The Conundrum of International European VALORANT Teams
VALORANT is a blooming esports tittle, but very few orgs are investing in EU. When they are they pickup international teams, why is that?
Riot Games' new FPS, VALORANT, has been quite a hit. The game as an esport has been growing rather rapidly, especially in North America. Household names like Team SoloMid, Gen.G Esports, T1, Cloud9, Dignitas, and many more have already signed rosters and content creators, hoping that early investments in the title would prove beneficial in the long-run.
On the other side of the pond, however, things are a little different. Europe as a region has seen far less investment when comparing to North America, with organizations even hosting events like the T1 x Nerd Street Gamers Invitational event, which is somewhat curious given that a vast majority of VALORANT players come from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive backgrounds, where Europe has historically been the dominant of the two regions. Esports organizations have been much more hesitant to sign teams in EU and, the few orgs that have invested have mostly picked up multinational rosters. Unlike in CS, most one-nationality teams struggle to find support from orgs, but why is that?
To preface, let's take a look at the history of international European rosters. In the early years of CS:GO, teams were comprised of pro players from the same country or that spoke the same language (Fnatic, Virtus.pro, Team LDLC, etc.). In fact, that's still very much the case today as a vast majority of the 30 top teams from Europe are all one-nationality. The main advantage of playing with your fellow countrymen is that you can communicate in your native tongue, and communication is everything at the top level. Many feel most comfortable that way, but some were willing to step outside their borders to build superteams. 2015 saw the birth of the first international European roster in CS:GO: Team Kinguin. The squad, which later became G2 Esports and then FaZe Clan, paved the way for the multinational rosters we see today; mousesports, GODSENT, OG, Nordavind, and many others probably wouldn't exist otherwise. If a few years ago, you had claimed that there would be so many multinational teams in the top 30, the community would've called you crazy.
Currently, the European VALORANT landscape is very different to that of CS:GO, in that the player pool is much smaller. Forming a lineup from only one country becomes very limiting, especially if roster changes are required down the line. It's hard to correctly fill all five roles with experienced and talented players when your options are so small. Thus, many organizations are reluctant to limit themselves by picking up one-nationality teams. If you had an all-Polish roster but wanted to replace someone with a Spaniard down the line, getting everyone to communicate in English would be difficult and time-demanding.
This is best exemplified by G2, who currently fields the best European VALORANT team, as the squad has won every single Riot-sponsored Ignition Series tournament. With the liberty to pick and chose its players, G2 created a star-studded lineup of ex-CS:GO players and has dominated the scene, having only dropped nine maps since the team's creation. The Berlin-based organization's approach checks all the boxes to creating a sustainable team: notable names with backgrounds in another esports title, a perfect mix of experience and talent, and every member is capable of communicating in English.
Ninjas in Pyjamas was the first org to invest in the European VALORANT scene as it announced that its Paladins team would compete in the game. However, the squad was incomplete, and many players stood in until NiP decided on the permanent additions of Emir "rhyme" Muminovic and Niels "luckeRRR" Jasiek. The Swedish org later overhauled the roster, saying its goodbyes to the former Paladins squad and added three Frenchmen from HypHypHyp, a French lineup that couldn't find a sponsor.
In a tale similar to that of HypHypHyp, PartyParrots and FABRIKEN were also without an organization despite looking very promising early into the game's professional scene. Members from both rosters would come together and signed for FunPlus Phoenix. Despite being majority Swedish, the roster communicates in English and is led by Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow, who has led many international rosters in CS:GO. The Ukrainian's leadership is proving to be valuable as FPX is the only team to have beaten G2 thus far.
Technically, Team Liquid also isn't a one-nationality roster since Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom is Belgian. That said, the headshot machine was part of the aforementioned Team Kinguin roster, so playing in an international team isn't a new challenge despite being a native French-speaker. The roster's signing is simply brilliant by TL management for multiple reasons. Formerly known as fish123, the squad was the strongest roster in the title's closed beta and have looked good moving forward, despite losing Ardis "ardiis" Svarenieks to G2. Asides from ScreaM, every other roster member is British. This is both a blessing and a curse for the Brits, as it allows them to communicate in their native tongue of English, but it also means that they're replaceable by any other English-speaking European players down the line. The name-power that ScreaM brings solidifies his spot on the team as Liquid will look to hold on to the Belgian.
Many players are at a crossroads and weighing their options. Is it really worth sticking with your countrymen in the long run when opportunities would be more abundant right now in an international roster? For example, Vakaris "vakk" Bebravičius played with the all-Lithuanian nolpenki, a roster that looked solid, but recently attended LVL Clash 2 with Prodigy. For many, going international is the only way forward.
first of all, I don't think we even got invite as a nolpenki which is really sad and I have no idea why, and also my plan was to always play with international roster for multiple reasons— vakk (@vakkFPS) August 23, 2020
When all is said and done, it's still possible for one-nationality teams to find organizations. BIG, Giants Gaming, BBL Esports, Totem Providence, and others have picked up rosters within their domestic scenes. While many would say it was overdue, the newly formed FABRIKEN roster was also recently signed by SKADE. According to a report by Arran "Halo" Brown, Rogue was reportedly in talks with Need more DM, which would be a massive opportunity for the Hungarian team. Bonk's recent second-place finish at LVL Clash 2 should also attract an organization sooner rather than later.
📣ANNOUNCEMENT📣— SKADE (@skadegg) August 28, 2020
We are happy to announce our @PlayVALORANT roster!🙌🏻
Ahoy @FABRIKENgg! Get innn the big Nordic hug!🤗
📝Here's the official announcement note: https://t.co/FUmikBVlkB#LetsHunt 🏹 pic.twitter.com/TM8k2yVB0D
As the scene and player pool grow with the help of Riot Games, so too will opportunities for one-nationality rosters. While only time will tell which method produces the top teams, many of the current organization-less European teams look strong. One thing is for sure, Europe isn't lacking in the talent department as there's an insane amount of potential in Bonk, Need more DM, nolpenki, looking4org, and many other squads within the European VALORANT scene.