Last weekend, the first stage of Valorant's debut competitive season came to an end, and the most popular regions of the game were determined. North America remained the leader by a giant margin from the rest, while Turkey showed comparable statistics with the European championship. Here are the results of VCT Masters 1 and how streamers help popularize the discipline.
What is the Valorant Champions Tour?
Unlike many other game developers and publishers, Riot Games takes a rather cautious approach to developing the esports scenes of its games. Therefore, Valorant did not have its own The International: instead, until the fall of last year, the game mainly had various show events and competitions for streamers held by third-party operators.
Riot's first move was to host the First Strike Series in October 2020. Back then the tournaments were held in more than ten regions, but Riot did not see the benefit in such a strong fragmentation, so in the new year the number of regions within Valorant Champions Tour has decreased.
The first stage of VCT 2021 consisted of three Challengers series and the final stage of Masters with games in ten regions. But from now on there will be no separate Masters for the CIS and Turkey: they will be united in tournaments for EMEA countries (however, regional Challengers will not go anywhere).
In total, there will be three stages with decisive events named as Masters tournaments. It is noteworthy that the next one is planned as a LAN event: it will be held in Iceland at the end of May: right after Mid-Season Invitational in League of Legends.
During Masters championships teams earn the points to qualify for the Valorant Champions 2021. The world championship is scheduled for late November / early December. The venue has not yet been announced by the publishers.
NA is in the lead
During First Strike it became clear that North America would become the leader of the discipline, and the statistics of VCT Stage 1 Masters only confirm this. At its peak, the tournament attracted more than 363K people, which is the current record for the discipline (excluding promo-tournaments and Twitch Rivals competitions).
The most popular game at the same time was the match between Sentinels and Luminosity Gaming in the first round of the playoffs: 360.6K spectators. The game was casted by content creator shroud, and his broadcast attracted the most fans (over 236.8K concurrent viewers).
The average audience of the Sentinels during the event was over 213K viewers. This is 26K more than 100Thieves had, which became the second by average number of spectators. The top 5 also includes Luminosity Gaming, Immortals and FaZe.
Despite the growth of viewership statistics in the region, it should be noted that it is largely due to the fact that the championship was covered by the popular content creators of Twitch. The broadcasts were carried out by Myth, Pokimane, Ninja, as well as shroud: it was the Canadian streamer who enjoyed the greatest success with viewers and was several times ahead of the official broadcast of the event.
What are other popular regions?
Europe remained the second most watched region of the game. Just as in North America, not only Riot Games themselves, but also well-known community streamers were broadcasting matches. However, the Europe Stage 1 Masters still attracted fewer viewers on average than the European First Strike tournament.
The Grand final was the most popular match in Europe, where Heretics and Acend played: over 142.8K viewers. This was achieved thanks to the most popular Spanish-speaking streamer and content creator TheGrefg, who also owns Heretics: he covered only the last map of the tournament, but his broadcast still bypassed all English-language streams.
Note that all the hype in Europe was gathered precisely by the final of the event. The rest of the tournament's matches had less than 62K people at peak, and the average audience of Masters in Europe was only 41.8K spectators.
In addition to North America and Europe, tournaments in Turkey and Brazil also showed good statistics: on average, they were watched by 37.7K and 31.4K spectators, respectively. Note that the Valorant esports audience in both regions has grown by about 6K people compared to First Strike events.
What's the future of Valorant in the CIS?
Valorant's esports audience in the CIS is not growing. The average number of viewers at VCT 2021: CIS Stage 1 Masters was only 1.6K people. This is the worst result among all regions.
At the same time, one cannot say that the game is completely ‘dead’ in the CIS countries. A lot of former professional CS:GO players successfully switched to Valorant. For example, the Ukrainian player Kiles won Masters champions in the European region with Acend. Similarly, two Russians play in Ninjas in Pajamas, and the HellRaisers legends ANGE1 and Johnta (as well as former Gambit player dimasick) are a part of FunPlus Phoenix.
At the same time, only forZe and Gambit Esports have rosters in discipline: neither Virtus.pro nor Natus Vincere have seen long-term prospects in Valorant. Alas, it looks like the game will mostly work as a go-to discipline for those who formerly played Counter-Strike professionally.
Valorant's prospects in the CIS are very vague. So far, everything goes to the fact that it will be an extremely niche discipline, which is about the same level as League of Legends in comparison with Dota 2 (if not worse).
Valorant continues to grow as an esports discipline in terms of viewership statistics, but it is not yet clear if it will continue to do so in the near future. Popular streamers have made a special contribution to the success of the Masters, without them the series would hardly have bypassed First Strike's results.
However, it should be noted that until now Valorant events have been held only in separate regions and only online. The LAN final of Stage 2 Masters - Reykjavík, which will become the first official international championship in the game, will take place at the end of May. This means that we have the right to expect even more outstanding viewership stats from it.