Valorant Features: Successful VCT Masters tournaments in Shanghai show that VALORANT will remain in China
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Valorant Features: Successful VCT Masters tournaments in Shanghai show that VALORANT will remain in China

Image: Riot Games

Sold out Masters tournaments in Shanghai signal a bright future for VALORANT in China, Riot executives say.

While it was South Korean team Gen.G Esports who lifted the trophy at the VALORANT Champions Tour (VCT) Masters in Shanghai last weekend, the success of the tournament itself is a sure sign that VALORANT esports will be here to stay in China.

Even though VALORANT was only released in China last July, the game’s community in the country was quick to show its support. as tickets for the final three days of Masters Shanghai at the 18,000-seat Mercedes Benz Arena have been sold out. According to Esports Charts, the event also garnered the highest viewership of over 914,000, and that doesn’t count Chinese viewers.

The success of Masters Shanghai is noteworthy considering VALORANT officially launched in China on July 12 last year.

Last Sunday (June 9), executives at VALORANT publisher Riot Games gushed about the tournament’s enthusiastic reception at a press conference leading up to the grand final.

“VALORANT hasn’t been available for a year yet (in China), so it’s incredible to see the vibrant, enthusiastic and amazing VALORANT gaming community come out, support us and be a part of this event. I think this has exceeded our wildest expectations for the launch of VALORANT and really shows how excited we are about developing VALORANT esports here in China,” said Whalen Rozelle, COO of esports at Riot Games.

The success of Masters Shanghai even came as a surprise to Riot management, given that all four of the top teams that played at the Mercedes Benz Arena were from outside China.

Two hometown teams Edward Gaming AND FunPlus Phoenixthey managed to take only 7th–8th place respectively. and 9.–12. place. This has become a cause for concern as Chinese fans mainly support their own teams. Still, crowds cheered on top-tier VALORANT esports during the final three days of the Masters in Shanghai.

“We were all a bit nervous when EDG, FPX – the Chinese teams – didn’t go deep. But we were incredibly overwhelmed to see that the arena was still packed with fans,” said Leo Faria, global head of VALORANT Esports.

The Chinese community’s support for VALORANT even extended beyond Masters Shanghai as Riot executives witnessed the city become a temporary hub for all things VALORANT. It showed that VALORANT is not only one of the biggest titles in esports today, but is also a phenomenon in the gaming industry thanks to its launch in China.

“For me personally, the most exciting thing is meeting our players. I think what made this event so exciting was the number of pop-ups and activations throughout the city that we were able to participate in. Because we could meet the players not only in the large arena on the day of the final, but also in places where they spend time in their cities. Since the team has been away for a year, the team hasn’t had many opportunities to meet with players in China yet, so this was a really special time for us to get to know the community better,” said Anna Donlon, head of VALORANT studio.

Building VALORANT’s presence in China

Of course, the success of Masters Shanghai didn’t come out of nowhere. When VALORANT was first released in June 2020, the game did not immediately launch in China because Riot Games had not yet received government approval at the time.

While a simultaneous release of VALORANT in China and around the world would certainly be a great thing, one of the positive things about VALORANT being delayed in the country was that it created anticipation for when it would actually happen.

When VALORANT finally launched in China last year, Riot quickly integrated the country as its own region into the VCT, the game’s official global esports circuit. While the Chinese region still has a lot of catching up to do in terms of competition, Masters Shanghai at least showed that its community has embraced the game as much as other top regions.

“Even though the season has just started this year, preparations started much earlier. We were in constant contact the entire time and stayed within schedule. As soon as VALORANT launched in China, VCT CN soon followed. Last year we went through a very rigorous selection process of teams representing VCT CN and I think that we are still very happy with this choice. Even the Ascension (Dragon Ranger Gaming) team performing so well in VCT CN proves and shows how competitive the game is, and our viewership continues to grow throughout the season. So all the trends are pointing to really good signs, so we’re very excited about the future,” said Philip So, director of esports and business development in China.

Ensuring VALORANT’s success in China has always been a difficult proposition for Riot. Firstly, this is an area very familiar to the publisher, thanks in large part to its flagship title, League of Legends (LoL). China remains arguably the second most successful LoL region and has hosted some of the game’s biggest tournaments in the past. That’s why there will always be an appetite for Riot titles in China.

The other side of the coin is China’s relative lack of success in shooting games. While the country has seen success in MOBA games like LoL and Dota 2, the same cannot be said for games like Counter-Strike. Even if everyday gamers in China embrace VALORANT, the less-than-successful professional scene could end up being a major market left untapped.

Although Chinese VALORANT teams have not yet reached this highest level in major international tournaments, they have still not yet reached their full potential. After all, the game has only been available in the country for less than a year, and its esports league is still very young. It may be a year or two before we see the Chinese VALORANT World Champion.

But even if China’s VALORANT game doesn’t reach the level of success seen in its peers, the overwhelming reception for Masters Shanghai is still a positive sign for Riot that the community has fully embraced the game. And if this reception can be repaid with competitive success, China could become a powerhouse in VALORANT, as it has with many other esports titles.

“Coming to China was a no-brainer for me as soon as we released the game. We’ve seen players embrace VALORANT and have seen an incredible growth trajectory over the past year. One of the things that’s really beautiful about VALORANT is that the game is popular in every corner of the world. That’s why we’re very keen on choosing locations that will allow us to showcase the global community the game has. And China, a year later, was just amazing. It just felt like the perfect home for the VCT Masters and we hope to return to China in the future,” said Leo Faria.