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Valorant10 months agoNeslyn "Neslyn" Apduhan

A look into VALORANT's increasing prize pool and current esports scene

Can Riot keep up with the need for prize pool upgrades?

VALORANT Champions 2023 set its highest VCT prize pool to date. When the confirmation of a record-breaking prize pool came to light, the VALORANT community rejoiced. However, the upgrade also acts as a catalyst for higher expectations for future VCT events.

This year marks the third iteration of VALORANT Champions and it boasts a whopping $2.25 million prize pool. It is more than the prize pool of VALORANT Champions 2021 and VALORANT Champions 2022 combined. That means the victor of Champions this year will walk away with $1 million in the bank.

Previous iterations of VALORANT Champions only featured a $1 million prize pool. This looked good for the game in its early esports scene. Indeed, its growing esports scene attracted fans and big brands to invest their time and money in the game.

Graph of VCT tournaments prize pools

VCT Masters Tokyo created a buzz when it revealed that the prize pool will be the same as the previous Champions tournament. This led fans to assume that the VCT Champions 2023 prize pool will be bigger than the previous tournaments and they are right.

The move created a much bigger question for the future of VCT prize pools. Can Riot Games keep up with the expectation of a higher prize pool every year? It’s entirely natural for developers to break prize pool records for their biggest tournament annually. Undoubtedly, Riot is more than capable to keep the prize pool trend on an upward trajectory.

For instance, Dota 2 used its Battle Pass sales to set all-time high prize pool records and they have been undefeated ever since. VALORANT’s Champion bundle shows the potential that it can be at par with Dota 2 if given the chance.

As of now, 50% of the total Champions bundle sale are equally distributed to teams participating in VALORANT Champions. This is on top of the declared prize pool provided by Riot.

Alternatively, Riot can just add the 50% sales of the Champions bundle to boost the prize pool even higher. Champions Bundle 2022 set a record and raised a total of $16 million while Champions Bundle 2021 garnered $7.5 million.

For teams, a higher prize pool means more pressure and more hunger for the title. For fans, it means more nail-biting matchups.

Riot has made significant investments in developing its esports scene. The prize pool may be the icing on top, but the cake itself is an attention grabber as well.

Back in 2022, Riot released its partnership program. A total of 10 teams from each region were selected and given a direct invite to the regional leagues. In addition to this, teams were granted stipends of at least $600,000.

Teams in the international leagues will receive financial support from Riot Games. This support will include a base payment of $300,000, an additional $300,000 for team skins and other in-game merchandise, and a further $400,000 depending on the successful delivery of other content. According to multiple sources, this could total up to $1 million for teams who meet all of Riot's requirements.

The selection process was highly competitive. The process involved three stages, namely a written application, intensive interviews, and financial evaluations. In selecting the right partners, Riot sought after organizations that adhered to specific criteria such as those who always prioritize their fans, appreciate a diverse community, and support professional gamers. Riot also looked for partners who prioritize long-term sustainability and development.

Valorant Esports in 2023

Image Credit: Riot Games

Early in 2023, Riot announced that they are introducing major changes to the VALORANT competitive ecosystem. Their goal is to create a top-notch player experience and propel VALORANT to become the number one competitive FPS in the world.

VALORANT introduced Premier, an in-game mode that mimics a competitive tournament environment for casual and aspiring pro players. They told fans that the Premier will be the future of Regional Leagues as they aim to replace open qualifiers with the Premier divisions.

Riot also forgoes the entry and participation fee for partnered teams this year. “We have designed our long-term partnership model for VALORANT so teams can thrive and build their business alongside the overall growth of VALORANT Esports,” said Whalen Rozelle, Head of Esports Operations at Riot Games, told fans.

The support in the Tier 2 scene still needs improvement as it's fundamental in sustaining a healthy pool of talented players and staff. Partnership programs may not be the best path for these teams who struggle with Riot’s extensive requirements. The resources needed to qualify for the program are strenuous despite the waiver of fees.

Increasing the prize pool for major tournaments will not create a big impact on the T2 and T3 scenes as they usually fight for survival. Although it’s a step forward in the right direction, Riot should also take a look into the production of minor tournaments like Challenger Leagues and provide the support they need.

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Neslyn "Neslyn" ApduhanPicture a wanderlust soul drawn to both virtual and real world. Neslyn embarks on epic quests and crafts narratives that transport readers on unforgettable adventures across both realms.
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