To Look at Its Early Twitch Numbers, Riot’s Valorant Appears Poised to Be an ESports Behemoth

Riot Games

Based on last week’s Twitch numbers, there’s a new eSports giant in town, and its name is VALORANT.

After weeks and weeks of ESL reigning supreme as the top channel on the streaming platform, Riot Games took the lead with its new shooter game, which is in closed beta.

VALORANT piled up more than 165 million hours watched. To get an idea how impressive that number is, consider that the most recent League of Legends World Championship—long considered one of eSports’ premier events—did 125 million hours watched.

Anticipating the interest, Riot Games increased its server load capacity by 25 percent to handle demand.

The massive interest in VALORANT can be attributed to a few things. Because it’s in closed beta, the best way to get a look at the wildly anticipated game was by logging onto Twitch to watch high-profile streamers in action. Riot also made the game available to select viewers with a Twitch account—if you watched, you had a chance to win an access key.

Consider, as well, that people have plenty of time on their hands these days and are looking for new diversions during the COVID-19 lockdown.

VALORANT is based on first-person shooter action rather than a battle-royale format, with Riot promising the following: “Shooting in VALORANT is precise, consequential, and highly-lethal—we want you to win on your skill and strategy alone.” The game will be officially released later this year.

In related news, when Riot sends the game into the world at large, it will take a different tack than it did with its League of Legends behemoth.

Professional League of Legends competition was set up and managed in-house by Riot to mirror traditional sports leagues, complete with franchises that sold for millions.

VALORANT will be, at least in the initial months, community-based—developed and steered by those who sign up to play it.

“We’re overwhelmed by the initial interest and excitement in VALORANT,” Riot Games senior director Whalen Rozelle said in a press release.  “We have massive dreams for what this game can be as an esport, and we’re excited to embark on this long esports journey with our players. Our primary focus early on will be forming partnerships with players, content creators, tournament organizers, and developers – unlocking them to help us to build the VALORANT ecosystem.“

By letting third parties organize events including weekend tournaments on both micro and macro levels, Riot will make VALORANT a showcase for new players and talented up-and-comers who dream of one day joining the pro leagues. 

In a sign that Riot wants the game to appeal to as many people as possible, the developer will, however, require tournament organizers to turn off VALORANT’s “show blood” mode during gameplay. Translation: Broadcasters and sponsors have expressed concern about graphic content in eSports games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Non-tournament players will, however, be able to blast away until things look like the final reel of The Evil Dead

Mike Usinger once took the better part of two years to finish Grand Theft Auto. Over the course of his career he has written about everything from eSports to music to movies to travel.

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