Is There Too Much Hype Around Valorant?


by in Valorant | May, 4th 2020

It feels like everyone’s excited for Valorant these days. Even if you’ve been living under a rock, odds are, you’ve heard someone talk about it, probably in ecstatic fashion. Heaps of empathetic adjectives, predictions, baffling amounts of praise, etc. Valorant is, without a doubt, one of the most anticipated games of all time.

Now, that last sentence was certainly a theatrical one, but it’s by no means incorrect. The numbers tell the same tale. Everyone and their mother flocked to Twitch in an attempt to get a beta key. Some got in. Others didn’t. Some streamers entertained beyond belief. Others lied about having drops enabled. It was absolute chaos on all fronts.

The amount of hype behind Valorant is mind-blowing, and all of it is well-deserved. It “only” took Riot ten years to release an entirely new game so it makes all the sense in the world for it to be a bona fide masterpiece!

There is a caveat, however, and it’s indicative of a much larger problem that’s currently prevalent in esports: an incessant need for creating Valorant hype.

If we were to judge the game by the overall public perception and streamer opinion, we would quickly surmise that Valorant isn’t just a game. It’s not just a highly anticipated first-person shooter. Instead, it is a revolution, an evolution, the Overwatch killer, and the game that’s going to dethrone CS:GO en route to becoming the biggest and most entertaining FPS esport in the world.

It’s two months away from being able to cure chickenpox!

You had professional CS:GO players retiring and making the switch to Valorant even before the closed beta began. Don’t even try to wrap your head around that one.

On the one hand, it’s easy to understand the origin of these ludicrous expectations and narratives. It’s like Overwatch but without many of its problems; it’s like CS:GO but it’s also “better” because it takes the gunplay and makes it a bit more entertaining without compromising the underlying formula. So in short, it’s like the best of both.

On the other hand, it’s not a revolution — it’s just a darn good game. Why does it have to be anything more than that? When streamers sing its praises, they say it’s the best game they’ve played in years. They say it’s completely going to change the status quo, usher in a different kind of era, and so on.

It won’t, and that’s okay.

This unrelenting urge to create hype around Valorant is fine overall but it has more than just a couple of downsides. Fortnite comes out — it’s the next big thing! Rinse and repeat for Apex Legends. Rinse and repeat for Call of Duty Warzone, a game that had more than 50 million players just one month after release.

Nowadays, no one’s talking about Fortnite, Apex Legends is an afterthought, and Warzone — fantastic though it is — will slowly fade into “obscurity” (hard air quotes on this one) once Valorant is released to the public.

We’re always off to the next, elaborate thing that grabs our attention. We’re enchanted and amazed beyond measure until something new comes along and swoops us away.

Valorant is a slow burn. The gunplay is exciting but unforgiving. A split second is all it takes to die — one mistake and you’re out. As a whole, we’re talking about a very exciting take on a familiar genre, with a few Riot-specific tweaks thrown in for good measure.

On the surface level, everything looks great even with the few obvious flaws that are present. But if things go awry, then Valorant would fall prey to everyone’s expectations. So why don’t we just let it be its own thing? Why must we create these unnecessary narratives and already mold the game into a revolutionary release even before the closed beta concludes?

If it’s destined to take over the world, then great, so be it. If it doesn’t, that’s okay too. Many games were deemed revolutionary in the past and yet they failed to deliver, not because they were inherently lacking but because of the overwhelming expectations put on them by the community.

Now, all of a sudden, we have the Overwatch League MVP leaving the game entirely in favor of the hype around Valorant — a game that’s still in closed beta! Absolute madness! Your mind starts to wander almost by default: what does this mean for Overwatch? Is this a one-off occurrence, or a sign of the things to come? Regardless of the answer, it’s impossible not to characterize this as a gross overreaction from everyone involved. No matter how good or promising Valorant might be, it’s still too early to predict anything with confidence, let alone leave your (well-paying) job.

But not everyone’s going crazy. Many high profile streamers and ex-pros are saying that the game, while exciting and fun, won’t be engaging enough as an esport. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen, but they do have a solid argument. Still, even if it’s not particularly engaging to watch, that wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t have such lofty expectations.

The “Game-Changer”

Valorant won’t kill CS:GO, and the same goes for Overwatch. At best, it’ll become a separate esport with a separate playerbase. Much like a Venn diagram, there will be some overlap, but all three games have their distinct strengths and weaknesses and are not in direct competition.

There will always be a great number of people who prefer Overwatch (as flawed as it might be) and its frenetic pace and diverse cast of colorful characters. By the same token — for those who think of ultimates and abilities as superfluous complications — Counter-Strike will always have a cult following as it’s larger than life.

CS:GO, in particular, is, was, and always will be a pillar of esports. It is a game that has stood the test of time, and that’s quite a success in this ever-changing industry. The same goes for League of Legends. New, more beautiful and exciting MOBAs might come out in the future, but League will forever remain a staple, consistent presence.

Finally, the esports realm is big enough to accommodate everyone regardless of their preference. You can follow both soccer and the NFL without being seen as a heretic. Riot would be foolish to release an Overwatch/CS:GO clone, so they’re giving us their take on a popular genre.

Back when they first announced Valorant (previously known as Project A), you could see that the dev team was relatively small and closely-knit. This was a passion project for all of them, rather than a seismic undertaking engineered to rake in a ton of profit.

The amount of hype Valorant has right now exceeded even their wildest dreams. In that sense, they’ve essentially built momentum and that’s a rarity — a huge indication that they have a “winner” on your hands. Still, Valorant was never meant to be a “titan killer” but rather a modest (albeit exciting) alternative. It might become a mind-blowing success, but we shouldn’t project anything onto it or imbue it with our expectations. It’s unfair, after all. Excitement is justified, but let’s not blow things out of proportion.

Instead, let’s allow Valorant to succeed or fail based on its own merits. If it ends up ushering a brand-new era then so be it. If not, we’ll at least have a fantastic new free-to-play game to enjoy.

The fans and players win either way.

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