Valorant esports is slowly but surely expanding. Since the game’s beta release, fans of the shooter have watched more than forty Valorant esports events.
Interestingly, almost all of them utilized the playoff format, in BO3 or, less often, BO1 matches. So, this got us wondering, «What is the best competition format for an ‘unusual’ shooter like Valorant?» And when will organizations be ready to implement a long-term Valorant esports events? In this article, we will share our thoughts on Valorant esports events and tournaments, as well as which esports formats are best suited to Valorant.
It’s worth starting with some theory.
There are three main tournament formats in the esports world:
1. Group Stage and Playoffs
2. Playoff Grid
1. The group stage and playoffs format
The group stage and playoffs format caters for a large number of teams. They are divided into two, three, or more groups, from which the best teams emerge. The distribution in the playoffs can be varied. Usually, the first group’s strongest team will be pitted against the team that scored the least number of points required to reach the playoffs.
Accordingly, the team that takes second place in the group plays against the team occupying the penultimate spot, and so on. Riot Games has confirmed this is the format that will be used to host the regional qualifiers for the largest tournament, First Strike, as well as the bulk of it. So, the key question is:
Why is this Valorant esports format good, especially for the emerging Valorant esports meta?
Firstly, during the group stage, teams have time to gain insight into their opponents — their tactics, positioning, and individual players’ match skills. This helps the teams not only in the playoff stage, but also in future matches if teams from the same group meet each other again in other tournaments.
Secondly, if a team loses early on, it will have a chance to score points in matches with other teams as the group stage playoffs pit all the teams against each other.
And thirdly, the playoff stage is both a tactical and moral challenge. The winning team has to go all the way without a single defeat (or with a single one, if the lower bracket system is being used). To do this, it is necessary to study the opponents’ game style to find weak points in the defense and build an attacking strategy to destroy their defenses successfully.
However, the group and playoff format has its drawbacks:
1. It takes a lot of time
The main disadvantage is that it takes a lot of time. Of course, this is a plus for audiences because they can watch more of their favorite teams’ games and discover new teams. But from the player’s point of view, this is a challenge because it is necessary to devote more time to the game and less to their personal life.
2. Equipment costs
The second disadvantage is equipment costs. Currently, during this period when coronavirus restrictions are in place, no LAN tournaments are being held. Therefore, there are no problems with computers as each player is using a personal PC. However, the online format is heavily dependent on ping, which makes some players uncomfortable. While offline tournaments don’t have this kind of problem, there is another issue: equipment, computers, and servers.
Moreover, for the group and playoffs format, it is necessary to rent as many PCs as there are players in the teams because they play either every day or every other day. Also, many players train and watch game streams when they’re not involved in matches. Valorant esports is still in its infancy, which means there are no major organizers and sponsors presently. This is why it is unlikely that we will see any tournaments in this format in the near future.
2. The playoff grid format
The playoff grid format has been used in most of the previous Valorant tournaments, namely: PopFlash, We play! Invitational, Ignition Series, and others. The reason for using this format is simple: it requires less time as there is no need to play the group stage. There is also the option of parallel matches. For example, 1/8 finals can be played simultaneously.
Valorant esports has not yet achieved the same level of popularity as its closest competitors Overwatch and Paladins. Therefore, tournament operators and sponsors are not ready to spend large amounts of money on long-term competitions. First Strike doesn’t count because this tournament (or rather a series of tournaments) is directly sponsored by Riot Games.
The playoff grid format has one big drawback: the distribution of teams. That is, the teams are divided into pairs not according to the principle of «strong vs. strong, weak vs. weak,» but usually at random, according to the results of the draw. On the other hand, it gives unknown teams a chance to «shoot» immediately and beat a top team.
Finally, there are leagues. This format has long been used in CS: GO and Rainbow Six Siege. For a nascent esport, leagues are ideal for several reasons.
1. Ability to study opponents
The first is the ability to study opponents as closely as possible by watching the match recordings and directly in the game. Still, this so-called «practice» does not give a complete picture of a team’s gameplay, because most teams use working strategies only in official matches.
2. The establishment of the meta
Reason number two is the establishment of the meta. By observing the teams’ play, choice of characters, and use of abilities, the developers can correct all the «irregularities» in future patches. This method of nerfing agents and weapons is much more objective than one in which the developers only rely on their vision of the game.
3. Objective winner
The third reason is an objective winner. Sometimes in groups or the playoffs, it may turn out that the winner is the team that played in a weak group. But in a league, the chance of this happening is minimal as all teams play against each other, and often more than once. And if we take into account the fact that league matches are most often held in the BO3 format, the chance of a «random win» is almost zero.
The key question is:
When will organizations be ready to implement a long-term Valorant esports tournament? Hopefully, this will happen immediately after First Strike.