How Oceanic Valorant is getting a head start despite not having a server

Valorant ⁠— Riot’s new FPS title — has only been live for 26 days. It’s still in closed beta. There aren’t Australian servers yet. However, the community is banding together to get a head start on the competition, with pros from various games making the jump and tournaments cropping up.

As far as multiplayer games go, Valorant is probably the most hyped product of 2020. No game has managed to captivate an audience as broad as Riot’s new tactical shooter. It’s got the core gameplay of CS:GO, with the abilities of Overwatch, and has carved out a niche in the genre. 

Not only that, the game is optimized for esports and competing. While we’ve been burned by this promise in the past from some games, with Riot’s track record, there’s a different feel around Valorant. Instead of cynicism, there’s widespread optimism. 

So, it should be no surprise that every FPS pro and his dog is trying to get their hands on Valorant. The game is only available in select regions for the time being ⁠— namely North America and Europe. That hasn’t deterred Oceanic players from setting up NA Riot accounts, diligently watching Twitch streams for hours on end with their VPNs on, hoping to get a spot. 

“It’s a fun game, it’s a competitive game, and nothing I can tell about the game is designed poorly, but there are definitely risks.”

Kevin “AVRL” Walker

The Valorant OCE Discord is currently home to 3,000 users, and this weekend, they wrapped up their first ever Community Cup. 32 teams, filled with players from ANZ, all looking to prove themselves despite all the hurdles in the meantime. No matter if your background was in CS:GO, Overwatch, Fortnite, or even a non-FPS game, players flocked to test their mettle. The wide variety of backgrounds is something esports hasn’t seen in its history.

“Valorant is kind of the new game that’s taking people from different backgrounds, but more so than any other game that has previously because of how large Counter-Strike and how bored people are of Fortnite [and other titles],” said caster and tournament organizer Dion “Komodo” Pirotta.

That sentiment has been shared by players regardless of the title they’ve mastered previously. “What’s drawn me to Valorant is it’s essentially a fresh start for everyone and it offers an alternative take on the tactical FPS genre,” said Ethan “Crunchy” Laker, a former CS:GO semi-pro who won the Community Cup. 

“I think Valorant has been a bit of a breath of fresh air in itself as a game compared to Fortnite,” added Patrick “Price” McGinty, an Australian Fortnite player. “The game feels like a mix of Overwatch and CS:GO, and for Valorant to come out now with the promises from Riot, it’s great.”

The release of Valorant couldn’t have come at a better time for Riot to capitalize on struggling titles. Fortnite has scaled back competitive support from its pompous $100 million prize pool claim of 2019. Overwatch pros, both at home and abroad, are retiring from the game after getting tired of the game’s poor balance. Apex Legends and other FPS titles ⁠— outside of CS:GO ⁠— have never really kicked off massively in Australia. 

“[A lot of Overwatch pros] are just quitting because they’re very burnt out of the time commitment to Contenders for such little pay,” said former Overwatch pro and New Zealand World Cup representative Chris “August” Norgrove. 

“I agreed to finish out the season of CGi with my team and then step down. It was a tough decision but I feel it’s the best going forward.”

Ethan “Crunchy” Laker

While he’s only playing Valorant to kill time, he knows there’s a lot of players who are planning on retiring after this season of Contenders to pursue the new Riot title.

The same can be said for Fortnite. “I think for a while Fortnite has just been a cash cow where it hasn’t been as enjoyable as it once was with lack of support competitively from Epic Games, so it has been nice to swap over to a game that is designed to be a competitive shooter,” said Price. 

The coalescence of backgrounds has also lended each player a different skill set in Valorant. While all FPS pros are expected to have the basics of aiming down, the creative utility usage Overwatch players have brought is something that would have taken purist CS:GO players time to figure out. 

On the other hand, no player can understand in-game economics and effective utility usage under time pressure better than CS pros. Valorant’s community isn’t just forging its new identity from scratch, but they’re taking the things they loved from their old titles and remastering it.

“I think Valorant has a huge amount of potential,” said Kevin “AVRL” Walker, whose background lies in Team Fortress 2 and Overwatch. “It has strategic depth that is more unique than just a standard tactical shooter. 

“I’ve not been very attracted to the sub-genre in the past, but this is the kind of game where it’s got a decent blend of a whole bunch of other things, coalescing together into one competitive title.”

While Valve veterans have carved a space for themselves at the top of Valorant in its opening weeks, it’s unlikely that they’ll remain at the top.

“Obviously the CS:GO players are going to be ahead early on, but the TF2 players were ahead early on in Overwatch too,” said AVRL. “If you start now, even if you aren’t a CS person, you’ll make some decent progress.

“It’s becoming more important to combine abilities and agents so I suspect Overwatch players will be insanely good once they understand the fundamentals of tactical FPSes like spacing, trading, and rotations,” added Crunchy.

However, there’s only so much we can hypothesize. Without Oceanic servers, and without a proper competitive ecosystem just yet, the future of Valorant is still unknown. People have weighed lofty expectations, but there’s hope for players across the region to get their chance at the top.

“The Valorant OCE Cup is as grassroots as humanly possible, that’s just community members building something from nothing,” stated AVRL. “Moving forward, third parties like ESL can bridge the gap just that little bit further, or Riot supporting community events, or even esports organizations ⁠— they can all fill in the gap.”

“It’ll 100% be successful in Oceania. It is already, when we don’t have servers, getting a very large player base both casually and competitively.”

Dion “Komodo” Pirotta

“I really just want to see a push to support OCE as a region competitively from Riot,” added Price. “We have struggled in other games with support as we’re a smaller region that gets held back from many opportunities.”

The Valorant OCE Cup was just a taste of what’s to come in the future. It was the perfect example of the game at its core. It captured the hearts of players across titles. It was competitive, despite the ping differences. It was fast, action-packed, and enjoyable for players and spectators alike.

Whether we will have a Valorant team like what 100 Thieves is to Australian CS:GO remains to be seen. However, if these first few weeks are anything to go by, Valorant is here to rock the Australian esports landscape ⁠— not just for the year, but for the next decade.

ProducerJosh Swift
Andrew Amos
Andrew Amos
After joining Snowball in mid-2018, Andrew "Ducky" Amos has fast become one of our region's best esports writers. Cutting his teeth in Oceanic Overwatch, he now covers all kinds of esports for publications globally. However, his heart still lays at home, telling the story of Aussies trying to make it big.

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