Riot Announces First Strike
Riot Games has announced the first VALORANT event to be sponsored by the game developer; First Strike.
The IGNITION SERIES partnership program, which saw Riot Games sponsor third-party events, such as WePlay Esports' very own WePlay! Invitational, is coming to a close. However, Riot has recently announced the next step in the development of VALORANT's esports scene: First Strike.
What’s next for esports after the Ignition Series? Executive Producer @RiotSuperCakes, the Head of Global Esports John Needham, and Senior Esports Director @RiotMagus share details about the First Strike Tournament. pic.twitter.com/MsOG9KQbFa— VALORANT (@PlayVALORANT) September 23, 2020
The tournament will be the first event produced by the game developer, with regional qualifiers beginning in the latter half of October.
Open the flood gates
To participate in the qualifiers, players will need to be aged 16 and above and have at least reached the rank of Immortal 1. Riot encourages players to read the full rules, policies, and instructions on how to enter once they are released in a few weeks. No information has been revealed regarding invites into the qualifiers, so it's possible that you may meet big professional teams on your quest for qualification. If Riot decides to avoid inviting teams, it'll be pretty an excellent opportunity for upcoming teams and players to showcase what they're made of by qualifying over fan favorites. With Europe notably struggling to find investors, many in the community were upset with the invite-only format. New rosters were unable to play in notable tournaments due to a lack of qualifiers. Organizations weren't interested in them because they hadn't seen them play enough. They continued not to receive invites, and the cycle continues.
Participants from North America, Europe, CIS, Turkey, Asia, Oceania, Brazil, and the Middle East will be able to participate in their respective regional qualifiers and finals, with First Strike aiming to crown the best team in each region of the world. Since VALORANT's official release in June, many rivalries have formed around the globe, notably between Team SoloMid and Sentinels in NA, or G2 Esports and FunPlus Phoenix in Europe. Being the closest thing to a Major like we see in Counter-Strike, First Strike will be an important tournament for everyone involved, as the bragging rights associated with winning the event are enormous. However, it's worth mentioning that Riot hasn't released any information regarding the prize pool for the event.
Riot has a good track record of listening to community feedback (despite some non-essential nerfs to Sage) and has observed each IGNITION SERIES event in the hopes of finding the best tournament format for VALORANT's unique gameplay. In that respect, the publisher will be investing in its broadcasting capabilities as well as continuing to develop observer tools. Allocating more resources to production is crucial in order to make the event as enjoyable as it can be for fans and viewers. The League of Legends European Championship and the LoL Championship Series, two leagues ran by Riot, are praised for the high production quality and entertainment values.
Things to come
It's very exciting to see Riot continue to nurture the developing VALORANT scene, as the game continues to rapidly develop as an esports title. While First Strike isn't the LEC or LCS, it's a first step towards the business model Riot wants to develop for the new game. The first step is often the most important one, as it sets the tone for what's to come. Many organizations, such as Team Vitality, Fnatic, NRG Esports, and Rogue, have expressed interest in the VALORANT scene but have opted not to invest until a later date. With Riot getting more hands-on, we may see another wave of interest and investment flood into the new title, as the player pool continues to grow. It's especially interesting to see what markets Riot will try to cater to as the game grows in popularity, with Japan, Korea, Turkey, Brazil, and a few other countries developing competitive scenes very quickly.
While it would be amazing to see a LAN final with the respective regional winners, it's not likely to happen with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. That said, Riot is still holding the 2020 LoL World Championship, the biggest League event of the year, in China, with the tournament set to start later this week. Suppose First Strike was to have a sequel in 2021. In that case, there's a possibility that an international LAN tournament may be held later in the year, following a quarantining period and closed off studio setting, of course.