Riot Games announces new ‘Valorant’ esports league model

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Riot Games announced a slate of changes to “Valorant” esports Thursday, including the introduction of international and domestic leagues as well as a new competitive game mode for aspiring pro players. All changes are scheduled for 2023. The news sets the game, which now boasts 15 million monthly players, on course to replicate some of the successes of the developer’s marquee esports product, “League of Legends.”

“We’ll use everything we learned from the past 10 years with LoL Esports to build an ecosystem that will supercharge ‘Valorant’ into the next great multigenerational esport,” said John Needham, president of esports at Riot Games in a statement.

Game Changers, “Valorant’s” competitive circuit for women and other marginalized genders, is also set for an expansion to more countries and regions in 2023, according to Riot’s announcement.

League of Legends esports still hasn’t turned a profit. That’s okay, says Riot.

At the highest level, 2023′s esports overhaul will begin with the founding of three international leagues, including high performing teams from the Americas, Europe and Asia. These leagues will host weekly competitions and LAN events with live audiences — if health protocols allow for them — with the best teams facing off in two Masters events, and with the year culminating in a Champions event.

Throughout the rest of the year, Riot will seek out teams for long-term “permanent partnership,” similar but not identical to the system in place in League of Legends Esports. These partnerships, the announcement said, will confer two key benefits to teams. First, selected teams won’t have to pay entry or participation fees, and will instead receive an annual stipend from Riot. Partnered organizations will also have the option to collaborate with the developer on in-game events and branded products. Riot also cited teams’ ability to plan several years ahead in tandem with the developer as a tertiary benefit.

“We are setting up our long-term partners for success by forgoing any entry or participation fees for selected organizations,” said Whalen Rozelle, head of esports operations at Riot. “Our aim is to free our partners to invest their resources in supporting their pros and growing their fanbases through creating incredible content for fans.”

In addition, Riot announced it would launch domestic leagues for rising talent with ambitions to play in the international leagues. And one tier below, a new competitive in-game mode will allow top players to compete against teams in the domestic leagues, creating an on-ramp for new talent to enter the game’s esports scene. Details about the new in-game mode, including a release date, have yet to be revealed.

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