In addition to a partnership-league model and in-game grassroots competition, the 2023 season could mark the first truly international LAN event in VALORANT’s history since its inception in 2020.
Riot Games announced groundbreaking new plans for VALORANT Esports today, which include the establishment of three international leagues at the highest level of competition for the 2023 season. The new model will include long-term partnerships with a select number of teams with no entrance fees in order to maintain the long-term stability of the ecosystem, as indicated in the announcement.
Three new international leagues featuring week-over-week competition between the world’s best teams. The three continental leagues, respectively composed of teams from the Americas, Europe, and Asia, will see the best players compete against each other in LAN settings and in front of live audiences (health and safety conditions permitting). Throughout the year, the best teams from each league will qualify for two international Masters events and VALORANT Champions, where a single team will be crowned the VALORANT World Champion.
New competitive in-game mode
The new in-game mode will be accessible to every player directly within the VALORANT client, designed to identify the best talent worldwide. This mode will act as a supplement to the existing leaderboards, providing players with a new goal above ranked play that integrates into the esports ecosystem, paving the way for all players to qualify for VALORANT’s premier competitions.
The new feature is likely to be identical to the Clash mode seen in League of Legends. Players may create their own teams, name them, and compete for in-game awards showcasing their accomplishments.
The launch of new domestic leagues will expand opportunities for up-and-coming talent who aspire to reach elite continental leagues. Top teams from the in-game competitive mode will have the opportunity to compete against the best talent from their region within their respective domestic leagues, expanding the reach in more countries and regions.
Long-term partnerships with no entry fees
Riot Games will break new ground in the esports competitive space by forgoing any entry or participation fees for selected organizations, setting up long-term partners for success.
The idea was implemented for the first time in the North American League of Legends Championship Series (NA LCS) in 2017 when the league’s structure was altered to incentivize long-term investments. This shift prioritizes team and professional player stability, which rewards the highest level of play and ultimately provides greater entertainment for fans.
Riot Games will partner with organizations that prioritize the welfare and support of professional athletes on their teams. Part of the evaluation process will be examining how teams will support their pros, not only in coaching and training but in career opportunities or higher education once their playing career has ended.
“With VALORANT, we want to build today’s most thrilling esport alongside the most well-managed, ambitious, and exciting teams in the industry. We have designed our long-term partnership model for VALORANT with an eye towards teams not just being able to reach sustainability, but to thrive and build their business alongside the overall growth of VALORANT Esports,” said Whalen Rozelle, Head of Esports Operations at Riot Games.
“We are setting up our long-term partners for success by forgoing any entry or participation fees for selected organizations. Our aim is to free our partners to focus their resources on fielding the most competitive teams possible and growing their fanbases through various marketing and other commitments to the sport.”
According to the announcement, Riot Games will conduct a selective application process throughout 2022 to seek long-term partners to grow VALORANT into the world’s leading FPS esports.
Teams who meet the selection criteria will be provided with financial support from Riot Games in the form of an annual stipend and the exclusive opportunity to collaborate on unique in-game activations and products. Partnered teams will be able to distribute esports branded content, allowing VALORANT’s current 15 million monthly players to express their esports fandom both while watching and while playing.
“Together, all these elements will contribute to a competitive ecosystem that will position VALORANT for its next stage of growth,” said John Needham, President of Esports at Riot Games. “We want to build the top level of competition that will provide more exciting matches, new events that will thrill live audiences, and engaging experiences for millions of online fans. 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.”
In 2017, Riot Games was the first video game publisher to introduce a permanent partnership with League of Legends Esports (LoL Esports). This model created a formal partnership between teams and Riot Games, allowing everyone to invest against a unified long-term vision. Since 2017, leagues throughout North America, Europe, China, Latin America, Korea, Brazil, and Turkey have embraced this format. Players have benefited from larger salaries and more sophisticated support systems, while organizations were able to plan many years ahead.
Partnership slots within the Riot Games ecosystem have also grown in value, drawing diverse talent from both the esports industry and traditional sports. A formal relationship with teams has enabled close collaboration on ambitious events, digital experiences, and creating a deeply engaging esports experience.
Cover photo courtesy of Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games