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The Revolution Will Be Televised: The Growth of VALORANT

Nikhil Kalro

Last week, VALORANT Champions 2022 came to a glittering end, with Brazilian outfit LOUD Esports beating OpTic Gaming in a thrilling best-of-five finale. As the game played out, there was a revolution spurring on the sidelines. Quite comfortably, the match had drawn a significantly larger peak audience than any other game in VALORANT’s short history. The overall viewership was estimated to be around 1.5 million when the decider started. 

valorant revolution

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - SEPTEMBER 18: A view of the players stage at the VALORANT Champions 2022 Istanbul Grand Finals on September 18, 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games)

This was, as per some estimates, close to 40% higher than the corresponding figures for the 2021 finals. That VALORANT Champions was broadcast on multiple platforms – Twitch, AfreecaTV, Trovo, YouTube, and Facebook, among others – was validation of the tournament’s growing stature and the esport’s rise among the other more established games, such as League of Legends, CS:GO and DOTA 2

It was a sign that Brazil had already begun a silent gaming revolution that parallels Korea or China’s LoL scene. It told you of the potential VALORANT had to grow even bigger.

The concurrent viewership milestone helped cement Champions 2022 as the most-watched VALORANT event ever. It also wiped out the previous day’s record set during the lower-bracket final, where there were over a million concurrent viewers during the fifth map of the series. 

Overall, the event finished with an average viewership of 500,000, with a total of over 112 hours of air time. The milestones achieved in the final week made Champions 2022 the fourth competitive VALORANT event to clock a million concurrent viewers, joining the league of Champions 2021 and Reykjavik Masters 2021 and 2022.

On their part, Riot Games deserve some credit too, for collaborating with some of the biggest YouTubers and content creators and flying them to Istanbul to witness this magic. It was yet another indication of how serious the organisers are in pitching VALORANT as one of their premium offerings, not just in Brazil but across the world. 

While it will be naive to assume VALORANT will take the gaming world by storm and break all records immediately, it’s realistic to hope there’s potential that is eventually going to be fulfilled sooner than later.

The Success of Competitive VALORANT

Viewership is a direct consequence of improved interest in the sport. As per some estimates, between 750,000 to 850,000 people will play VALORANT concurrently this year, which is within touching distance of the latest CS:GO player count. 

Several regional champions have sprung up since the game’s release in June 2020, the same year where it was awarded BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) and NAVGTR (National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers) nominations. Also among their most notable achievements were being nominated for the Best Multiplayer Game at The Game Awards. All these, within months of launch, were commendable.

That we’re even talking of VALORANT in the same league as LoL or CS:GO is testimony to its growth. The average monthly user base currently stands at 15-16 million, and is likely to jump upwards of 20 million within the next year. While the role of collaborations and partnerships can’t be understated, astoundingly, much of this growth is organic.

When VALORANT began, top talent could earn a few thousand dollars. Contracts weren’t a thing, because the organisers were taking a shot in the dark. Today, top talent can command upwards of $30,000 a month. If this isn’t further validation of how much VALORANT has grown, what is? The top players belong to the USA, China, Canada, Poland and Spain. And they’ve all won between $60,000 and $111,000 in prize money last year. 

In fact, VALORANT Champions 2021 has the largest cumulative prize pool for a tournament, totalling to around $1 million. These figures could double within the next two years.

One of the game’s biggest universal selling propositions is flexibility, unlike say a CS:GO, which has a touch of rigidity to it. That geographies like India, which aren’t yet established in the LoL or CS:GO scene, have embraced the sport – given its population and massive gaming potential – points to the possibility of a significant shift towards how much the sport can grow meteorically.

This growth can often be stunted if organisers get carried away by the initial roar. Riot, however, have been proactive in ensuring this success is only built on by building a partnership model that puts the onus on teams to further strengthen their roots. 

They’ve done this by having teams invest their profits back into the development of the sport and other activities, such as marketing and improving infrastructure, rather than pay a massive franchise fee, even as Riot look to leverage their advertising gains.

“I think it’s very promising,” Matias “Saadhak” Delipetro said of the franchising system. “The fact that they’re franchising everything and giving the opportunity for teams to be in the franchise league via competing is really good. They can compete and enter the franchise. I think it’s pretty clever. Five years from now, I think it’s going to be great and much bigger.

“I think all the teams here have adapted and learned more things since Iceland. It’s going to be hard to make a run that successful again, mainly because we just lost right now. We had just lost in the Grand Finals the last time. Right now, I think we have a great opportunity to bounce back and make a successful recovery.”

A Bright Future Ahead

The potential this brings with it, in terms of attracting new sponsors and partners, or even players within Brazil, is second to none. With more new agents and maps continuously being added, the common chorus is that VALORANT is not far from being one of the top games through 2022.

In February, it was voted one of the five most popular games on Twitch this year. The cumulative consumption stood at over 20 million hours of gameplay. Eight months on, VALORANT continues to make the upward surge and is now challenging for a spot in the top three. One of the areas they will look to aggressively target is the demography of its players and audiences. 

As things stand, more than 22% of VALORANT’s population are from the United States of America, while Brazil and Turkey rack up around 6% respectively. Going by the trends so far this year, these numbers are likely to balance out a lot more over the next 6-8 months.

The road ahead is full of promise. It will be interesting to see if VALORANT evolves a step further by offering a mobile only version, like PUBG Mobile or Call of Duty Mobile. After much anticipation, Riot brought out LoL on mobile amid much fanfare. It went on to become one of the best mobile MOBAs of all time. This has now put the spotlight firmly on VALORANT, a massively successful product that has fans asking for more.

VALORANT features smaller maps, rounds of intense gameplays and high-level tactical gameplay, with awesome weapons and an intuitive first-person shooter experience. At a fundamental level, these are all elements to make the game what it is. These are elements that give it the kind of edge not many other esport can claim to have achieved within two years of launch. 

It’s amply clear the future is bright, the future is robust. The next step in VALORANT’s journey could yet massively explode into something phenomenal, transcending geographies and giving players the kind of return on investment that is at par with LoL and CS:GO. 

The revolution is here for good.