Valorant: How Riot launched a successful esports in a global pandemic

  • November 18, 2022

Valorant released in the pandemic. Codenamed Project A, this game was designed and built during normal world operation only for social interaction to collapse in on itself as a potentially deadly virus swept the planet. While we all scrambled to understand this new, isolated way of living, Riot had a game almost ready for release and kept its head down, set on releasing it anyway. 

Instead of a trip to see Riot Games and meet everyone behind it in Barcelona back, it was 2020 and I was in my parents’ basement with my cobbled together new set up in a Discord of hundreds of people. We listened to the developers explain little bits of what the game was, what it intended to do, and how to play. I was then left to play with some of the best shooter players in the world making it the hardest and possibly most personally miserable introduction to a game I’ve ever had. Fast-forward a few years and Valorant isn’t only a massive shooter that boomed during the pandemic but it also has one of the most successful esport scenes in the world. And so much of that happened from peoples’ homes. 

I attended Masters in Copenhagen earlier this year and had the opportunity to speak to Arnar Hrafn Gylfason, Valorant’s senior game director about building a game and an esports in a pandemic. At the time Masters 2022 was the first time Riot Games had held an in-person esport for Valorant, over two years after the first physical event was supposed to happen. A lot had changed for everyone, but I was still interested to learn more about what it took to make Valorant the success it was, even when the world was turned on its head.  

(Image credit: Riot Games)

And while yes, of course, we always hoped in our hearts of hearts that it would become a successful esport I wouldn’t say we built it for esports specifically.