2020 Year Review: Valorant Tournaments and Esports

Aashir Ahmed 2020-12-27 07:50:15
  Even before the launch of beta itself in early 2020, Valorant, or ‘Project A’, turned many heads and left many people wondering. Its fame was also largely in part due to being developed by Riot, who had kept League of Legends enjoyable for more than a decade. Many professional players and members of the community referred to it as a hybrid between CS:GO and Overwatch, which only added to the excitement. After the beta made its foray into the gaming world in March, it was what everyone was talking about, and was being called the next big trend.  It had an unrivaled Twitch reign for several days, when fans started populating the streams in the search to obtain a key drop. For the first few weeks, Riot focused heavily on building the competitive integrity of Valorant. In the meantime, they added and tweaked elements to make the game fun and enjoyable. The emphasis of Riot on designing a competitive strategy was evidence of their potential plans for this game. Here is a recap of Valorant in 2020.  

2020 Tournaments:

Valorant had no lack of tourneys being hosted by big organizations, even pre-launch.  Nerd Street Gamers held a $25,000 competition, bringing together organizations such as GenG, Team Brax, who later were picked up by T1, and Sentinels. The number of tournaments hosted faced a boost as the updates favoring improvements to competitive integrity began pouring in. Hundreds of streamers and players participated online in Community Tournaments to ensure that when teams came to sign rosters, they get a chance to be at the forefront of the market.  

Why did the Valorant Competitive Scene thrive?

For a game only 9 months into launch since Beta, Valorant’s esports scene has been beyond phenomenal. Most new games tend to limit the ability to host tournaments exclusive to large organizations, or even only the developers themselves. However, Riot learning from their experience from the League of Legends scene allowed community tournaments to exist. Not only were the tournaments successful in highlighting potential talent from the community, it simultaneously allowed them to monitor the esports scene to decide which formats fit well for the tournaments. Nerd Street Gamers has hosted various competitions experimenting with various tournament structures and brackets. Some of the best teams in North American Valorant started as small teams, like Together We Are Terrific being signed to Team Envy. Valorant soon became notorious for stealing highly talented players from teams of the Overwatch League and CS:GO. Valorant’s tournaments started branching out of only NA and EU, as it started amassing fans from all over the world. Audiences tuned in by huge numbers to attend these tournaments online since physical venues had been closed due to the ongoing pandemic.  

Valorant Ignition Series

2020 In collaboration with numerous organizations around the world, a series of tournaments was launched. There is a unique format in nearly every tournament that helps participants and associations to find out what fits best. The G2 x Ignition invitational, which included eight teams led by a captain, was the first tournament in the Valorant Ignition series. However, until the day before the tournament, the captains did not find out who would be on their side, which brought a sense of suspense and enthusiasm to the event. The RAGE x Ignition was the second tournament in the Ignition Series which contained 16 of the finest Japanese teams. The teams battled for a 500,000 Yen winner-take-all prize. It was the first A-tier tournament outside NA or EU. In the Empire Play x Ignition Invitational, teams from North African countries were able to showcase their abilities to the world. Eight teams faced each other in a single-elimination format. Players from Latin America and the Pacific region too showed off their skills in respective tournaments. The Cyber Games Arena Valorant Pacific Open featured 16 teams from various pacific countries competing in the regional opener. Latin American players competed in the GGTech Valorant Invitational. The event consisted of two invitationals; one for Latin American North and another for Latin America South. There were eight teams per invitational to compete for a spot in the finals. In the finals, the top 8 teams competed. The first major Valorant tournament in North America was the Valorant T1 x Nerd Street Gamers Showdown, which offered a strong glimpse into the early competitive strategies. It was also one of the first competitions in which each team consisted mostly of professional players rather than streamers.  

Extended Ignition Tournaments:

As part of the Ignition Series on August 6th-9th, FaZe Clan held its own Valorant Invitational. 16 of the best players played in a double-elimination, best of three formats, for their share of a $50,000 prize pool. in the PAX Arena Valorant Invitational. There were 16 professional North American teams and four influencer squads playing in a best of three formats. Lastly, Nerd Street Gamers, Spectator Gaming, and Riot Games collaborated in hosting Valorant's biggest all-women tournament, the FTW Summer Clash. After it was established, Riot entered the event and made it an official part of the Ignition Series, and raised the prize pool from $10,000 to $50,000. Other tournaments were also made part of the Ignition series, such as the Rise of Valour Ignition Event in the Oceanic region. The Pop Flash Ignition Series hosted by B site and even BLAST entered the scene with the Valorant Twitch Invitational.  

First Strike:

2020 While all of these tournaments had a level of hype surrounding them, none of them can come close to First Strike. It reigned supreme over all others. Hosted by Riot themselves, it had a prize pool of $100,000 -- making it first of its kind. Along with the giants of North America and Europe, there was a total of seven regional finals. After a month of vigorous battles in the qualifiers, the finals didn't disappoint. In the finals, everyone was at the edge of their seats, rooting for their favorites to be crowned the best in the region. But it could be only one team, and 100 Thieves did it in NA, Team Heretic in EU, and so on. The storylines and rivalries that have begun post-tournament are promising.

What does the future hold?

2020 The Champions Tour is a year-long tournament series that will eventually pit teams against each other from distinct regions. Structures to find the best teams in each region, then taken together on a world stage to fight it out. A format similar to the likes of Riot's League of Legends’ World Championship. For Valorant, there is no shortage of community support. The future of Valorant remains promising between a stable presence on Twitch, consistent community tournaments, and ongoing support and consistent updates from Riot in 2021. Check out our Valorant section for more features!
If you enjoyed this piece, follow the author on Twitter at @AashirAhmed. Images courtesy of Riot Games

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