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Why are FPS players switching to Valorant?
Valorant is attracting some of the world’s best FPS players despite its lack of official pro leagues. We dicsuss some of the reasons why several superstars are making the switch.
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It is fair to say that the world of esports was taken aback by Riot Games' most recent addition to the tactical shooting genre; if you have not heard of Valorant then you must be living under a rock because the game literally crushed Twitch records when it debuted.
The closed beta was released on April 7 and after its first week on Twitch, Valorant accumulated a huge 148.7 million hours watched and total concurrent viewers in excess of 1 million, to effortlessly claim the number one spot on the live streaming platform.
(Image Credit: ESCharts)
Previously known as Project A, Valorant is a first person shooter (FPS) that replicates the traditional game consisting of two teams of five, who must take turns in attempts to successfully plant and defuse a bomb.
Either team may also eliminate each other by killing all the opposing members over the course of several attacking and defensive rounds. The game is similar to that of CS:GO’s or the Search and Destroy mode in Call of Duty.
This planting/defusal game mode from Counter Strike takes a small twist in Valorant, where it is crossed between the high octane and fantastical theme of characters with unique abilities, that may be observed in Overwatch.
(Gameplay on the map 'Ascent' in Valorant. Image Credit: NME)
Only certain individuals, mostly well known streamers and content creators were invited to play the closed beta in its earliest stages. Now, after being in its full version, which released in June, and accessible to anyone, the initial hype around the game has naturally subsided.
But Valorant has exceeded expectations from gamers across the globe and after such an explosive entrance onto the scene, it's very normal for a game’s viewership to decline like this. It still remains at one of the top spots on Twitch and, we believe, has a bright future ahead of itself.
One reason as to why Valorant has been so popular is because highly respected players from other FPS games have become acquainted with the game and together, are regularly streaming to hundreds of thousands of viewers every day.
Matthew "Wardell" Yu is widely considered as one of the best Valorant players in the world. A former CS:GO pro, Wardell was never known for reaching the same heights in CS. (Image Credit: Liquipedia)
This has also been accentuated by Riot releasing the ranked system to play on live servers, where players get the chance to put their skills to the hardest of tests, in a bid to climb the public leaderboard.
What seems to be the trend for many of these already established pros leaving their respective scenes for Valorant, is the chance to start fresh and be a pioneer in what could be one of the world’s most popular esports.
The attraction to begin a new, solid career path is what Valorant is currently offering, with prize pools of $50,000 already up for grabs in “unofficial” tournaments.
Although, some of these tournaments are part of Valorant’s Ignition Series, Riot’s first step at building the competitive ecosystem for the game, in partnership with players, teams and tournament organizers.
One of the most recent tournaments for the Ignition Series featured the best teams in North America competing for the $50,000 prize pool, where Team Sentinels were crowned the winners. (Image Credit: Riot Games)
Why are pros making the switch?
Speaking in an interview with GGRecon, former British CS:GO pro Adam ‘ec1s’ Eccles touched upon his reasons for switching games: “We were burned out from CS. It started to feel like a chore and we no longer enjoyed the game, me and Ardis (ardiis) left our best ever team in CS to take a chance on Valorant because the hunger wasn’t there for CS anymore.
“As well as in CS, we believed it was extremely hard to “make it” due to everyone being established already but in Valorant it was a fresh start and new opportunities, as well as being a lot more fun than CS!”
Other more recognisable players in the gaming community such as Adil ‘ScreaM’ Benrlitom and Spencer 'Hiko' Martin of CS:GO, Jay 'sinatraa' Won of Overwatch and Brandon ‘aceu’ Winn of Apex Legends are just a few of those who have chosen to switch.
Adil ‘ScreaM’ Benrlitom is one of Valorant's biggest stars and is a CS:GO veteran, famously known for his "one taps". (Image Credit: Dexerto)
They have already reached the highest tier in the game labelled 'Radiant', regularly streaming their successes on Twitch. (These players have all officially retired from their previous games).
The players who rank 'Radiant' are the undisputed best players in their regions and it comes to no surprise that these FPS machines have already achieved this feat.
They have successfully demonstrated the transferable nature of skills between different shooter games, with attributes such as raw aim as a reliable in-game mechanic.
Former CS:GO pro Tyson 'TenZ' Ngo was one of the first players to be signed to play professional Valorant. (Image Credit: Cloud9)
Not only have players made the move, but there are now also professional teams that have made the plunge and invested in the competitive scene for the game, despite its official existence.
Esport organisation giants, Cloud9, were one of the first when they signed ex CS:GO pro Tyson 'TenZ' Ngo, who was the first to reach the game’s highest tier 'Valorant' (now ‘Radiant) in North America, whilst teams such as TSM, G2 Esports, T1, 100 Thieves, Dignitas, FunPlus Phoenix and Team Sentinels to name a few, have already assembled complete rosters.
