VALORANT Esports has Struck Gold with its Regional Parity – VALORANT Champions 2023
Esports is firmly in the realm of being a global phenomenon. The idea of competitive video games has been around for as long as arcade cabinets, but only over the past decade has gaming shifted towards a focus on multiplayer PvP-based games. VALORANT esports is the latest of attempts to build an esports scene that capitalizes on that worldwide potential.
In the early to mid-2010’s, we saw the rise of big esports like Counter-Strike and League of Legends. These games very much had worldwide appeal. Players and teams participated from all reaches of the globe with the goal of being the best. That said, both of these games had an issue that would limit their growth in the long run.
CS:GO is for the West
Despite Counter-Stike: Global Offensive having a dedicated player base on all continents, Europe has dominated nearly all the game’s lifespan. There have been exceptions, notably the Luminosity/SK Gaming Brazilian roster that won back-to-back Majors in 2016 and continued to dominate in 2017. What’s important to note is that in these two years, CS:GO exploded in popularity in Brazil more than it ever had before. All of the sudden, Brazil made up a massive percentage of viewers for CS:GO esports events.
CS:GO is luckier than most games in this regard. A total of four regions have had a Major winner at some point. North America had the Boston Major winners Cloud9 pull off one of the most exciting runs in esports history, and the CIS have won on four separate occasions. That accounts for a total of seven Majors. Twelve have gone the way of Europe. And yes, that means zero for Asia and zero for Oceania.
Counter-Strike has never thrived in Asia, which is a big issue when it comes to growth in the esports space. A huge number of competitive gaming enthusiasts are in China or South Korea due to sheer population and esports infrastructure respectively. Even so, CS:GO is popular enough in other parts of the world to still be one of the biggest esports. But is it truly a global esport then?
LoL is a Two Region Show
League of Legends is the most popular non-battle royale multiplayer game in the world. Their esports scene has been growing ever since its inception in 2011. LoL Esports is in its 13th year and a North American team has never won Worlds. Seasons 1 and 2 were won by a European and Taiwanese team respectively. Once the game settled and metas were defined beginning in Season 3, LoL Esports would never be the same.
Since Season 3, a Chinese or Korean team has won every Worlds trophy. Of those 10 Worlds Finals, eight of them have had an all Chinese/Korean Grand Finals. And the gap hasn’t closed either. Every year, it becomes more apparent that other regions’ chances at hoisting a Summoners’ Cup shrinks. The lack of competitiveness from North American teams has even helped cause a reduction in viewers of the LCS. LoL Esports in North America is losing steam, and at this point, it would be a miracle for an NA team to ever win Worlds.
By most definitions, League of Legends is a global esport. There are regional leagues all over the world, not just in the four Major regions. Their odds of winning Worlds are even less than NA, but they’re still there promoting their own ecosystems. You can be a LoL fan living in Brazil or the Middle East, but you’ll never get the satisfaction of seeing your team being crowned number one. Now, let’s talk about VALORANT.
VALORANT is off to a Great Start
Riot Games has learned a great deal from their decade+ running LoL Esports. They came into VALORANT with a plan and have delivered on all fronts. In just three years, there have been LAN events in Iceland, Germany, Denmark, Turkey, Brazil, Japan, and the USA.
Each region that established their own VALORANT esports ecosystem early on has been acknowledged by Riot. Going into year three, three leagues were created that the yearly circuit would run through: Americas, EMEA, and Pacific. These three league titles state no continent, no nation. Americas includes both North, Latin, and South. EMEA is Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Pacific includes basically every country that touches Pacific Ocean.
When deciding on which 10 teams would get to enter each franchised league, location was very much taken to account. Riot wanted to make sure that everyone had a team to root for no matter where they were born. We have Chilean teams playing alongside American ones, Turkish alongside French, Filipino alongside Korean. So, aside from the goals of diversity and reach, what does this actually do for VALORANT esports?
Making Everyone Better
Whenever you hear people talk about why certain regions dominate in other games, the topic of quality practice always comes up. If the best players and teams in the world are all in Europe or Korea or wherever, anyone playing anywhere else is getting left behind on meta and mechanics developments. They physically cannot catch up without being able to play against the top regions on a regular basis.
In the VALORANT esports system, combining multiple distinct regions into one big multicontinental circuit serves to make sure everyone keeps up. The Brazilian teams will learn American strats and vice versa. Japan and Thailand both get to practice against Korean gameplay. And when the best teams from each league meet up at the three worldwide LANs each year (LoL has one real multiteam tournament per year!), those strategies diversify even more.
The absolute best part is that as each team develops their own game based on what they learn from these diverse circuits, they bring that gameplay back home. If fans are engaged in the most up-to-date gameplay and strategy that their favorite team is employing, their regional ranked and amateur circuits will develop at a faster pace.
We can already see the benefits of this at the highest level in just a few years of VALORANT. Take this VALORANT Champions 2023. As we enter the Playoffs with the top eight teams, we have potentially the most diverse spread of teams at the top ever at a major esports’ championship. There are:
- Two teams from Americas, one American, one Brazilian
- Two teams from EMEA, one mixed European, one Turkish
- Two teams from Pacific, one Korean, one Indonesian
- Two teams from the newly minted Chinese scene
Parity Hopefully for Years to Come
Any of these teams could lift the biggest trophy in VALORANT come August 26. No matter where you are in the world, there is a team that you can put your all into rooting for. No esport in the world has come this far in being a truly global experience. Riot Games have struck gold with VALORANT through their experience and implementation.
It’s all by design, and the benefits are going to keep rolling in. VALORANT is not just a true global esport, it’s a global community. The game is going to continue to grow in every corner of the world. The feeling of pride in seeing your flag raised high is a universal one. The more that players can experience these feelings no matter their background, the more invested they can become in VALORANT esports, hopefully for years to come.