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5 Reasons why VALORANT is closing in on CS:GO | BMW Esports Boost Follow Up

Since its release in 2020 VALORANT has been shaking up the esport industry. Riot's shooter has the potential to overtake current FPS leader CS:GO.

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Counter-Strike has had a long legacy as being the posterboy of the FPS genre in esports. No other game in the genre has come close to the global success Valve’s title has enjoyed over its many iterations. With VALORANT’s release last year Riot has issued a serious challenge to the current king CS:GO.

Many experts believe that a bright future is ahead of VALORANT for various reasons.

1. Fresh look for established gameplay

Back in development Riot already put down the foundations for their success with an easy formula: Give a known and uncomplicated game a fresh look. The developer did not reinvent the genre, instead they turned to CS:GO and Overwatch for inspiration.

VALORANT features two teams of five players each facing off against each other. The attacking side needs to secure an objective to plant a “spike”, while the defenders need to stop them. A game mode that was made popular by Counter-Strike many years in the past. While Valve’s game involves a realistic setting with terrorists and counter-terrorists, Riot chose a more comic-oriented look with fictional agents – similar to Overwatch.

Conclusively said VALORANT is a mix of tactical and hero-based shooter. It is this combination coupled with the familiar game mode that makes it so popular for players.

2. Pros favour VALORANT

Not just average gamers enjoy VALORANT. During the closed beta in 2020 many professional players in other FPS titles also had a chance to give the game a shot and the majority gave plenty of positive feedback. Recognizing the potential of the new game, established teams like 100 Thieves, Fnatic, Sentinels and many more followed suit and signed VALORANT rosters.

Together with the struggles of the North American Counter-Strike scene many players switched to VALORANT. Names like hiko, nitr0, ScreaM or current superstar Tyson “TenZ” Ngo all had their roots in CS:GO before making the switch.

All these players led to a lot of attention right from the beginning and established it as one of the games on the rise in esports.

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3. Riot knows how to esport

Much of the credit has to go to Riot for that. They are certainly no strangers to esport as their flagship title League of Legends is still the largest esport by quite a margin. During Worlds millions of fans worldwide tune in to see the best of the best duke it out on the biggest stage of LoL.

Even the pandemic did not affect Riot’s esport scene too much. They were one of the first developers to return to LAN in protected environment and managed to maintain their professional standards in production despite the difficulties. VALORANT’s first larger tournaments have obviously profited from all their experience and expertise they gathered over the years.

Riot has given the teams plenty of time to familiarize themselves with the game and consciously decided against larger tournaments during 2020. Instead they hosted the Ignition series to work on their esport concept and vision for VALORANT. 2021 saw the kickoff of the Champions Tour, which offers an early and stable structure for the teams in the ecosystem. It will also host the large Champions event at the end of the season similar to Worlds in LoL.

4. Viewer numbers are skyrocketing

Nuturing the esport scene is one thing, the other is to attract fans and viewers throughout the season. Riot has rightfully earned themselves a stellar reputation on that end as well. During the beta the company already pushed reach all throughout the gaming world with their system of distributing beta keys through watching streamers on Twitch.

Sowing the seeds of their future success the beta established a viewer base for VALORANT on Twitch at the same time as they built up a player base. According to Riot the beta saw daily player peaks at three million users.

Although the numbers went down again towards the tail end of 2020 as no large scale competitions were held, the Champions Tour saw the return of the audience with a vengeance. Up to 750,000 viewers followed the first interregional clash at the VALORANT Masters in Iceland. Some of that was also due to the Co-Streaming concept on Twitch, which enables popular streamers to watch the matches with their communities while still contributing to the viewer count.

5. Sponsors are taking note

Shooter games and sponsoring has always had a bit of a rocky relationship. The FPS genre is still subject of prejudice for many brands as mass shootings or terrorism are often unjustly linked to it. Many brands are afraid of interacting with the scene for those reasons, even knowing that shooters are part of the core esports community.

Companies act afraid when dealing with shooters.

That was OG’s CEO, JMR Luna’s judgement during the BMW Esports Boost. Pia Schörner, Head of BMW Esports confirmed his statement, saying that “we are very careful in that regard”. But VALORANT seems to be the great exception. Why?

There are shooters and then there are shooters. Classic Red-blood shooters like CS:GO and Call of Duty exist but on the other side you have fantasy shooters without blood like VALORANT. We have seen a chance to enter the segment there.

Just the different setting seems to make VALORANT the much more acceptable game to get involved with for brands. This will be the key factor for VALORANT’s further success in esports. As the entry barrier into VALORANT is lower for business we might see a pivot away from CS:GO towards VALORANT as investments flow towards the fantasy shooter.

CS:GO is handicapped due to its setting and might just be overtaken by VALORANT due to it.

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Image Credits: Valve, Riot Games