The 2021 VALORANT world championship, Champions, was nearly perfect.
During the two-week event, upsets were everywhere. Players transcended to superstar status, and the final days delivered in full, with the semifinal clash between Latin America’s KRÜ Esports and EMEA’s Gambit Esports now heralded as the best professional VALORANT series of all time. Even the encore in the grand final between Acend and Gambit lived up to the hype, the series going a full five games before Acend became the first-ever world champions of the game.
The only problem?
There wasn’t any crowd. The pomp and circumstance that Riot Games competitions have become renowned for with League of Legends weren’t on complete display. The teams played most of the tournament in a warehouse (albeit one with a next-level stage to play on with high-tech production behind it).
That hopefully won’t be the case when the tournament occurs this fall in a location still to be announced, COVID-19 permitting.
With the pro circuit kicking off around the world for the VALORANT Champions Tour, I’ve decided to pick my top five choices for where I would personally hold the world championship if given full power as Esports Czar. Remember, these choices are all based on the hopes that the event can be hosted with, at least, a sizable crowd in attendance by the time the tournament rolls around.
I’m trying to be an optimist here.
OK, this is an easy one. Japan has exceeded all expectations in terms of VALORANT’s popularity since almost the day it was released. While I thought South Korea would welcome the game with open arms, it was Japan instead. Japan has exploded in terms of esports infrastructure for the game, with almost every major organization in the country adopting a professional team.
So how do we keep the popularity and momentum going? Could you give them the world championship? It would be a boon for the region to see the game’s biggest stars play against the Japanese representative in the field. Also, I’m pretty sure none of the international players would complain about going to Tokyo in the fall.
Although, at first, I didn’t have any European cities on my list — since every major international VALORANT tournament has taken place on the continent — I relented when I rationalized with myself that there were no fans in attendance for any of them.
And, if I were to look for a country to expand the game’s popularity, it would be Spain — with how much the scene is developing there. The top-name personalities in the country have taken a hold of VALORANT, many of them creating organizations to house VALORANT teams. The most recent adopter might be the biggest in Ibai Llanos, whose newly christened KOI organization has already signed a team for the upcoming 2022 campaign.
Also, Madrid is just a wonderful esports city. I’ve been there for League of Legends events, and the crowd is one of the best I’ve been part of around the world.
Southeast Asia is a region Riot wants to grow VALORANT in and it has seen mighty success, with teams from countries like Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia taking a deep interest in the first-person shooter.
At the top, though, there might not be a country that has adopted the game more in the SEA region than the Philippines. Along with their powerhouse quasi-national squad, Team Secret, the fanbase was one of the rowdiest online during the initial world championship. Their love of VALORANT seems to grow with each passing day.
It’s not a coincidence the newest agent in the game itself, Neon, is from the Philippines. If not the world championship, I fully expect a masters event to take place in Manila within the next year or two.
Seoul, South Korea
It’s not that South Korea doesn’t enjoy VALORANT – numbers of the game still going up in the Esports Mecca – but the impact the game has had is below initial expectations compared to the grip hold League of Legends has in the country.
How do we jumpstart the fandom and get more kids in South Korea to play the game? Let’s give them the world championship. We know that Seoul can host a large-scale gaming tournament in its sleep. With the gigantic promotional arm of Riot Games behind it, Champions could spark and quicken the pace of the game’s upward trajectory in the country.
VALORANT, unless something miraculous happens, will never overtake League of Legends in South Korea. Still, there is enough investment already in the scene and enough fans to become a more prominent region than it already is in the VALORANT esports ecosystem.
The 2014 League of Legends World Championship playoffs and final in South Korea helped many current pros start playing the game. The same could happen if they’re given a chance to host a VALORANT Masters or Champions tournament.
Los Angeles, United States
Alright, I went through all the other fancy options to get to the one that it should be if all things are equal and it can take place to its full potential. Los Angeles was slated to host the first world championship in 2021. But COVID-19 had other plans and forced the competition to move to Berlin without any fans in attendance.
If it can happen in Los Angeles with fans, then the 2022 choice should be a no-brainer. L.A., like Seoul, is an esports hotbed that has hosted more major esports tournaments as a city than most countries. The Riot Games headquarters are in town and, with how North America has embraced the game since its inception, the region (including Canada) needs to have some high-profile events.
Staples Center (I’m not calling it the Crypto.com Arena), SoFi Stadium (or the 6,000-set Youtube Theater connected to it), Microsoft Theater, Galen Center … take your pick. Los Angeles has every sized venue and connection you’d want to host a world championship, be it in an intimate setting with limited fans or a gigantic arena or stadium to really put VALORANT esports on the map.