The closed beta of a new project from Riot, Valorant, was officially launched eight months ago. During this time, the game has managed to enter Twitch’s tops, while the large clubs and streamers have held their own tournaments. Even Riot itself chose to demonstrate the potential of its shooter without waiting until the end of the pandemic.
The official series of First Strike tournaments has served to illustrate in which regions the discipline has already conquered the esports scene and in which there was no real interest in the game to be found beyond the initial wave of hype.
First Strike North America
It is not surprising that all records in the First Strike series are held by the American region. Here, the new discipline is actively supported not only by streamers and casual players alike but also by the professional cyberathletes. Many of the former and current CS:GO stars were happy to switch to a new game. Some of them, such as FNS, Hiko, and nitr0, took part in the championship from Riot Games.
The main record set by the American division of the First Strike is more than 300 thousand peak viewers during the tournament’s final match between 100 Thieves and TSM. Becoming a “CS:GO killer” with such figures is going to be a challenge, but these are more than enough for Valorant to deal with the other rivals in the region. For example, the grand final of the Overwatch League 2020 gathered only 183 thousand viewers, and when it comes to the Rainbow Six this year, only the results of the Six Invitational 2020 would be somewhat comparable.
Even the qualifiers for the American First Strike managed to attract a decent number of viewers. The First Strike North America NSG Tournament was watched by almost 105 thousand peak viewers. Based on this indicator, the qualifiers became the third most-watched First Strike event, being only slightly behind the European Championship.
Over the course of the tournament’s four days, the viewers spent more than 2 million hours watched on broadcasts, and around 93 thousand average broadcast viewers were gathered. TSM (154 thousand average viewers), 100T (145 thousand average viewers), and Sentinels (95 thousand average viewers) became the most popular teams. Each of them includes former CS:GO esports players.
For Valorant, the American scene proved to be quite fruitful. The combination of the weakened CS:GO scene, the clear structure promised by Riot, and the genuine interest from the influencers made for a perfect mix to try and compete for the position of the region’s top shooter. Right now the local organizations are ready to invest heavily in players of sufficient media presence, and Cloud9 even signed a female roster!
First Strike Europe
Valorant's European region is also full of major esports organizations and former CS:GO players. Scream is playing in Team Liquid, Mixwell is playing in G2, and FunPlus Phoenix is coached by Johnta. But this is still not enough for setting viewability records.
The region’s most popular match attracted almost 107 thousand peak viewers – which is not that high number compared to America or the top CS:GO tournaments, but high enough to compete with other shooters. For example, Six August 2020 Major Europe was watched by less than 90 thousand peak viewers, while PUBG Continental Series 3 Europe was watched by just over 43 thousand peak viewers.
The European region matches attracted more than 48 thousand average viewers, while the viewer numbers for Twitch channels approached the respective American indicators (2.2 million versus 2.6 in NA). The title of the most popular team along with the champion title was taken by Heretics with 784 thousand viewed hours watched.
Valorant’s European breakthrough seems to be harder to achieve than the overseas one: it has fewer high-profile transitions, more skepticism shown by the large organizations, as well as CS:GO itself being much more dominant here. The days of tournament promotions and active streaming are over, now it is time for Riot to further enhance credibility by providing a clear structure of the tournaments as well as the support plans for the organizations. But before that, let’s wait for the first championship with Get Right!
Oddly enough, Turkey became the next most popular region among the viewers, with 73 thousand peak viewers and more than 2 million viewers of Twitch streams.
Brazil also displayed decent results. The shooter from Riot is only gaining popularity there, but the viewers have already spent almost 470 thousand hours watched on the tournament broadcasts. To compare, the R6 LAN tournament Brasileirão 2020 Finals amounted only to 215 thousand hours watched.
The rest of the regions have not yet shown serious interest in Valorant. Korea and Japan, the leading Asian countries where Riot managed to gain a foothold, gathered just over 30 thousand peak viewers. While the shooter has already gained popularity in the local Internet cafes, the major organizers and serious players are still in the process of assessing and probing the pro scene.
For example, the former owners of the Korean MVP took interest in the game. Playing under their new Vision Strikers tag is a roster that is yet to suffer a defeat since its inception. This team had the most hours watched (164 thousand) during the Korean championship – but was only ranked fourth in terms of average broadcast viewers.
The CIS statistics look even more underwhelming, with a little more than two thousand average viewers gathering at the broadcasts. Meanwhile, the number of peak viewers barely exceeded seven thousands – and that’s in the final of the tournament. The next most popular match gathered only three thousand broadcast viewers. All this despite some serious efforts on the part of production – with twenty people working on the air alone, which is more than during the coverage of the American part of the tournament.
So far Valorant's prospects in the CIS do not seem that bright. The players of high media presence prefer entering European clubs, while the regional organizations are skeptical about the new discipline.
“There definitely won’t be any club support until 2020, and Valorant’s Twitch trends are also quite poor. The player database-related figures aren’t shown, but I suspect that they are the same. For example, the game is pretty much dead in the CIS,” said CEO of NAVI Evgeny Zolotarev about the Valorant esports scene.
Still, Valorant is capable of attracting the attention of viewers even in the CIS, as long as the game is handled by popular streamers. Buster chose a game from Riot Games for the second show match of the Buster All-Star Series – and unlike the official tournament, this match attracted 41 thousand peak viewers.
It seems that the battle between skeptics and believers of the "Valorant is a CS:GO killer" idea will end without a winner. It took less than a year for the new Riot Games project to take over the American market – where, according to the coach of FunPlus Phoenix, players are signed not even for the sake of results, but for the sake of media presence to be gained. Riot will need to spend a little more effort to make the game attractive in Europe, and even more effort in the case of the CIS or Asia. Still, the already announced Valorant Champions Tour system, along with the plans to support organizations, will definitely reinforce the game's position in the esports scene next year.
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