Categories: Games News

“Valorant” esports adds the Challengers level, way to international leagues

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“Valorant’s” tier two system, called the Challenger circuit, will culminate in year-end regional tournaments that will give winners access to the game’s international leagues, according to a Riot Games announcement. The release of new information on Tuesday, which includes a six-year schedule as well as details on broadcast windows, production and the inaugural 21 Challenger Leagues, comes after a number of teams announced they would suspend participation in “Valorant” ecosystem following the failure of teams to secure a partnership spot in the sport’s exclusive international leagues.

In 2023, Riot will launch its Challenger circuit with 21 regional leagues spread across the Americas, Europe and the Middle East (also called EMEA) and Asia-Pacific. The seasons of these leagues will begin with open qualifiers; the top teams will advance to two multi-week halves of play, culminating in a playoff tournament. Riot promised production comparable to international league broadcasts, as well as schedules for “bigger” leagues that would not conflict with international league play. Some league broadcasts will be provided by Riot, others by third parties.

At the end of the Challengers competitive year, all three global territories (Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific) will host a new tournament, Challengers Ascension. The winners of these three events will have access for two years to their respective international league. They will also enjoy the perks afforded to partner teams, such as an annual stipend and the opportunity to collaborate with Riot on in-game events and branded products.

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Riot did not specify how teams would be seeded for the Challengers Ascension events.

“The exact mechanism, number of teams per league and formats may differ from one territory to another, as the Americas, EMEA and the Pacific each have a different amount of leagues,” said Anton Ferraro , head of global communications for “Valorant” Sports. “We plan to provide additional information on this topic later in the year or in early 2023.”

After two years of participation, teams promoted to international leagues after winning an Ascension event are relegated back to the Challengers ecosystem. For now, there are “no plans” for additional co-op spaces, according to Whalen Rozelle, head of esports operations at Riot.

Starting in 2025, the top two teams, rather than a single winning roster, in each territory’s Ascension event will gain access to their respective international leagues.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Rozelle explained that roster protections, similar to those in place for “League of Legends” sports, would be instituted across all international leagues. These protections will help protect Challengers teams that make it to international leagues from having all their talent poached by partner teams.

“Contracts, roster composition and player transfer windows will be standardized,” Rozelle said. “Teams that violate these rules will face a variety of escalating penalties.”

When asked about Riot’s stance on Ascension’s path to rosters with problematic leadership teams, partners and sponsors, Rozelle said the developer would be keeping a close eye on participating organizations.

“Teams advancing to the Ascension tournament will be required to adhere to Riot’s rules and regulations,” Rozelle wrote. “We will work closely with teams, ownership groups and our regional leaders to ensure all of our expectations are understood upfront.”

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Since the April announcement of the partnership system, several teams have announced their withdrawal from the game’s sports ecosystem. Some, like Shopify Rebellion, were introduced and rejected.

“We are obviously disappointed,” it read a tweet of Shopify Rebellion after the team’s application was rejected. “A popularity contest for a woefully small number of team places in an associate league would always leave too many on the outside.”

Other organizations, such as Luminosity Gaming, chose not to participate in the process beforehand, assessing their chances of entry as too low. At the time, Luminosity said it would wait to see if other opportunities arose to enter the “Valorant” ecosystem. Tuesday’s introduction of the Challenger Circuit may be that opportunity for many organizations denied access to the Riot-affiliated international league.


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