Riot have big plans for Valorant esports, but they won’t be kicking it off with franchised leagues, instead focusing on grassroots third-party tournaments to grow the scene.
Valorant has barely been out for two weeks, yet the bright lights of a World Championship, ala League of Legends, have already been casted by fans. With organizations like Cloud9 and T1 signing star talent before the game even went live, the hype is real.
Riot are known for pushing esports products to the next level through League of Legends. With franchised leagues and competitions around the globe, the MOBA has one of the most well-developed esports scenes.
However, Valorant won’t be starting off on that trajectory — for now. Instead, Riot is looking at building up a healthy ecosystem, full of third-party events like the early days of League, and mirroring rival FPS title Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
In an April 14 blog post, Senior Director of Global Esports for Valorant Whalen ‘Magus’ Rozelle outlined Riot’s plans for the game’s future. Riot will be supporting third-party organizers all the way, from local grassroots events to major players.
It will be divided up into Small, Medium, and Major tournaments licensed by Riot and run by tournament organizers globally. The bigger the prize pool, the more Riot will get involved in shaping the event.
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"Our primary focus early on will be forming partnerships with players, content creators, tournament organizers and developers,” he said, “unlocking them to help us to build the Valorant ecosystem.”
Riot has established standards for tournament organizations to have events, featuring 3 tiers:
• Small: Community events; $10,000 prize pool max
• Medium: middle-tier businesses; esports orgs; $50,000 prize pool per event max
• Major: Events hosted by big esports leagues
— Valorant News (@ValorantUpdates) April 15, 2020
This is a shift away from their franchised focus for League of Legends, although Rozelle said there was a good reason for that.
“We want to let Valorant grow naturally,” he said. “We’re not looking to force anything too quickly without knowing what’s best for esports fans."
He also listed the three principles Riot are following to transform Valorant into a global esport — competitive integrity, accessibility, and authenticity — as a reason to stay away from franchising.
“We want Valorant esports to grow with this community as well as discover its own voice, talent, and stars,” he added.
We know VALORANT has the makings of a global esport, but want to make sure we're building it right - and together.@RiotMagus talks first steps toward building the VALORANT esports ecosystem and our community tournament support: https://t.co/2b9Wk4zPNj pic.twitter.com/WGICR4XJsT
— VALORANT (@PlayVALORANT) April 15, 2020
Given a host of former CS:GO, Overwatch, and other FPS stars are making the jump to Valorant, only time will tell as to how the community will end up developing.
Riot are hoping that Valorant is here “ten, twenty, thirty years from now,” and the onus is seemingly on the community to build what they want to see.