, has been linked with VCT Pacific team Paper Rex.

Japan wants to level up its Valorant scene with imports

As a developing scene, Japan has a high demand for experienced players, and those are still hard to find in the country.

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“Almost all Russian players once wanted to be pro players in CS before Valorant came out,” Lumo explained. “Russians began to dominate in Valorant and show better gameplay because Japanese players were not playing like professional shooters and Russians had better game sense than Japanese players.”

Ivan ‘Johnta’ Shevtsov, who coaches Japanese team FENNEL from his home country of Ukraine, told Dexerto that Japan is currently in its first or second evolution stage and is using imports from Russia and South Korea to accelerate that growth.

“What makes the scene better is when it gets more experience from different places around the world,” Johnta said. “Sometimes that can be from the players, sometimes one player can join the team and bring something new and fresh in terms of understanding in terms of maybe a different mentality or different things.”

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Johnta also said that the region has improved exponentially since he started working with FENNEL in early 2022. He noted that more young players have continued to grow and that teams that once relied on imports now have a more solid Japanese core that has improved thanks to its exposure to tough competition.

Russian players might leave Japan when Valorant debuts in China

Later in 2023, Valorant will be officially released in China, with the region getting its own league. This might lead to an exodus of Russian players from the Japanese Challengers as they could take their talents elsewhere.

“Everyone says we are waiting for the Chinese client because they don’t still have Valorant in China. So I’m talking with my Chinese friends who play on a team and they say the release date is in the summer. So I think I’m going to change my region to China,” Lumo said, adding that he plays CS:GO on the Asian Pro League, which has servers in Hong Kong and Singapore.

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Whether this group of Russian players moves to China or continues to compete in Japan, their success story shows just how diverse the Valorant talent pool is at the moment.

“The Asian region is strong, the European region strong and America is very strong as well,” Johnta said. “You can be in any region to get better and better, to play at a high level, to win, or to show good play at an international level. It’s not a big deal in which region you have to grow as a player. It is just up to how you do it and how motivated you are.”

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