Valorant

Riot Games block esports orgs from streaming Valorant beta on launch day

by Richard Lewis
Riot Games

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The highly anticipated release of Valorant, Riot Games new FPS title, has been one of the most talked about dates in the gaming calendar in 2020. The closed beta release is due for April 7 and has already brought together influencers and competitors from many different esports titles.

However, it seems that those who were invited by Riot’s esports divisions are being told to hold back on streaming the game for 24 hours, giving some influencers a headstart in reaping the rewards for the launch of the new game.

The issue first became public knowledge when legendary Call of Duty player and 100 Thieves founder Matthew "Nadeshot" Haag said that he would not be able to broadcast the game while talking with Dennis “cloakzy” Lepore on stream. He attributed the decision to complaints from other League of Legends team owners that he had access while they didn’t.

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“I’m just pissed… I can’t stream Valorant on Tuesday. It’s such a long story bro. I’ll be playing but I can’t stream. I’m not allowed to stream… Other LCS, LEC and LCK team owners complained that I had access when they don’t have access so Riot asked me not to stream until the 8th, the next day.”

One source who has been involved with the Valorant launch told us the following:

“There was clearly no communication between Riot’s esports division and the people organizing the Valorant launch on this. Some of the owners got upset and said that by having Nadeshot stream it was showing preference to the 100 Thieves brand. Some even said it was a financial and competitive advantage because it meant he could scout players before they did.

"The people running the Valorant launch were thinking about Nadeshot the influencer, not Nadeshot the team owner. Now esports people are being told regardless of their invite status the fair thing to do is for everyone associated with a League team is to wait until the 8th.”

Riot Games
Riot Games have faced scrutiny following their call to prevent esports players from streaming for the 24 hours following tests of the Valorant closed beta. 

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Publicly this seems to have been confirmed by Riot Games when Kasra Jafroodi, the Esports Business Strategy lead for Valorant, posted to the subreddit the following comment.

“Hi everyone! This is Kasra from Riot (I lead Strategy on VALORANT Esports) and wanted to pop in to clarify a few things coming up around this. One of our goals with VALORANT was to ensure all esport orgs around the world received access to the game at the same time (when technically possible) so that we didn't create a competitive advantage (both across teams and across regions).

"This meant that we gave each team access to closed beta at the exact same day (April 7th) with the same number of accounts (20). Given these teams/players were getting direct access through us, we also asked them to not stream until the 8th so that our players and fans had equal opportunity to get access on the 7th through the content creators that have already been streaming VALORANT.

"Sometimes, there's a blurry line between esports and content creators and in this case, we asked Nadeshot to not stream until the 8th (just as we've asked of all other team orgs). Ultimately, our goal is to ensure fairness in access to VALORANT both for esports orgs and fans (like you).”

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The decision has reputedly caused some friction between team owners. While there were those who complained about Haag’s access being an advantage, one team owner we spoke with said that they can’t believe the decision.

They said: “Surely the smart thing to do was just give all the team owners and players access [at the same time as the influencers] instead of penalizing one who did. We’re already Riot’s partners. It’s ridiculous we all don’t have access to begin with considering we have all paid significant fees to be part of their leagues. I know some Riot staff feel the same way."

They also added discussions about the matter were ongoing but it wasn’t clear if the decision would be reversed in time for the launch on the 7th. 

Countering that argument was Chris “PWYFF” Tom Riot’s Global Communications lead for Valorant. He tweeted “I didn't want to conflate business interests with friendly outreach. Especially for orgs with influencer/entertainment arms in addition to esports: what's to stop them from taking their allocated invites & flipping it to their content creators over interested pros? Hence the request: please hold off streaming if you were invited via our esports outreach, because the GOAL of said outreach was/is different from our online bootcamp outreach with FPS partners/content creators/folks we hope would be stewards of the community.”

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Compounding the matter further is a report from League of Legends journalist Travis Gafford, who tweeted that the Twitch Rivals tournament for Valorant that was part of the launch day coverage will now have to take back the invites from the competitors who acquired their invites through esports organizations and not the influencer outreach.

As things stand, it would be better for someone associated with an esports organisation to have earned access via a Twitch stream drop than to have accepted the invite to access from Riot directly, as the 24 hour delay on streaming does not apply to keys earned this way. 

Haag has since tweeted about the matter, stating: “I’m grateful for the beta access that I had last weekend and the access that I’ll have for the foreseeable future starting tomorrow. Although I’m bummed that I was asked not to stream & won’t be live for the 1st day, I understand the position Riot is in and respect their wishes.”

He was also sure to call out the owners, adding: “But to all the owners that complained about my access and forced Riot into this position... I’ve been creating content since 2010. I’ve been streaming before Twitch even existed. I’ve made thousands and thousands of YouTube videos. If you’re wondering I had access, that’s why.”

While it looks unlikely that the situation will change with such a short time span left, we will update you accordingly with any further developments.