Valorant in Korea – How South Korean Players Will Perform in Valorant Esports

Oddball 2020-10-21 11:16:18
  South Korea is known for dominating many esports. With their work ethic, infrastructure, and overall culture, the country has consistently produced the best. In both StarCraft titles they essentially wrote the entirety of its history. Playing League of Legends, they dominated international competition for years. In Overwatch, with their streak of wins, it almost seemed like “Team South Korea” should have been etched into the World Cup.
With Valorant emerging as an esport, it begs the question of how Koreans will perform. Will it be the same supremacy we’ve seen in the aforementioned? Or will there be a more level playing field like other titles? There’s a few points to consider.  Popularity The vital factor with Korea’s skill in any game is its popularity. Originally western League of Legends players dismissed their Korean counterparts, citing their lack of experience with team-based games. They dominated. Overwatch players held a similar sentiment, citing all their past games being based around real time strategy. They dominated.  The question of whether Koreans will make a large impact on a game doesn’t rely as much on what type of game it is, but more so how many people are involved with it. That’s true with all these titles, each one for a time being the most popular games in the country (StarCraft II they dominated more by proxy of the residual effect of Brood War). This led to a much larger potential talent pool, and made organizations willing to invest in said games, allowing them to fully benefit from the country’s esports infrastructure.
Related: Interview w/ Artosis - Korea's dominance in Brood War and more
With the previous popularity of games like Sudden Attack, a famous and respected publisher, and a light-hearted art style, many signs pointed to Valorant’s success in the region. So far, the reception has been less than positive. According to translator Andrew ‘Korean Mulan’ Kim, comments on the Korean website Inven have been overwhelmingly negative, actually expressing distaste for the aesthetic and blatant inspiration from other games.  Since then, the Korean response to Valorant has been as tepid as an Orlando jacuzzi. Streaming figures on AfreecaTV have shown the FPS not even cracking 500 viewers. On the first day of release, the game recorded usage of 0.84% of Korean PC Bangs, almost ten times lower than Overwatch’s initial 11.7%. Current game usage statistics show Valorant not even ranking in the top 10.   Now this doesn’t mean Valorant is doomed to fail in Korea. Definitely looks like it, but a slow burn is certainly in the cards. Just like how CS:GO required major revamping before skyrocketing in popularity, Valorant could be an update away from taking the country by storm. That question is left to time however. Whether or not the FPS gains steam, the current trajectory is less encouraging than the popular games of before. Doing it Solo Even if Valorant doesn’t reach the same popularity as League of Legends or Overwatch, Korean teams could still make a large impression in competition. DOTA 2, Counter Strike, and WarCraft III never shook the country the way other games did. That didn’t stop MVP Phoenix from winning multiple Tier 1 events. It didn’t put an end to Moon becoming possibly the greatest WarCraft III player ever. It couldn’t even prevent solo and WeMade FOX from defeating the best CS teams in the world, despite there being virtually no Korean competitive scene. 

One of the greatest CS teams ever

Even if Valorant doesn’t become a cultural phenomenon, I still think Korean players can have a strong presence. Already there are a few indications pointing to Korea’s success. With the precedence set by other games, even when in the face of very challenging circumstances, there will undoubtedly be a few teams competitive enough to compete with the best in the world. Several organizations are already picking up Korean teams. No Mercy, Lunatic-hai, and most interestingly Cloud9 have all made the venture. With their history of competitiveness and infrastructure in place, Korean teams have the tools they need to get to the top. An Interesting Matchup The most interesting notion regarding this subject is that Valorant could be acting as a battleground for former professionals of very different games. Although Korea has had strong teams in most of the CS titles, it seems that most of their representatives are hailing from games like Overwatch, PUBG, and Apex Legends. From the western side of things, almost all former professionals are migrating over from CSGO. Players like Freakazoid, ScreaM, and Hiko have went all in on Valorant. To me, this a dream scenario.

Many players have made the switch.

It should be really fun to see how players with very different skill sets adjust to the new game. Competitors from tactical shooters, hero shooters, and battle royale games all have a chance to demonstrate their particular disciplines. With Korean players mostly hailing from the latter two, their success may also heavily depend on how their experience transfers over. It will be an interesting experiment that we haven’t really seen before. Conclusion South Korean esports has produced arguably the best results ever. As we’ve seen, the success of their foray is quite complicated. Nobody knows how much Valorant will grow in popularity, or how the game’s mechanics will welcome displaced PUBG and Overwatch players. As far as I’m concerned I want to see the best performance possible. Korean competitors have done that so many times, pushing Western competitors to continue improving. I’m not sure if they’ll contribute to Valorant the same way they have other games, but I certainly hope so.
If you enjoyed this article, follow the author on Twitter at @OddballCreator. Images are respectively: T1, Statista, HLTV, Cloud 9, DreamHack, and Riot Games  

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