Valorant the most hyped esports title of 2020, with the game drawing around 1.73 million viewers on Twitch before its official release. We saw professional players transition to the game in hordes and content creators like Shroud talking about how it will become bigger than CS:GO because it’s more casual. But all the hype has now settled down, and we ask ourselves, is Valorant as big as it wanted to be? Or is it slowly fading away?
Valorant’s Successful Launch
Riot Games pushed their new game with an incredible amount of marketing, and fans quickly drew comparisons between CS:GO, Overwatch, and Valorant. Counter-Strike has been around for more than 20 years, with the game originally being a Half-Life mod back in 1999. After becoming an official release title by Microsoft in 2000, Counter-Strike became one of the most played games of all time. Valorant draws inspiration from the game but adds a unique twist of its own. Instead of having just Ts and CTs, we have attackers and defenders and agents instead of nameless soldiers.
With streamlined gameplay systems and clear visual language, Valorant is easy to pick up but harder to master because of all the abilities that are in the game. Riot Games stepped away from cutting edge hardware requirements and developed the game so that it is easy to run on lower-end PCs. Players like ColdZera, who praised the game at launch, believe that the game will never dethrone CS:GO.
Complaints About Valorant At Release
Here are some of the glaring complaints that content creators, professional players, and the general audience have had since launch.
Riot’s Invasive Anti-Cheat: Riot’s anti-cheat software Vanguard was heavily criticized at launch for being too invasive. Even after you close the game, the anti-cheat has the ability to stay on in the background to monitor apps. At launch, Vanguard was asking for an eerily high number of permissions. Some players reported that Vanguard could lock out their computer’s fan controllers or even apps like MSI Afterburner that are not used for cheating.
Map Design: If we compare Valorant’s maps to CS:GO or other popular FPS titles, it’s easy to notice that the maps are too cluttered. You have objects placed all over the map and a ton of crooked edges that force attackers to check every corner when pushing into enemy defenses. It is far more exhausting in design, according to a mapmaker who commented on the game’s map design that you can check out below.
Rocky Launch: Valorant was released earlier than expected on June 2nd, 2020. The game was plagued with issues at launch, with many players not being able to purchase the battle pass, match history not showing up, and rewards not being available even after unlocking them. Server instabilities frustrated players, but Riot quickly addressed these issues in a few days.
Cosmetics System: Since Valorant is a free-to-play title, the game is monetized through cosmetics. However, players have shown frustration over skins' prices in the game, with some skin bundles costing up to $90. The Night Market has left a lot to be desired for players and no re-roll option available, forcing players to deal with complete randomness.
Valorant’s Demise in South Korea
South Korea is one of the most important regions in esports, and Riot failed to capitalize on the hype behind Valorant in the country. Many personalities have discussed the issue in details in the past, and it can be attributed to the following:
Locked Agents: With PC bangs (internet cafes) being so popular in the country, players want to log in and play the game with any character they want. Riot’s own League of Legends has every character unlocked at these gaming cafes, but Valorant does not. Players have to grind out XP for the agents before they even get to try them out. And this has to be done for each player instead of offering a shared client as other games do in Korea.
Vanguard: Riot’s Vanguard anti-cheat does not play well with the custom café applications installed to manage user logins and playtime. This dissuaded café owners from adopting the game as it hindered their operations, and the anti-cheat would potentially flag or disable the café management apps.
Global Pandemic: The pandemic drove down the PC bang player population around the time Valorant launched, and the game’s already lackluster traction in the country was driven down even further. With lockdown rules being relaxed globally, it is unlikely that the game will take off.
Viewership: A common complaint about Valorant is that it is not fun to watch, and it can be attributed to the agents and their abilities, which can be confusing. Valorant has dropped significantly in terms of viewership. With the pandemic restricting LAN events from taking place regularly, Riot did not get the opportunity to kick things off, but that is set to change, as we will discuss later.
Is Valorant Truly Dying?
According to Twitch Tracker stats, we can see that even during its launch month, it had a viewership of around 77000 viewers in June 2020. Two months before its launch, the game had a peak of 1.73 million viewers, which almost broke the record League of Legends Worlds achieved in 2020. While many content creators go by the 1.73 million figure as the baseline, it is wrong.
A lot of content creators cashed in on the hype, and a majority of the viewers at the time were logging into streams to have a shot at getting one of the beta keys. Since its release, viewership has dipped from 77000 to around 60000 viewers currently in January 2021. Whenever there is a new agent or map, the player count increases slightly, but it usually stays around the 55000 mark, which is not bad by any metric. It is still among the most views games on Twitch, and it continues to pull in viewers.
However, everything creators like Summit1G and Shroud say about Valorant not being a spectator-friendly game is true. With each agent that comes out, the game becomes more alien to viewers, but Valorant might still be a great esport with Riot planning to support the game for 10 years, if not more and make it a sustainable esports title. It can lay the foundation for careers in esports even if it does not share the same level of viewership as titles like League of Legends, DOTA2, or CS:GO.
Valorant’s Promising Esports Viewership
Despite Valorant not doing well for the casual audience, the esports viewership has been growing steadily. To get a true gauge of what Valorant’s esports viewership numbers look like, let’s take a look at their Ignition Series tournament numbers, which sits nearly 6 million hours watched across all 8 events.
In comparison, First Strike clocked over 8 million hours watched with over 470K viewers from NA, Europe, and Turkey alone.
Here are the viewership numbers for the top 3 regions of First Strike:
Valorant might not be an exciting game to watch for casuals, but the hardcore esports fans finally have another FPS game they can follow. Riot is working towards their biggest esports event yet, and we have to wait and see if the Valorant Champions Tour delivers on all the hype the team has been building since last year. League of Legends has been a successful title for Riot for over a decade, and its Worlds events are nothing short of spectacles. It is yet to be seen if Riot can deliver the same kind of experience to the FPS community, and 2021 will be an important year for the game’s esports scene.
Riot’s Plans For Valorant in 2021
Riot Games will continue to make Valorant a great esports title, with the Valorant Champions Tour being one of the biggest events to take place this year in the world of competitive gaming. Here is a look at what to expect from the event below.
The season will kick off later this month, with Riot yet to announce all details on its qualifier challenges. The regional finals winners will head to the Masters event. Riot revealed, “Throughout the past year, the ideas you shared have been critical in building a stronger Champions Tour. Your contributions continue to be the best tool to ensure that as VALORANT grows, it reflects the ideas that are important to you. As we look ahead to the 2021 Champions Tour and the journey to build VALORANT into the next great esport, we’re thrilled at the prospect of doing it together with you.”
The game is not even a year old. Despite professional players like Cloud9 TenZ quitting competitive play, Riot still has time to prove themselves and establish Valorant as one of the best esports titles of this generation.