League of Legends (LoL) has been Riot Games’ bread and butter since its release in October 2009, being one of the most played games the entire world through its 11-year existence. It was also Riot’s only game for quite a long time, with other spinoffs being released in the LoL universe. But fans wanted something more, something new. And then, the rumors began.
In development since 2014, the first-person shooter project was first hinted at as “Project A” in October 2019, 10 years after LoL’s debut. People involved with the projected included former LoL designers, former Counter-Strike: Global Offensive pros (CS:GO) and art directors from Team Fortress 2.
“I wanted to make a new game that prioritizes team play and cooperation,” said Main Director Joe Ziegler in an interview with Inven Global. “At that time, several of my teammates liked FPS games like Call of Duty or Rainbow Six, so we started developing an FPS game based on team play.”
Then, VALORANT was officially announced. With flashy characters remnant of class-based shooters like Overwatch, Paladins and Team Fortress 2, as well as fast-paced round-based gameplay such as CS:GO and Rainbow Six Siege, the immediate reaction to released in-game footage and a closed beta was astounding. With access to the beta gained by watching Twitch streams, VALORANT was the most watched game on the streaming platform for the month of May, and had 334 million watched hours in April. According to Riot, 3 million players a day logged in on average each day to play VALORANT, which is about 2 million higher than CS:GO’s daily average.
The game isn’t just appealing to casual players. Riot, which is known for its amazing success with LoL esports, has already laid down the foundation for the future of VALORANT in professional gaming.
“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,” said Senior Director of Global Esports at Riot Games Whalen Rozelle to Esports Insider. “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.”
And just like that, the pros of other esports titles started flocking to what could be the next big thing in gaming. Multiple former Overwatch League pros have made the jump, including Corey “Corey” Nigra, Timo “Taimou” Kettunen and reigning Overwatch League (OWL) MVP and last season’s champion Jay “Sinatraa” Won. And this is just a small sample of the numerous OWL pros and champions of past tournaments who have moved on.
CS:GO has had a similar exodus. While not as many highly known names have made the jump, many players in the Tier 2 scene are trying to find a new opportunity.
“I think it makes sense for pros without salary to try out Valorant. Everyone knows most CS players have solid mechanics and this is a unique opportunity,” said Evil Genuis CS:GO pro Tarik “tarik” Celik on Twitter. [It] sucks for the scene, but really no reason to hate on them. Best of luck to anyone trying to switch over.”
Dignitas Female, the two-time World Champions of CS:GO, are splitting their time between both the game they have been accustomed to winning in and VALORANT. It’s a unique approach to esports; playing two different games at once, but the team is committed to it.
“When presented with the opportunity to expand to VALORANT, we quickly recognized the game as a sweet spot between a high-skill esports title and a game that appealed to a broader gaming audience,” said Dignitas Female captain Emmalee ‘EMUHLEET’ Garrido in an interview with Forbes. “DIG Fe and I look forward to the challenge of taking on an additional competitive title and hope to raise a trophy or two in VALORANT.”
With the game officially releasing June 2, pros and players alike are gearing up toward a new agent, Reyna, as well as the potential of a new map. And so are the Charlotte Phoenix.
With the talents of Marco “Flowers” Sotelo, a former FPS player for Cloud9, William “sh0ts” Griffith, a former CS:GO pro, our favorite newcomer Justin “Ksiaze” Goszczynski, former Apex pro Adam “Spirit” Wills and fellow former CS:GO pro Corey “ChurmZ” Koch, our squad will be guided by former Paladins Team Envy head coach and World Champion Justin “Metapusher” Wilkes as they take over the scene, and the world, in a blaze of glory.
Be sure to check out sh0ts representing the Phoenix in the upcoming Twitch Rivals: VALORANT Launch Showdown, an exclusive tournament for some of the biggest and best names as we gear up toward the future of professional VALORANT.