There’s a new kid on the block when it comes to first-person shooters.
Valorant is a brand-new FPS under the Riot Games banner. It brings a new aspect to the genre and it’s done by blending already well-established concepts into one. Flaunting gunplay like Counter Strike and Overwatch style heroes it’s a breath of fresh air.
New kid on the block
It’s always interesting when a new player enters the esports landscape. Watching the engagement of early events can speak volumes about its survival. For this instance we will look at the recent Twitch Rivals tournament. Pulling a massive 736,812 viewers over the 3-day showcase it was quite a showing. While these numbers don’t compare to twitch-era Overwatch League, it’s still early yet. Valorant only launched June 2nd and it’s already produced a massive following. With exciting gunplay and tide-turning abilities, it produces some electric moments.
Is the talent pool drying up?
Another metric to look at, is the potential for new talent. Being that Valorant is close to other games in terms of skill it produces an interesting scenario. Counter Strike players will have an easier time transitioning. This doesn't mean they will always be the dominant force though. Overwatch's numbers are reeling from the jump to YouTube. This has been a factor for many players to switch to Valorant. One such man is noLiberation_ow, he's an Overwatch coach who has taken notice of the progress Valorant is making in the FPS arena. When asked about the high number of players moving over to Valorant, he said “Personally I think that with a lot of players moving to Valorant I think it brings a lot of opportunities for semi pro players to get scouted... That being said the quality may struggle for a bit then start to stagnate again”. This brings up the issue with available talent for Overwatch. Only so many top tier first-person shooter players are available.
Counter Strike has a hold on the global market and Overwatch leans on the Korean talent pool. This presents marketing problems on a global scale for the Overwatch League. It leaves viewers with limited connections to the pros. Bound only be prior knowledge or a jersey, it limits marketing potential. It will be hard to build loyalty around players that do not speak the same language as their fan base. It cripples your ability to get media exposure to the non-Korean viewer. This doesn’t mean Overwatch League is in trouble, but it lets Valorant shine. Their tactic of using Twitch as the main form of marketing paid off big. From Linkzr to Sinatra, the FPS community is now getting more exposure to Valorant. This will ultimately lead to more high-tier players making the switch.
Looking to the future
Now that we’ve established the current conditions, what does this mean for Valorant going forward?
When asked about the potential for Valorant viewership, noLiberation said “...With riot in charge they have always been pretty good at getting their pro scene a ton of exposure. So personally I don't think that Valorant can get Counter Strike numbers mainly because with CS I feel like it's very clear as a spectator what's going on. It's very simple I think Valorant just from my own experience I think it's a little much, I don't think it will hit CS numbers but will 100% get twitch-era Overwatch League numbers probably more”.
Many agree with his assessment. The simplicity of Counter Strike gave it the opportunity to get popular. Overwatch has challenges getting to a broad base because of how complicated the game is.
From the outside it looks like chaos, but the pros know exactly how and what they are doing. To them it’s more akin to an orchestra than a mosh pit. The average viewer doesn’t understand what’s going on right in front of them. This sets up Valorant again, to outshine its competitor. Using more simplistic, but high impact skills, means that it’s far easier to understand what is going on. Getting away from the team-style 6v6 fights to smaller gunfights, means it is very easy to follow.
In the long run Valorant seems to be better poised to make the jump into the mainstream. With news quiet on the Overwatch 2 front expect Valorant to take full advantage of the lull. While this doesn’t mean Overwatch is going to fold, it’s going to hurt them. Unless they can answer some of the glaring problems it’s facing, expect Valorant to grow exponentially.