Valorant’s closed beta is now open to just about anyone who can get their hands on a beta code. The CS:GO / Overwatch hybrid tactical shooter from Riot has been all anything anyone can talk about for the past week. Is it just hype, or is there something else about Valorant that will take the gaming world by storm?
There is no doubt that Valorant will change the FPS shooter market when it releases in full. Take what you read with a grain of salt, and don’t think of it as the elite esport quite yet. Speaking from personal experience with the game, and taking into account critique of professionals, here’s why Valorant will surpass Overwatch in 2021.
— Malik Shelp (@malikshelp) April 8, 2020
Valorant is a fun game, combining some of the cleanest elements from CS:GO, with the flavor of Overwatch. It’s best to think of Valorant as CS:GO with special characters, more like Overwatch and less something like Rainbow Six: Siege. There is no denying that the hype surrounding this game is a uniquely Riot thing: you know, Riot, that League of Legends company. Many influencers are riding the Valorant hype train too, but I feel that too will have its ups and downs.
Valorant could knock Overwatch down a peg if they maintain a strong online presence. On the flip side, it is unlikely that it will impact CS:GO‘s reach. It would be foolish to say that in year one, Valorant will take out the Overwatch League. Years of production and care have been put into the League, and the game itself is still being balanced.
The tides are changing
From where I stand, the Overwatch League has not had an easy time over the past two years. When COVID-19 hit, the homestand format dissipated and matches moved online entirely. The Overwatch League suffered in the monetary department, but what hit harder was the deterioration of the tier two scene. The focus on developing a top-tier Overwatch esport league overshadowed the semi-professional scene that brought so many superstars to light. Structurally, the Overwatch League wasn’t prepared for the hardships it endured in 2020, but design-wise the game’s issues began in 2019.
Overwatch is a game to which many have a love/hate relationship. Blizzard has struggled to find a happy medium within the game, first struggling to make the game enjoyable to watch, and then making it viable as a competitive esport. Last year’s stale GOAT meta brought forth a bevy of changes from Blizzard to add artificial variety to the game. Role queue and hero pools are two controversial features of Overwatch that may have signed its eventual grave. The queue times for a damage player are absurd, with most Overwatch streamers playing a separate game while waiting.
In my opinion, the complexity of Overwatch and all of the moving pieces that need to be balanced have hindered its progress in developing as a solid esport. Hero Pools were implemented for diversity, but have adversely lowered the skill ceiling by forcing the meta.
There is simply no reason for any DPS that is not signed to stay playing OW. Every time I go to Twitch and put on a DPS players stream there is around 50% or higher they are in queue. While there is also 100% chance they are not having fun.
— Hawk (@Thee_Hawk) April 6, 2020
Overwatch 2 will release later this year with a promise for numerous improvements. Not only does it bring the additional PvE and story elements, but Blizzard has hinted at a load of new heroes available at launch. This monumental expansion comes with the responsibility of maintaining a high-quality experience all around. If Blizzard has a hard time balancing the current game and competitive scene, 2021 doesn’t bode well for Overwatch 2 and the Overwatch League.
In with the new
Valorant, on the other hand, is following a tried and true format borrowed from CS:GO. The addition of agents with special abilities brings forgiveness and opportunity to adapt on the fly in ways not possible in CS:GO. The game will fluctuate over the next few months – and likely a lot more after release – finding its own balance and identity in the esports world. Riot has a proven track record of supporting their competitive scene at all levels, whereas Blizzard has had a rocky history with Starcraft 2, Heroes of the Storm, and the tier-two Overwatch scene.
No one truly knows how the future will pan out, and the COVID-19 pandemic has set back the entertainment industry as a whole. There is hope that Overwatch will continue to improve throughout 2020, but Valorant is on track to surpass Overwatch specifically in the esports medium.
I recently got my hands on a Valorant closed beta key, and my experience so far has been addicting. It should be clear, that I’m not saying Valorant will kill Overwatch entirely. Only Blizzard has that kind of power. What Valorant has done so far, is siphon in popular players and streamers looking for a change.
A personal preference
To me Valorant has been punishing, rewarding, and above all else, a great time. Learning each guns’ damage and recoil in the practice range feels rewarding when you hop into a game after. So far I’ve had the opportunity to solo queue and play with a full five stack, with the latter producing better results. Communication is key in Valorant, and abilities feel like chess pieces on a board, setting up for the firefight when it breaks out. The tense slow crouch of CS:GO is propelled forward by agent abilities, but not to the point where it becomes overbearing. Overwatch, as mentioned before, is still developing an identity, whereas Valorant is coming out of the gate swinging. The more MOBA-versus-FPS approach that Blizzard took with Overwatch makes it a more complex game to balance completely, and big parts of the community have turned sour with discontent.
There is no doubt that Overwatch‘s viewership and active players are decreasing while the League stabilizes amidst the chaos. Blizzard has announced consistency changes across hero pools, taking an active approach to improve the game and close the gap. Valorant and Overwatch have more differences than I initially expected, and while Overwatch still has a second iteration planned, the longevity of the game might not hold. The increase in popularity for Valorant seems to have triggered a decrease in interest for Overwatch – a trend that, if left to continue, will lead to Valorant easily surpassing Overwatch as an esport.