Why Are so Many Overwatch Pros Switching to Valorant?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock this last week, you’ve probably heard of the big new shooter game; Valorant. This new title is only in its closed beta, but it has exploded in popularity and been dominating both Twitch and conversation over competitive games. In particular, to Overwatch pros Valorant has been exciting. With similar gameplay, the new shooter might give Blizzard’s game a run for its money.
What is Valorant?
Valorant is a new title coming from Riot games, the developer behind League of Legends. They have a good pedigree when it comes to Esports, so it is no surprise that Valorant looks like it was scientifically designed for this purpose.
The gameplay is really quite similar to Overwatch. Suspiciously similar really. This isn’t unusual though, the world of first-person shooters is pretty insular and most tiles share a lot of common ground. Valorant has received its fair share of criticism over this complaint, with some even branding it a clone.
Would Valorant really be getting the same praise and hype if it wasn't made by Riot Games? To be honest the sneak peak at the gameplay shows an extremely average and clunky looking Overwatch/CSGO clone.
— Damosk (@DamoskFGC) March 3, 2020
While the similarities are quite suspect, it might be an overstatement to brand it a clone. If every first-person shooter had to stand up to these same tests of ‘originality’, Doom would still be the one around. Even Overwatch was called a CS: GO clone at first.
First-person shooters grow from the gameplay of other titles. Much of what makes online shooters popular came from Halo, which in turn took a lot of its multiplayer cues from Goldeneye 64. Branding games with similarities clones is counterproductive, since developing on existing mechanics is important for getting new experiences in a genre.
With the game still in a very early stage of development, it is unfair to give it too harsh of an assessment just yet. The lack of visual flair in there should already show that the game is far from done. Valorant should develop into something that stands on its own, and there is plenty of room in the world for another competitive hero shooter.
Overwatch Pros and Streamers Playing Valorant
Valorent has exploded on Twitch in the past week. Many streamers are playing the game pretty much non-stop. A number of pros have even signaled that they’ll be switching to Valorent.
hold my hand im scared… (open image for even more) pic.twitter.com/39QwVSinkd
— Eskay (@EskayOW) April 6, 2020
There may be other motives at play here. Apex Legends achieved a similar status of initial hype on its first release, which was down to one of the most aggressive marketing use of streamers. The game essentially bought its way to the top of the charts, paying off any content creator they could find. The strategy worked, but it doesn’t guarantee success. You only have to look at the weird sensation of memes being bought for political candidates to see there are flaws in attempting to bribe content creators.
Valorant doesn’t seem to be paying streamers to play. It is giving away keys though. In a closed beta, keys allow players to take part significantly earlier. For an aspiring streamer, this new access is invaluable. For a player looking to see what the hype is about, it is equally exciting. Valorant keys are being distributed through streams of the game, with streamers being given many codes to hand out. This gives them and the game attention. Rather than being a case of stream-adverts being bought, this is more of symbiotic relationship. The streamer gets the good results from getting in on the Valorant hype and giving away codes, then Valorant gets the PR.
Will Valorant Kill Overwatch?
This has been a question asked a lot in the last week. For the most part though, this is just the initial hype. A wave of an excitement for a genuinely exciting new game. For Overwatch pros, Valorant is a fun chance to diversify, but it isn’t much of a replacement yet.
Getting into Esports can be done with two routes. The first is to buy your way in with sheer brute force. This is kind of what Epic did with Fortnite and EA with Apex on a smaller scale, throwing trucks of money after players until it hit the big time. The other is to slowly and gradually build a community and let the following grow organically. This is how Esports traditionally developed. With so many companies competing and throwing resources into building an Esport, this is much less likely to happen anymore.
Valorant will need significant investment to become a mainstream Esports title. Riot definitely have both the pockets and the experience to do this. However, the game is far from a wide release. It is just too early to actually figure out if Valorant will ever get a competitive scene big enough to warrant ditching the regular pay and lively scene of Overwatch.
Valorant is a promising looking game, and definitely one to watch as it progresses further through its development cycle. At the moment though, it is premature to make any assumptions about its competitive future. A healthy dose of scepticism is needed for the fans and pros worried about the sky falling on other competitive games.