Riot Games rolled out a new first-person shooter, Valorant, earlier this month, complete with gameplay, a subreddit and website. The game’s core gameplay of 5v5 matches centers around either destroying or protecting a site on the map in the vein of Counter Strike, a popular shooter owned by Valve that has its own esports community.
Since the announcement, many experts and esports industry heads have dubbed the game the next big esport because of Riot’s track record with competitive titles and the rise of FPS esports in the last five years. This includes Fortnite, Counter Strike: Global Offensive and Rainbow Six Siege.
“Of course, new games are appealing: Arena FPS game Diabotical got plenty of love this weekend in their beta launch, for example,” Arda Ocal, ESPN esports broadcaster, said in an article for ESPN. “But Valorant, on paper, has home-run potential. If the prize pools are there, and I'm a FPS pro, I'm seriously considering making the jump.”
Before we sell our houses to buy stock in this game, let’s wait to make a bold call until after the game is released to the public and remember sins of Riot past and other “esports-ready” games rolled out by other established studios.
Riot is no stranger to esports — its game League of Legends is the most popular esport title in the world — and its recent ventures into other genres like card games, auto battlers and fighting games all have leans towards a more competitive audience.
Riot has a track record of, let's say, looking at other studios notes, when it comes to creating games. League of Legends is a derivative of another Valve title, Defense Of The Ancients 2. Its card game is based off of Hearthstone, a Blizzard property, while its auto battler is clone of auto chess, Dota Underlords, a mod of DOTA 2.
"A lot of what we drew from our inspiration for wanting to discover this space was this idea of playing these old-school tactical shooter games," Valorant's game developer Joe Ziegler said to Game Informer magazine.
Valorant is derivative of other games. It is described as a combination of CS:GO, having an economy system for buying weapons at the beginning of every round with rewards for winning the round in terms of more money, and Overwatch’s character-based, dubbed agents in Valorant, design with game-altering abilities in addition to traditional weapons.
Riot hasn’t had as much success yet modeling its other games off of League of Legends in terms of creating a competitive community or leagues and tournaments centered around it. The titles are either in the beta stage of development or have the hype die down around the genre.
If Riot’s history with other games is anything to go off of, then Valorant may fall to the wayside sooner rather than later.
Going from another historical angle, Overwatch was also billed as the next big esport. Big name casters, announcers for esports, such as Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles and Erik "DoA" Lonnquist, dropped casting League and jumped to the Overwatch bandwagon back in 2017. The duo cited tensions with Riot management as well as the belief that Overwatch would be the next big esports title for their leap to the Blizzard property.
Overwatch has become a mainstay in the esports landscape, entering its third competitive season earlier this year, but has not risen to the heights that was promised.
Esports, like traditional sports, live and die by thier community. If no one plays the game casually, then why would anyone play it competitively? The developers of Valorant have thought about the casual audience, promising more dedicated servers than other popular shooters, anti-cheat software and the game being free-to-play.
But is this enough to build a strong community to launch a professional league around? Only time will tell. So let's give the game some time to breathe and the community some time to form before we crown a new king of esports.