‘Valorant’ esports head talks about “significant” changes arriving in 2022

"We like to think that we've cherry picked and built what's best for our fans"

Daniel Ringland, Valorant esports head for Europe, Middle East and Asia (EMEA), has outlined Riot Games‘ approach to cultivating competition in its free-to-play shooter.

Speaking to NME, Ringland said there would be “pretty significant changes” coming to Valorant‘s competitive environment in 2022.

Part of these changes include the introduction of Valorant Regional Circuits (VRCs) and Valorant Regional Leagues (VRLs), which Ringland explained:

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“Within those circuits are many different amateur events that cater to many different sorts of people – social people, players that just want to be professional, they can all find something cool to participate in that. They exist on a regional level – we have one in France, one in Turkey, one in MENA et cetera. A layer up from that we have the VRLs, the Valorant Regional Leagues. These aim to be the top tier of national competition. We then have an event toward the end of the year where the top team from each of the eight VRLs will compete to figure out who is the best VRL team in EMEA.”

Riot Games' Valorant
Valorant. Credit: Riot Games

On the decision to support Valorant scenes in separate regions, Ringland said that “we think there’s a lot of power in regional autonomy and feeling like something was built for you on a national level, but also feeling like you’re connected into this bigger thing.”

As well as changes to national leagues, Ringland added that the Game Changers event will have “a global event that will happen toward the end of this year”.

Ringland describes Riot Games’ approach as being “barrier-free”, which he says means that regardless of skill differences, “you can find a part of this ecosystem to come in at”.

“What we mean by barrier free is that there’s an entry point for everybody that works for their level – and that’s one of the big advantages we see of being able to design that ecosystem from top to bottom, we can cater to everybody.”

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Valorant
Credit: Stacey Henley

“If you’re a pro player that’s been participating in Counter-Strike and you’re already really really good, there’s an entry point for that. If you’re somebody that dreams of being pro and you’re well and truly on your way, perhaps you’re good enough to get into a VRL team – or maybe not quite – there’s an entry point for you. Then if you’re at the very beginning of that journey, there’s an entry point for you in the VRCs.”

Though Valorant‘s esports scene is fairly new – the game itself only launched in 2020 – Riot Games has lots of experience in running esports scenes. The studio is famously the creator of League Of Legends, an online game that drew over 4million viewers during its Worlds event in 2021.

That being said, Ringland revealed that the Valorant design team wanted to explore different avenues for how they created the shooter’s own professional scene, and looked to other esports games for inspiration.

Valorant Killjoy
Killjoy’s Nanoswarm ability. Credit: Riot Games

“When we sat down to design Valorant, we spent a lot of time looking not just at what we’d done as Riot, but looking at what other esports and even other sports have built as well,” Ringland said. “I’d like to think that we haven’t just carbon copied what Riot’s done before, and that we have been able to incorporate some elements from other esports, particularly shooters, that are popular there and think will resonate with our audiences…We like to think that we’ve cherry picked and built what’s best for our fans.”

Beyond the restructuring in 2022, Ringland says there are some “exciting changes in the works” and stresses that “Valorant esports is a big priority for Riot”.

“We feel that we’re at the very beginning of this journey even though this will be our second year. We feel really good about the foundations we’ve laid particularly coming into 2022 with the VRCs and VRLs. Really, now we just need to be focusing on growing all of those, continuing to listen to our fans, understand them, and what they want. Our focus will be on growing the foundations of what we have built together with our fans.”

In other news, police in Florida are looking for a man who tried to rob a bank with a Sonic The Hedgehog mask and a hammer.

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