Valorant’s 2023 esports season is off to a flying start with exceptional viewership, and we haven’t even seen its franchised teams play yet. Last night saw the kick-off of North America’s Challengers series, a regional Tier 2 scene that features plenty of big orgs and players but isn’t expected to draw anywhere near the same levels of interest as the games between Riot-partnered teams later this year. From the numbers I saw last night, that expectation has been blown out of the water.
Official stats are a little tricky to pull as escharts hasn’t yet updated its figures for the event, but TwitchTracker has peak Valorant Twitch viewership last night well above average. Over 280,000 people were watching streamers either play or watch the game during the G2 vs. Faze and The Guard vs. DSG matches. Not all of them were tuned into those matches specifically, of course, but the spike is indicative of the generally high level of interest.
Watch parties from Tark, Disguised, Sinatraa, Shahzam, and other popular Valorant streamers/professional players drove viewership, with concurrent viewership between the four of them over 100,000 at times. The Knights Arena channel was averaging around 10,000 viewers for the games — small by comparison but actually still quite impressive for a Tier 2 competition.
Clearly, the numbers would not have been anywhere near as impressive without watch party viewership, and it’s also likely the lack of Tier 1 competition is encouraging esports fans to tune in. Either way you cut it, though, the viewership is a big win for Valorant’s esports scene and Riot Games. After all, the franchising of Valorant’s premier division came under heavy scrutiny for the anticipated impact it might have on teams who didn’t make partnerships. So far at least, far from fading into obscurity as feared, Challengers looks as though it’s destined to become a very relevant feature of Valorant’s esports circuit moving forward.
Valorant’s LOCK//IN tournament begins later this month in Brazil, which features 32 of the best Valorant teams in the world and is our first look at the franchised system before the main season begins. There is a special cosmetics skin bundle that celebrates the event.