Riot Games has had phenomenal success in the esports and video game world. League of Legends remains, to this day, one of the most played and watched games in the world. So, the gaming world was beyond excited when they first announced a tactical shooter dubbed Project A—later to be called, Valorant. However, there was concern that a developer mostly known for a top down strategy game could compete in the tactical shooter genre. At the time, CSGO was the king of tactical shooters and it consistently performed well in the esports scene, garnering over a hundred thousand viewers on twitch for tournaments and tens of thousands from regular streamers. The competition looked unbeatable. So how did the League of Legends MOBA developer overcome that hurdle? Well, first, they developed a fantastic game, but that's only a part of the equation. People needed to actually give it a chance.

When the project was first announced we all thought it was years away from completion. Then, to the surprise of everyone, the game launched in closed beta only 6 months later, with an easy access to entry: watch Twitch streams of Riot partnered streamers to get a chance at beta access. Only those lucky enough to get a random drop could play the game. This exclusive marketing had people foaming at the mouths to get their hands on the game. They wanted to be in the club. They wanted to be part of the select few that got to try Valorant. YouTube flooded with VODs, twitter was abuzz with speculation and begging for beta access, and esports pros from other games jumped ship to catch the wave of Valorant. This tactic, plus the timing of the launch with the beginning of the pandemic, pushed Valorant to the most watched game on twitch for quite some time.

Riot faced insurmountable competition in the form of CSGO. All of them dominating the streaming space, but when the Valorant closed beta dropped, those games fell aside to make way for a new leader. While the initial craze didn’t stay at its peak, Valorant still maintained a heavy market share—about 50% of its peaks and then seeing steady growth from there. Twitch is a place for virality and fads, with some games coming and going within only a day or two. To maintain any form of longevity is a major success, much less longevity within the top 10 games watched on Twitch for years to come. Valorant came out of the gate swinging and hasn’t let up since.

(Header Image by Frederick Tendong on Unsplash, other images taken of my own gameplay and shared under the Riot Legal Jibber Jabber)