When discussions first began surrounding VALORANT as an esport, something I was curious about was how South Korean teams would perform. Given the dominance Korean players have had in Riot Games' other title (you might've heard of it), it was an exciting prospect: the full force of the Korean market competing in a game type dominated by Western players. A second track for the hype train. So far that hasn't really been the case, but elite Korean teams are starting to pop up. The most notable is Vision Strikers.A Korean organization composed of Kim "glow" Min-soo, Kim "stax" Gu-taek, Goo "Rb" San-Min, Lee "k1Ng" Seung-won, and Kim "Zest" Gi-seok, the the roster has quickly made a name for themselves as the strongest team in the region. They have been extremely successful - having never lost a tournament so far. In fact, they've never lost a match. They've only drawn two matches in their team’s history. They've not only dominated Korea, but have taken out the best Japanese and Chinese teams, solidifying themselves among the highest in Asia.It makes sense. When asked about their success, the team's head coach Pyeon “termi” Seon-ho was very upfront about their headstart over the competition. "We had some advantages, such as being the first official (professional) team in the region to enter the VALORANT scene. We also transitioned from CS:GO with extremely talented players and staff, all of whom contributed to our success thus far." The support structure of the team is already very impressive - boasting a team house with dedicated staff, as well as aspirations to form sister teams.But it isn't just the level of experience and resources that make Vision Strikers a strong team. Grabbing some veterans and giving them a burlap sack of cash won't always make champions. The players have a killer instinct. All the characteristics of an elite unit are there. "...I can say that we practice much more than the average team. But even with all this practice, all of us do not think that we are the undisputed best team out there yet, and I believe that’s the core of our motivation in the competitive scene."There are problems concerning VALORANT's popularity in Korea. Since the game's launch, the regional response has been very quiet. Seeing someone playing the shooter in a Korean PC bang is like searching for a four-leafed clover in a haystack blindfolded: you won't find it. Statistics of the game’s performance in these areas are very disappointing. Some have pointed to the game itself as well the cartoonish aesthetic. When asking termi about this, VS's coach was optimistic, and saw a completely different problem."I personally think that there was a problem right from the launch of VALORANT in Korea. Based on the patterns and trends of online games in Korea, they tend to succeed only when they are able to draw users from the internet cafes (PC Cafe). When VALORANT launched, the Riot Vanguard system prohibited VALORANT from being played in internet cafes and this is still unresolved to this day. If the vanguard system had not existed, then I’m certain that VALORANT would have been much more successful in Korea. Furthermore, there are some opinions stating that VALORANT is unpopular because it combined several genres into one, but I strictly believe the vanguard system is the biggest issue. Even without being able to access the game from internet cafes, the number of Korean users playing from home is promising and I also think that the league is cruising along well. While it’s true that it’s quite late, I still think the game can become much more popular in this region if the problem is resolved."It makes sense, and could be inhibiting Korea's strength on the world stage. Korean players in relatively unpopular games like Jang “Moon” Jae Ho in WarCraft III and Kang “solo” Keun-chul in Counter-Strike represented their country well. But it would be more exciting seeing Korean VALORANT teams with the full support of the country's esports infrastructure behind them. If termi's suspicions are true, that's still possible.Even still, Vision Strikers is not making light of the current competition in Korea. "I want to say that while it is true that Vision Strikers is Korea’s top ranked team, watching VALORANT Challengers Korea reminded me how good other teams have gotten. From what I see, I think that there are significant talents within our region that can succeed internationally. Taking that into mind, I think it’s hard for me to state just one single team that I am looking at/up to. I think every match will be a ‘main’ competition for us."There are still questions on how Korea will perform in VALORANT, and whether or not Riot will be able to grow the game from its modest state there. The game is an exciting esport: with solid gameplay, storylines, and developer support. However, something it could certainly work on is its interest globally. A great team like Vision Strikers show how exciting the game could be with more Korean involvement. The more the merrier. Questions still remain if Riot can once again awaken the sleeping giant of Korea. Time will tell. One thing is for certain - Vision Strikers are a team worth watching. If you enjoyed this article, follow the author for more at @OddballCreator.Check our VALORANT section for more content.
Images courtesy of Riot Games and Vision Strikers
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