Riot explain why they fast-tracked Icebox map release in Valorant

Andrew Amos

Riot stunned Valorant players on October 6 when they revealed the FPS title’s fifth map, Icebox, would be dropping almost three months ahead of schedule. However, while community influence was a big part of bringing it forward, there was another reason ⁠— First Strike.

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Icebox was revealed as Valorant’s fifth map on October 6. Taking place in the frozen tundras of Future Earth, Icebox will be rolling out as part of Act 3 on October 13.

This is almost three months ahead of schedule. Riot were planning on dropping a new map at the start of Episode 2, which was planned for December or January 2021.

However, there are two major reasons why Riot decided they needed to fast track the new map: community feedback, and competitive integrity. The community has voiced their struggles with Valorant’s current map rotation and its repetitiveness.

While Riot has implemented solutions to try and increase the variety, nothing they could do compares to just adding a new map. With outrage starting to climb, they found space to try and push ahead on Icebox and give it to players in Act 3.

“We are always listening to feedback from our players and strive to surprise and delight where we can. We take community requests seriously and do everything in our power to provide our players with the best experience possible,” senior producer Dexter Yu said.

“We prioritized early testing of our new content with players versus additional polish. We recently found opportunities to make shifts in our production plans to make this possible for Icebox.”

It’s a story that’s quite common with Valorant’s lifespan, especially since it’s been in the public eye. Riot have pushed features out early, and used the community to test it on live servers. This helps them understand what players want, need, and expect from development.

Icebox in Valorant
Icebox features ziplines, open areas, and heaps of verticality.

They hope to use Icebox’s early release to not only improve the casual experience, but the competitive one. Expanding the map pool to five maps means tournament organizers can feasibly run best of fives. It also starts to increase map diversity akin to CS:GO’s Active Duty Pool, where Riot in the future can swap maps in and out of the tournament pool.

If everything goes to plan, Icebox should be available in the later stages of First Strike.

“By releasing Icebox in a beta state on October 13, we allow players to join us in our efforts to make this map competition ready,” Yu added.

“Under current Riot tournament rulesets — once a new map spends 4 weeks in ranked mode, it is eligible for tournament play — if Icebox fares well in its beta phase, it will be eligible for inclusion in the later stages of our first official Riot-produced tournament, First Strike.”

Icebox isn’t the only thing coming in Act 3. Skye, the new Australian Agent, will be dropping on October 27 ⁠— one patch after Act 3 launches. There’s also all the usual goodies, including a battle pass, and a new Singularity skin collection.

Valorant Act 3 officially launches on October 13.