The future of VALORANT esports is looking bright, but concerns remain

Acend claim the championship of the 2021 VALORANT Champions Tour. (Photo: Riot Games)
Acend claim the championship of the 2021 VALORANT Champions Tour. (Photo: Riot Games)

The VALORANT esports scene is slated to undergo major changes in 2023.

Publisher and developer Riot Games recently unveiled plans to have the VALORANT Champions Tour (VCT) feature bigger international leagues, much to the excitement of professional players and fans alike.

The shift in the VALORANT competitive scene in 2023 will introduce exciting, new things to the game, such as a new in-game mode, the launch of new domestic leagues, an expansion for VCT Game Changers, and three regional leagues that represent Asia, the Americas, and Europe.

Riot's vision for VALORANT's future as an esports is looking bright, but can such plans really lead to a thriving ecosystem?

Many are sure they will, but there are still looming concerns.

A New Era of VALORANT Esports?

VALORANT’s professional scene has operated on a pseudo-open circuit model for the longest time.

That all changes in 2023 with the introduction of the new circuit, which focuses on making long-term partnerships with a selected number of teams and finding new talent.

“With VALORANT, we want to build today’s most thrilling esport alongside the most well-managed, ambitious, and exciting teams in the industry. We have designed our long-term partnership model for VALORANT so teams can thrive and build their business alongside the overall growth of VALORANT Esports,” said Whalen Rozelle, Head of Esports Operations at Riot Games.

This will be done through an annual stipend system, where teams who meet the criteria will receive financial support from Riot Games and the exclusive chance to collaborate on in-game products and activations.

On top of that, the new structure also includes a new competitive in-game mode that’s “designed to identify the best talent worldwide”, said John Needham, Riot’s president of esports. This will purportedly act as a feeder into the domestic leagues.

Finally, Game Changers, the game’s competitive circuit for women and other marginalized genders, will also receive a new expansion.

The shift sets the game on course to replicate the successes of Riot’s other popular competitive game, League of Legends.

The news understandably brought excitement from fans and pro players alike.

The official Twitter accounts for professional esports teams Sentinels and 100 Thieves, for example, showed their excitement in typical Twitter fashion.

Teams like Knights and Soniqs were also there, with the latter simply stating, “Count us in.”

Then there’s Carlos Rodriguez, founding CEO of Europe’s G2 Esports, saying that it’s an “easy W for Gamers 2.”

G2 Esports themselves are onboard with the idea of third-party tournaments finally hitting the VALORANT esports scene.

Heather Garozzo, a former pro and the current vice president of community and events at Dignitas, also weighed in, as the upcoming shift means more LAN matches.

The VALORANT esports scene will be undergoing a massive shift in 2023. (Photo: Riot Games)
The VALORANT esports scene will be undergoing a massive shift in 2023. (Photo: Riot Games)

However, amid all this excitement are some understandable concerns and suggestions.

For example, several users are against the idea of franchising, and by default, the shift.

As one fan on Twitter, Kobel__, pointed out, it doesn’t allow for any new team/org to have a “zero-to-hero story” like some recent performances.

So unless you’re an individual that managed to get signed onto a franchise team, “there will be no way to move up”.

Other users have also stated that an Open Circuit or Relegation System would fare much better for the game.

Other fans echoed that statement, worried that the new tournament structure will lead to the same franchises competing and eventually meeting at a single major event held at the end of the year, an issue that games like League of Legends and Overwatch suffer from.

VALORANT's foremost competitor, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and its multi-stage Major Championship system has thus far avoided such issues.

Would VALORANT fare better by following the game it was modeled after or forging its own path — albeit one already used by other Riot titles?

One suggestion that some VALORANT proponents have is a “semi-franchised” structure for the international leagues, where some orgs can buy slots, but some are left open to qualify into.

Per the suggestion, this should help ensure a clear 'tier two to tier one' pathway that doesn’t all consist of players getting scouted.

That said, some believe that the new model helps give preferential treatment to orgs, as only the most dedicated ones will stay in the competition.

But such 'dedication' also needs enough finances to sustain it, will smaller organisations with the same competitive will but less buying power be able to keep pace?

After all, can an esports ecosystem featuring the same franchises and organisations year on year, with players simply being shuffled between them, be truly called a healthy one?

It's all too early to call. After all, we are still in 2022 and the new system won't be implemented until next year.

It will take some time before we see what this means for VALORANT, and what kind of new things we will see as we move forward.

The game's future is looking bright, sure, but it remains to be seen whether the future Riot envisions is what will truly allow VALORANT, with all the pros that play it and all the fans that watch it, to thrive.

Feb has been trying to speedrun Super Mario 64 ever since he started playing video games at 11 years old. He has never succeeded, but has completed other video games in the time since. When not playing, he's usually playing music or building Gunpla.

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