“Everything about its launch, and Riot’s track record, indicate that that is the likely scenario,” said CEO of Sentinels Rob Moore, who firmly believes in Valorant's competitive future.
Moore states that the decision to attempt a completed roster before the existence of a competitive scene for the game is a calculated risk, “We’ve made the decision as an organization to get into games early, and to develop teams and players early.
“And if we’re wrong, that’s not a huge investment if it doesn’t pan out. We’re not waiting a year to see if this game is developed. We want to be part of the first wave.”
Jay "sinatraa" Won, Overwatch League's MVP in 2019. (Image Credit: Overwatch League)
Amongst the signings are ‘sinatraa’ who became arguably the best Overwatch player in the world in 2019.
He won the Overwatch League title as a member of the San Francisco Shock, the Overwatch World Cup as part of Team USA and was also awarded OW's prestigious 'MVP' title for both competitions.
Despite his incredible achievements, Won, in an interview with ESPN Sports, said he “straight up just lost passion for the game,” a deciding factor for his switch to Valorant and a common trend amongst other pros who did the same.
Several leaving statements from players included reasons based upon boredom or dissatisfaction of their current games, coupled with the desire to be a part of something newer and more exciting.
In the clip above, Brandon "aceu" Winn, a former Apex Legends pro, is seen talking about him being "done with Apex" during a Valorant stream.
Of a similar nature to Won, in an interview with Red Bull Gaming, C9’s TenZ sheds light on when he realised he wanted to move over from CS:GO: “I've decided to go pro [in Valorant] because when I was playing the beta, I realised I haven't had as much fun as I was having in a long time.
“Although it might be seen as risky to switch games, I feel like the future of this game is very bright. I will no longer be playing CS:GO while I am playing Valorant professionally.”
Other players, some quite openly and others less overtly, have admitted the incentive to switch was not only to have a fresh start, but because they were not achieving the success they wanted in their respective games.
After dedicating themselves to a video game (some for up to ten years), not reaching the pinnacle of the esport (such as a major in CS:GO) can only be tolerated for a certain amount of time before the desire to be the best begins to dissipate.
Adam "ec1s" Eccles is a British Valorant player who currently plays for Team Liquid. (Image Credit: Adam Eccles Facebook)
In the interview with Eccles, he candidly mentions some of this frustration from his CS:GO career. “I feel like a lack of opportunities could have been a factor, if I was at a higher level in CS it would have been harder to make the switch, or if I was on a team that I could believe in I would have stayed in CS but I think I plateaued in that game, playing in ESEA advanced since its creation and being one or two games away from MDL every time was very demoralising.”
In April, Eccles formed a new British Valorant team called ‘fish123’ and they recently participated in the $50,000 WePlay! Invitational tournament. The team managed to acquire ScreaM as a stand-in for Ardis ‘ardiis’ Svarenieks who left them for G2 Esports earlier this month.
Fish123 had an excellent run in their first major tournament as a team; they made it to the grand final, but were eventually defeated by ex-teammate Ardiis and a strong G2 side, who are currently considered by many to be the best pro Valorant team in the world.
Nonetheless, their talents caught the eyes of one of the US’ most prevalent and successful esports organisations. The entire roster, along with ScreaM, were acquired by Team Liquid to form one of Valorant’s most promising teams to date.
ScreaM in his Team Liquid jersey. (Image Credit: ScreaM Twitter)
“[Our roster is] basically the Fish123 roster, except with Adil ‘ScreaM’ Benrlitom in there,” says Victor Goossens, Co-CEO of Team Liquid. “For the most part that name [Fish123] is associated with five players and we're picking up four and then we're adding ScreaM who we believe is arguably the best player in the world.”
Up until this point, ScreaM had been playing on the Fish123 roster for a few weeks, and with the Belgian superstar in their artillery, they were proving themselves to be a cohesive unit. Team Liquid have since placed third in the most recent Allied Esports Odyssey tournament, part of the Ignition Series.
“[ScreaM] was a very important part of our strategy when picking up our roster [for] our entry into Valorant, we actually have been talking to ScreaM for a while,” says Goossens. “We noticed his skill level, popularity, obviously, and he's a proven veteran that's on top of a new game, and so that's really all very appealing to us.
“And that's one of the core pieces that we started to work with and it ended up that the opportunity with Fish123 came up and that made perfect sense to us. So I would say ScreaM is a very important cornerstone of our entry into Valorant.”
None of us know for certain what the future holds in store for competitive Valorant. But for now, we patiently wait for Riot to make their decision on the matter of an official pro league or global tournament.
If we had to make a prediction, we'd say that we might be seeing regular competitive Valorant being played sooner than we think. Until then, good luck, have fun, and don't be toxic!