Riot Games' new tactical shooter VALORANT has seen a huge success in terms of viewership since its beta version was released last April. To test out the esports waters, Riot introduced the official First strike tournament series by the end of 2020, which only confirmed that the esports audience is more than welcoming of the new competitive scene. Following up, the publisher announced a year-long global competition.
The first stage of the inaugural season of the VALORANT esports circuit has officially kicked off last month with the Challenger 1 phase, the first out of three Challenger phases within each stage of the VALORANT Champions Tour 2021.
However, the first round of VALORANT Champions Tour didn’t live up to the success of its predecessor. In fact, the viewership record of 62K peak viewers and 2M hours watched in the first Challenger phase didn’t even reach one third of the First Strike numbers.
Out of fourteen regional events, North America, Turkey, Europe and Brazil were the most popular ones. Soon we’ll publish an article on Turkish VALORANT scene, so for now let’s break down the other three regions.
VCT 2021: North America Stage 1 Challengers 1
The new tactical shooter has been greatly popular in North America from the beginning, therefore it’s no surprise to see the region leading in viewership statistics. The Stage 1 Challengers 1 of Riot’s VALORANT tournament circuit attracted on average 24K NA viewers, which is 74% less than the First Strike North America. The region is also leading in the ‘hours watched’ category, with more than half a million total hours watched.
The main record of 62K peak viewers was set during the grand final match between Immortals and Sentinels, arguably the most thrilling one within the NA division. Sentinels, who were also the most watched team in the region (22K average viewers), have put on a great show, storming through the lower bracket and taking the victory from Immortals, who hadn’t lost until that point.
The data from the First Strike tournament series last December showed North America as the leader in viewership. As can be seen, this trend continues, and is likely to continue in the future, considering that the NA CS:GO has seen a decline since the coronavirus pandemic practically moved all the important CS:GO competition to the Old Continent.
VCT 2021: Europe Stage 1 Challengers 1
In terms of viewership, Europe's division wasn’t too far behind North America. In fact, Europe attracted 25.6K viewers on average, which puts the region ahead of NA. Compared to the First Strike Europe, 42% less people tuned in.
With 45K peak viewers during the Ninjas in Pyjamas vs. G2 match, the tournament scored over 300K hours watched in Europe. Approximately one third of the European audience watched the Spanish broadcast.
As for the popularity of teams, the Old Continent seems to be fairly divided. FunPlus Phoenix and Team Liquid are the leaders here, both sitting at 34.7K average viewers. Oddly enough, the second place is also shared, with Ninjas in Pyjamas and G2 Esports both hitting the average of 29.2K viewers.
VCT 2021: Brazil Stage 1 Challengers 1
The next most popular region among the viewers was Brazil with 15K average viewers and 26.6K peak viewers. Even though this is significantly less than in the first two regions, the data shows that Brazilian viewers compensated and spent more time watching. Bazilian record is 306K hours watched, which is only a few thousand less than Europe’s.
Compared to the Brazilian division of the First Strike, the Challengers 1 event in the region had 40% less viewers on average, which also the smallest viewership decline of the three leading regions. The most popular Brazilian team was FURIA Esports with 20K average viewers, followed by SLICK with 19K average viewers.
Is VALORANT losing popularity?
Looking at the presented data, one might conclude that VALORANT is quickly losing popularity, reaching roughly half the size of the audience it reached through the event that took place just two months ago. However, there are a few more factors to consider.
First, it’s important to realise that this series of regional events was just the first step in a complex esports ecosystem of several phases. Each stage contains three Challengers phases and is concluded with the Masters event, which then leads to VALORANT Champions, the final global event at the end of the season. We are most likely to see higher viewership numbers in the later stages of the competition, as they are usually more interesting to the audience.
Second, the First Strike could naturally gather more viewers due to longer air time. Last, but not least, there will be more popular teams like 100Thieves or TSM joining the battle in the upcoming Challengers 2 and 3 phases, which will most certainly impact the viewership positively.
All in all, Challengers 1 was a notably smaller event than First Strike and its lower statistics doesn’t necessarily mean that the title is losing popularity. After all, it’s Riot who we are talking about and it’s obvious that they are aiming high.