As Riot Games moves towards partner leagues for Valorant and the game grows in popularity worldwide, Valorant Champions 2022 showed what fans can expect from a world championship in the title.
In Istanbul, Valorant fans crowded the entrance to the Volkswagen Arena two hours before they could be admitted. Ten feet from the venue, a 100-year-old historic building hosted a bevy of Riot leaders and influencers invited to the tournament for a “gold carpet” event.
Influencers and professional Valorant players conducted brief interviews and joined the fans who had gathered to tune in and watch as LOUD battled OpTic Gaming for the second world title in esports short history. The hastily put together show caught the attention of local Turkish media and saw the top blasters from Riot esports teasing about upcoming events and announcements surrounding the international leagues.
The event began at around 5:30pm local time with a short opening ceremony, a one-song performance by Ashnikko, who created the tournament’s anthem, which led directly to the introduction of the players.
While Valorant Champions 2022 wasn’t exactly on par with a League of Legends World Championship production, with a terrific launch, a pre-final trophy presentation, and thousands of screaming fans from around the world, Valorant Champions 2022 was still a seminal moment for esports.
Riot Games invited some of Valorant’s most popular influencers and streamers to the event to stream together at the venue.
Whalen Rozelle, the COO of Riot Esports, who has been with Riot Games for 10 years and has seen League of Legends grow to what it is today, said this tournament reminds him of MOBA’s second World Championship.
“It actually feels very similar in a lot of ways, feels like the beginning of something,” Rozelle said in an interview with Dexerto. “The energy, the passion of the fans, a kind of optimism about the future and the great passion of the people for the game and the professionals involved.”
Viewership and reception of Valorant Champions 2022
According to The Washington Post, over 2,000 fans attended the Grand Finals and the match drew over 1.5 million peak viewers according to Esports Charts, not counting Chinese streaming numbers. The event was supported by influencers who co-streamed the tournament from the venue, set it up in private skyboxes and flew out at Riot’s expense. (Disclosure: Riot Games paid for this reporter’s travel to Istanbul and covered part of his accommodation expenses.)
The tournament was still affected by the ongoing global health crisis. Fans were only allowed to attend playoff games, and background workers as well as professionals were tested throughout the event.
But even with such restrictions, Riot gave more to local fans than before, with nine days of matches and merch sales throughout the tournament.
Valorant fans were admitted to the competition from September 9th to 18th.
Spectator numbers ebbed and flowed over the course of the tournament as Turkey’s schools opened earlier in the year, but the venue was still noisy and impressive, according to the pros.
“When I’m in the game, I don’t even realize they’re there until that moment of win or lose, when you take off those headphones and take off the earbuds and suddenly the roar of the really listening audience,” Fnatic told IGL Jake ‘Boaster’ Howlett in a post-game press conference.
“You can hear it sometimes, pretty vaguely through the mic or something, a bit of cheering and stuff like that. But when you actually take your headphones off, you hear it and you’re like, ‘Damn, it’s noisy in here. Is it like that every round?’”
For some players, this event was the first with attendance figures. They got to experience what it was like to be cheered on or booed by a crowd.
“This is the first time we’ve been in front of an audience and witnessed when people are with you and when people are against you,” said Team Liquid’s Nabil ‘Nivera’ Benrlitom. “It is very nice.”
Esports in Turkey and the future of Valorant
Alfajer was the only Turkish-born player at Valorant Champions 2022.
Valorant Champions 2022 was also the first major riot event in Turkey. It was also the first top-level international eSports competition in the country since BLAST Pro Series Istanbul in CS:GO in 2018.
Turkish fans are a passionate group and they showed it in Istanbul when the crowds were the loudest for teams from EMEA, particularly Fnatic who had the only Turkish player in the tournament in Emir Ali “Alfajer” Beder.
The teenage talent said the support from the home crowd was great and he capitalized on that energy by waving his arms in celebration during his introduction and throughout matches.
LOUD won the Valorant Champions 2022 trophy.
Overall, Riot appears to have had a successful entry into the new market, giving fans, potential investors and advertisers a taste of what is to come for Valorant eSports. While the tournament may not have had fans hanging from the rafters or an entirely organic viewership experience with co-streamers pumping numbers on their channels, Riot has proven that they are hosting an immersive global event with few hiccups in production and execution be able.
While the community awaits international leagues and partner teams to be announced soon, Valorant Champions 2022 proved that there is something to this tactical FPS esport and that Riot can pull off a winning show in the genre.
With the kickoff tournament in Brazil in 2023, Riot will now have a base standard that they will look to surpass.