Riot Games‘ launch of VALORANT, its free-to-play first-person shooter, went extremely well in terms of viewership and reception. Built with competition at the forefront of the mind, it’s of little surprise that it took players just a matter of days to market themselves as professional VALORANT players. In some cases, it even happened before the game launched.
The title is in its closed beta, having launched on April 7th with a drop-based viewing strategy propelling it into unparalleled territories, but the developer didn’t waste any time in releasing its plans for the title when it comes to competition.
Instead of instantly taking control of the competitive ecosystem, which would undoubtedly have been a premature and stifling move, Riot Games announced on April 15th that it would allow third-party tournament organisers to step up and produce the first competitions. We’ve seen events from the likes of G2 Esports, Andbox, and ESPN, all filled to the brim with streamers.
This is the stage VALORANT is at, naturally. There hasn’t been enough time for players to truly understand the game and its ability-infused characters. To this day, some casual players are still looking to receive access to the title through Twitch.
With this in mind, it’s too early for organisations to be signing players to long-term contracts with eye-watering salaries. While Esports Insider can’t speak to the length of contracts, we have already seen the likes of Sentinels sign a high-profile roster for VALORANT despite no competitive scene existing just yet. These players don’t come cheap, having recruited an Overwatch League MVP and two Counter-Strike: Global Offensive professionals.
If there are only small tournaments, comprising of content creators and suitably-skilled FPS players, then how do organisations such as Sentinels expect to the recoup the money they’re spending? One would simply assume they’re investing in the future, but there’s a problem there.
We draw a blank when trying to think of a developed esports scene wherein early adopters reign supreme a couple of years after launch. Those who excel at the beginning of the game, typically, don’t manage to maintain this skill gap over the competition when the overall skill level of players increases, and metas develop. This consideration makes the early signing of players an undeniable risk.
What happens if (or, potentially, when) Riot Games decides to take control over VALORANT’s ecosystem as it has with its flagship title, League of Legends? The MOBA giant has over a dozen professional leagues across numerous regions, more often than not with a national ecosystem for amateurs and semi-professionals to boot.
This would, in theory, mean that there’s a chance that organisations may no longer be able to field a team in the top flight of competition if long-term partnerships are implemented. Both Riot Games and its partner organisations are overwhelmingly-positive about the current state of League of Legends esports, so it’s not a huge leap to assume this is a possibility for VALORANT down the line.
What if Sentinels doesn’t get accepted into a future North American VALORANT Championship Series? What if Ninjas in Pyjamas isn’t willing to pay millions of dollars to become a partner in the premier European league? There’s a good chance their endeavours in VALORANT up until that point would not have been fruitful enough to warrant the spend they’ve accrued.
We understand the appeal of getting into a title early, especially when there’s a healthy amount of hype surrounding it on a competitive level from the get-go, but it’s just too early to be investing thousands upon thousands of dollars when no competitive scene exists, your players may not be ahead of the curve in six months, and Riot Games could step in at any point to do its own thing.
Not to mention, the game is in closed beta and could be pulled at any moment before its full release. Imagine that.