Valorant esports EMEA head talks VCL problems, Game Changers and how the Coliseum came to be

VCT EMEA teams face off at VCT LOCK//INColin Young-Wolff/Riot Games

Dexerto sat down with Daniel Ringland, the Head of Valorant Esports in EMEA, and talked about the upcoming league with its new stadium, his hopes for the first year of the tournament, the current struggles of the Valorant Challengers Leagues and the Game Changers circuit.

The development of the VCT EMEA studio, dubbed the ‘Coliseum’, has been in the works since 2020, according to Ringland. Riot Games is hoping to bring in a new audience to its esports offerings with Valorant, and the new venue built in Berlin illustrates how the developer wants to differentiate its FPS title from the storied League of Legends events it has organized.

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The VCT EMEA venue is round and has fans sitting above the players, which is markedly different from the League of Legends EMEA Championship and League Championship Series, where the crowd faces the stage as they do in a traditional sporting event or theater performance. The new venue also has co-streaming booths for content creators to broadcast the matches as part of the league’s co-streaming program.

“We’re very much kind of treating the Coliseum as a shrine, or a temple, where the fans can come in and feel quite close to and part of the action,” Ringland told Dexerto. “It’s represented everywhere, from the studio itself to the camera placement. So we definitely want to differentiate ourselves from other esports. We don’t want to copy and paste the LEC, we don’t want to copy and paste Counter-Strike, we want to carve out our own thing.”

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Ringland said the league has no goals in terms of viewership metrics and is hoping it is able to find its own voice, much like the LEC has. As for the creators involved in its co-streaming program, Ringland revealed that the booths won’t be dominated by just a few English-speaking creators and will feature a diverse offering of streamers.

“There’ll be some people you’ll see more than others, of course,” he said. “But we want to make sure that we’re sharing it around and really finding the best influences that match the games that are happening, rather than just kind of getting any random creators in for random games. We’ve applied quite a logic process to it.”

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Head of Valorant Esports in EMEA on VCLs: “We know it should be better”

It is no secret that some of the Valorant Challengers Leagues (previously known as Valorant Regional Leagues) are struggling. In the French, German, Northern Europe and Eastern Europe leagues, there have been cases of esports organizations not fulfilling their contractual obligations and cost-cutting by tournament organizers.

When asked about the struggles of the VCL leagues, Ringland highlighted the success of some leagues, like Challengers League Spain Rising, but also acknowledged the failings of others.

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Fnatic an EMEA Valorant team hoisting the VCT LOCK//IN trophyColin Young-Wolff/Riot Games
EMEA representative Fnatic hoisting the VCT LOCK//IN trophy.

“We need to work with the licensees we have there and I think it’s fair to say our licensees are committed, they know it should be better. We know it should be better. The teams want it to be better and the community wants it to be better. So yeah, we need to work there to get them all up to the level we know they can be,” Ringland said.

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He also said some regions will be more difficult to fix than others “for a number of reasons,” but noted that Riot is in the process of creating solutions to the problems at hand. Ringland did not give details as to what those solutions could be.

“At the moment, we’re kind of at, ‘Alright let’s stabilize the situation here. And let’s understand what we need to do here and build out kind of a medium-term plan to get [the VCLs] back to where we think they should be,’” he said.

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EMEA Game Changers

EMEA Game Changers is just around the corner as the first series is set to begin its main event on April 24. The region’s format received a facelift for 2023 as the tournament series is now a structured league that has five invited squads and 11 teams from an open qualifier. The region also added a layer of tournaments below the league called Game Changers Contenders, which will also have teams qualify from regional events.

Ringland said the new structure came from the disparity in some of the matches from the previous years of Game Changers, as a number of matches ended in 13-0 scorelines.

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“That’s obviously not really helpful or enjoyable for anybody,” the Valorant Esports head said. “So that’s why we said ‘Okay, let’s take the top teams, put them in a space where they’re playing against each other, which is going to be better for them to help them develop their skills because they’re playing against more equal opponents.’ But we also want to leave another space for other women that are looking to get into the ecosystem.”

Fans of EMEA Valorant will be able to see how the new venue for the new VCT international league looks and feels on March 27 and will have to wait and see how Game Changers and the VCL system will turn out later in the season.

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