Another team has dropped out of VALORANT, in a bad sign for the Korean scene.
One of the top VALORANT teams in Korea, TNL Esports, has disbanded, they announced on their Facebook. TNL Esports were a part of Korean VALORANT ever since acquiring the Quantum Strikers roster late in 2020. Throughout 2021, they were a promising squad near the top. In VCT Stage 3, they were one of Korea’s best teams and nearly qualified for Masters Berlin. This legacy, unfortunately, comes to an end, before the start of VCT 2022.
A brand new organization, The Next Level Esports entered VALORANT in November 2020. They bought the lineup of Quantum Strikers, the sister team of Vision Strikers. TNL qualified for First Strike Korea, where they made a great run to place second.
Throughout 2022, they had a bit of a rotating door as they tried to put together the best roster they could. They placed 5th-6th in Stage 1 and fell out in the quarterfinals of Stage 2 – not awful performances, but not great either.
In Stage 3, though, things finally came together for TNL. With a roster of Yu “TS” Tae-seok, Yeom “eKo” Wang-ryong, Park “exy” Geun-cheol, Lee “hate” Ye-hun, and Kim “Meteor” Tae-Oh, they looked like one of the best teams in Korea. They got through their group handily and blew out World Game Star in the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, they were then the victim of a bad format. Korea’s two teams for Masters were the top two in a single-elimination bracket, meaning there was no guarantee that the second-best team would take the second spot. TNL ran into Vision Strikers in the semifinals, lost, and were eliminated.
In the offseason, two TNL players unexpectedly left. eKo and Hate were out, both moved on to Japan. They were replaced for the offseason tournament ShotVAL Pride, the last tournament TNL played. It was also the only tournament they ever won.
A bad sign for the Korean scene?
Compared to regions like North America, Europe, or even lowly Japan, Korea has very few organizations invested in VALORANT. With TNL dropping out, there are only about six to nine teams still under contract, depending on how you define a pro team. While DRX moving into the scene is a big thing, it seems like there are fewer smaller orgs every day.
Alarm bells shouldn’t quite be ringing yet – the investment of teams like ESports Connected shows that Korean orgs are still considering VALORANT. But there is a large lack of investment, hopefully, this is something that gets solved this year.
Cover photo courtesy of VALORANT Esports Korea/Riot Games