The first major milestone for the Valorant Champions Tour, Riot Games’ ambitious year-long global Valorant Esports tournament, wrapped up across the world last weekend.
Called Masters Stage 1, it pitted the eight best teams from eight different regions against each other in a battle not only for the largest prize pools yet seen in Valorant esports but also precious “circuit points” necessary to qualify for the end-of-year Champions event.
Although it’s true that we’ve seen the premier teams from each of these regions doing battle online in Challengers since early January, this time the stakes were much higher.
Masters was the prize everyone had been fighting for an opportunity to take part in, and it was a chance for us as spectators to see how the apex of the scene is shaping up when the heat is really on.
In brief, it was a massive success and a hugely positive sign for Valorant esports moving forward. But there are so many interesting talking points that I wanted to parse them into five key takeaways to consider as the scene takes a brief pause before saddling up for its next phase.
Viewership Is Growing, But Influencers are Key
For as grand and ambitious as VCT is, there’s no getting away from the fact that Valorant esports is a fledgling scene, and one that faces an uphill battle trying to muscle its way into a space dominated by major titles like CS: GO, Overwatch, PUBG, and a long list of other popular competitive FPS titles.
It should, then, be a cause for celebration that Masters North America hit a peak viewership number of over 360,000, according to Escharts. It’s a figure that presumably spans both Twitch and YouTube, but more importantly in the case of NA, included influencer “watch party” streams from the likes of Shroud, Myth, and Ninja.
The value of these influencer streams cannot be overstated; at one point, Shroud had over 150,000 people watching his stream alone — numbers that dwarfed the peaks of Valorant’s official channels.
EU and other regions, meanwhile, aren’t allowed to benefit from the same practice, which is forbidden due to legality issues. I’m sure it isn’t the only reason that EU Masters viewership was roughly half that of NA, but it’s surely not helping.
I’m blown away by the fact that all VAL NA qualifiers allow watch party co-streams but every EU qualifier has a 100% ban on them. Do you not understand how big it is for the game’s popularity if we allow this? We aren’t stealing viewers, we are adding viewers… @ValorantEsports
— Liquid Jonas (@Average_Jonas) January 30, 2021
The situation has been a talking point since Challengers, and I really hope there’s some sort of solution because it would help give other regions a boost they sorely need.
The fairly impressive EU and Turkey region viewership numbers aside, the likes of Korea, Japan, and Brazil were much lower than I’m sure Riot was hoping for. Perhaps the one big positive is that, across the board, they were seemingly all up from the numbers seen during Challengers. Let’s hope the trend continues.