Riot Game’s upcoming FPS, Valorant, has already begun to build a great deal of hype, especially among those who are fans of the Overwatch League. Valorant has been described early-on as a mix between Counter-Strike (~80%) and Overwatch (~20%). This combination, with the financial backing that Riot can provide, could easily produce one of the greatest games of the new decade. Not only that, but it could also produce one of the best esports of the decade.
So, with all of the potential and hype beginning to build around the far off FPS, I thought I’d take some time to share some of my thoughts and wishes for the new game. As an avid fan of Overwatch and the OWL, there have been some disappointing lows, but also some incredible highs. I’d love to see Valorant learn from Overwatch’s mistakes and embrace some of the things the game did well. If we’re not learning from our predecessors, we’re sure to make the same mistakes.
My Valorant Wishlist
#1: Create a Realistic and Well-Funded Path to Pro System
One of the cries of the passionate OWL fan is the desire for Blizzard to better support the league’s semi-pro scene. This has improved in the past year with more structure coming to Contenders and more opportunities for players to showcase their abilities at LAN tournaments, however, I’m not sure Contenders has ever been what it could have been. Incorporating and including Contenders games in the main broadcast and increasing the prize pool would, in the long run, help to build a sustainable ecosystem for up-and-coming players.
I desperately hope that Valorant’s esport, which will inevitably be massive, keeps its semi-pro scene in mind. If it wants fans of the OWL to make the jump, this is something that will make that jump all the easier and can help create more deeply embedded fans. Riot has the money, and this is a place I’d like to see them invest it when the time comes.
#2: Make the Broadcast Accessible for Non-Esports Viewers
One of the biggest hurdles for esports is finding a way to connect with and expand to viewers with no prior esports viewing experience. It’s a tough thing to get right because the broadcast needs to both cater to diehard fans and simplify terms and visuals for newer viewers. But, at least in my perspective, investing in the newer viewers ought to be the priority.
I’m not saying that diehard fans shouldn’t get a broadcast that’s made for them, instead I’m saying that making a broadcast that’s too tough to grasp will dramatically limit the esport’s lifespan. Dedicated players and fans can get over some simplistic language and explanations, whereas new viewers may give up if they simply can’t make sense of what’s going on. Coming from a game with overwhelming visuals like Overwatch, a little explanation and simplicity can go a long way.
#3: Do More to Promote the Esport Inside the Game Itself
Overwatch has done this occasionally, but I think this is definitely something Valorant could build on more. Why? To increase the audience of the esport and keep casual players in the loop. This could look like a variety of different things ranging from loot drops to in-game skins/sprays dedicated to the esport. Whatever route they choose to go, I simply hope that it’s easy for a player to boot up Valorant and immediately see what’s happening in its esport. If they fail to make that connection, they’ll be missing out on a great deal of potential crossover, in my opinion.
#4: Have a Patch/Update Calendar and Make it Public
One of the most frustrating parts about playing Overwatch over the past four years hasn’t even necessarily been the lack of new heroes (which is still a HUGE problem) but more so the lack of any real roadmap of updates. It wasn’t until recently that Jeff Kaplan ramped up his community involvement. Before that, fans would go months completely in the dark on what new events, skins or heroes would be coming and when. Much like TFT and League of Legends have, I’d love some sort of similar patch roadmap for Valorant.
Whatever patch frequency Project A decides to go with is fine by me, just help me to know what’s going on and when things will happen. If I can have that much, I’ll be much apter to check forums and communicate with devs. I think most dedicated fans appreciate transparency for the most part.
#5: Either Commit Fully to Lore or Completely Ignore it
This may be a non-issue if Valorant draws from the League of Legends universe and capitalizes on its already very deep lore. Overwatch has been extremely touch-and-go with its commitment to the game’s lore development, making it hard for fans to know whether or not to invest in the stories of their characters. Valorant should either go all-in on lore or be completely devoid of it. Don’t fall into the awkward pit that Overwatch is currently in with its lore. Please.
#6: Follow the NBA’s Lead and Promote Your All-Stars
One reason the NBA has surged in popularity in the last few years is that it has changed how it has marketed itself. By singling out players with high marketability and getting them in front of fans, the NBA has become a thriving league built around its all-stars. The OWL has done this since its inception, emphasizing players like Sung-hyeon “JJoNak” Bang or Jay “sinatraa” Won due to their charisma and playmaking potential. I’d like to see Valorant piggyback off of this with even more promotion centered around the players. Fans tend to connect more to specific players than whole teams, so pushing the players as the primary marketing force seems like a no-brainer to me.
#7: Don’t Rush
One of the biggest worries about the OWL rushing into the Tier 1 esports space with hundreds of millions of dollars in investments is that it will create some sort of esports bubble. All of this was done before it was proven that it could work and/or be profitable. Valorant can wisely learn from their counterparts and build up their esport slowly to ensure this isn’t a concern down the line. It may be tough to take it slow considering all the hype and commotion around the title, but I think it will be worth it in the long haul. Prove the concept first, not after you’ve got millions of dollars in investments to be held accountable to.
P.S. – Just Make a Good Game, Please?
More than perhaps anything on this list, the core of any good esport is the game itself. Riot needs to put all of its attention right now into making an FPS with the shelf life of Counter-Strike or League of Legends but with the initial excitement and fervor that came with Overwatch back in 2016-17. If they can nail the game and continue to make improvements to it over time, I would bet a lot more confidently on the success of the esport.
As a writer, a gamer and someone who desperately wants to see esports succeed, I want Valorant to enter the space and thrive. A rising tide raises all ships after all.
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