Although its official release date is a few days away, Valorant has already made itself a strong competitor for existing team-based shooters. More specifically, Valorant is already threatening to pick up Overwatch’s competitive player base, with casual fans likely to follow suit. After the announcement from OWL champion Jay “Sinatraa” Won to retire from the league and focus on competitive Valorant, many wonder what the game’s release might do to the Overwatch player base. Will players defect to the new game as many competitive players are? With how unhappy Overwatch players are currently, the possibility is quite high. Unless Blizzard can retort with an exceptional way to bring players back in, Valorant might become the next Overwatch.
Why Valorant over Overwatch?
What does a game that hasn’t even officially released have to offer? Well, a lot actually. Valorant’s main theme is eerily similar to Overwatch, with characters being armed with weapons and unique powers. Players can find creative strategies with characters to win games. It boasts incredibly realistic aiming and recoil mechanics that push player skill as an important factor for teams. The game runs at a minimum of 30 fps on even the worst of PCs. Also, it’s completely free to play.
Having so many similarities to Overwatch makes players immediately drawn to it out of familiarity. It is a strong plus that Valorant can run on any PC and is free to play. Any PC Overwatch player is sure to be interested, and its accessibility makes it a tempting competitor. But that doesn’t mean gamers will be choosing it over Overwatch, as people can enjoy both. So why is Valorant taking competitive players completely away from Overwatch? Put simply, its a Blizzard-free fresh start.
Valorant won’t have any of the rotating hero bans, 2-2-2 team setups, or anything else that has drained enjoyment for OWL and casual players. The game will have all of the positive aspects of Overwatch without any of the negative. Many of Blizzard’s recent decisions, like those stated above, have rubbed players the wrong way. Since the mid-season announcement of rotating hero bans in OWL, players have had to work overtime to find strategies that fit that week’s meta. In an interview with The Washington Post, OWL player Grant “Moth” Espe of San Francisco Shock stated,
You’ve only got like five or six days, depending on your schedule, to figure out what the new meta is and how to play it best. So, it’s a lot more work for us.
Blizzard’s decisions frustrate players and the additional practice hours have led to burnout on the game. Jay “Sinatraa” Won stated that he, “straight up lost passion for the game” leading up to his exit from the league. Many other players have also left OWL with the intention of picking a Valorant eSports team, according to PC Gamer. That is when the game releases. As of now, no news on the eSports environment of the game is known.
The Common Player
Non-competitive players are feeling many of the same frustrations with Overwatch as competitive players. For a while, the game has been constantly getting complaints from its fans that fresh updates don’t come by often. Overwatch has become stale for players, even without being forced to play long hours that the OWL do. While the hero bans and forced 2-2-2 rosters aren’t as detrimental to those just playing for fun, the changes aren’t well accepted either.
In The Washington Post’s article discussing the leave of OWL players, they give other reasons that all players are getting bored of Overwatch.
“Overwatch emphasizes coordination with teammates to win and — with every new hero introduced or update made — the game continues to place teamwork over individual prowess…The San Francisco Shock’s Grant ‘Moth’ Espe said ‘Valorant’ will appeal to players looking for a traditional first-person shooter where individual mechanics are valued over team plays.”
Basically, Overwatch is a different game now. Through the slow changes to the game, Blizzard has made it so team-focused, people don’t feel like their individual skill level matters in a match anymore. Which, to some people, isn’t a problem. Many gamers enjoy cooperation based games, and Overwatch putting an emphasis on that isn’t necessarily an issue. It’s the fact that it didn’t use to be this way, and players are now looking elsewhere. This is exactly what makes Valorant so enticing to former Overwatch players; a new game with similar mechanics that allows for individual skills to shine.
Overwatch and Valorant’s Futures
Valorant seems to be capitalizing on Overwatch’s player disgruntlement. This new game seems to offer everything that fans find wrong with Overwatch: lack of content and a decreasing focus on skill level. Whether or not this was on purpose is up to speculation, but it seems everything is working in their favor. OWL players defecting to the new game is a hard hit for Overwatch to come back from, as it makes Valorant look too good in the face of its competitor.
That being said, the game hasn’t been released. While seeming to be very promising, there is no way to know if Valorant will continue the hype forever. Although Riot Games has an amazing track record for keeping fans in online multiplayer games—just see League of Legends—can they do so here? Commonly, games with this sort of hype have a terrible fall if they don’t fulfill the high standards.
One large reason fans are sticking around in hopes for more Overwatch content is the promise of Overwatch 2. Director Jeff Kaplan told Kotaku that Overwatch’s lack of content is due to the team focusing on Overwatch 2, hoping fans will wait it out for the boost of content promised in the sequel. Although facts about the sequel are mostly unknown, and there isn’t even a vague release date, fans have to believe this is the game’s savior. But will it be enough? With how little information is out right now, there is no way to tell. Since fans are already unhappy with Blizzard’s handling of the game, it will have bring some quality content.
What to Expect?
As long as Valorant is the instant hit it’s predicted to be, Overwatch will have to compete for players’ attention. If hyped up for a long while, Riot will probably be able to keep fan’s attention, seeing their track record. What will make or break Overwatch will be how Blizzard will counter this change. With the vague information about Overwatch 2, Blizzard could certainly take this opportunity to listen to and incorporate what fans want out of the series. If they don’t, they may lose many disgruntled fans to Valorant. Also, as far as eSports go, Overwatch has probably lost some OWL players for good. With how the competitive scene is set up, players probably won’t go back to the long hours of practice in Overwatch, even if Valorant doesn’t have the greatest eSports potential.