It’s been a mixed year for EMEA Valorant so far to say the least – particularly at the top level. Despair at the COVID-marred Valorant Champions Tour Masters Reykjavik event was replaced with pure joy in Copenhagen, as FunPlus Phoenix lifted the Masters 2 trophy.
Meanwhile, the region’s Tier-2 scene has been flourishing, thanks to the inauguration of the Valorant Regional Leagues (VRLs). Here, players at the top of the Valorant ranks have been able to compete for a shot at a VCT spot – resulting in BIG and FOKUS securing a place in VCT Challengers 2 – as well as the chance to be named the best second-level team in EMEA.
Of course, with developer Riot Games’ plans for VCT in 2023 heavily revolving around a new partnership system, there’s currently a mad dash from organisations across all levels to stake their claim for a spot in one of the three international leagues that will constitute top-level play. Already, we’ve seen the likes of OG leaving VRL France to partner up with LDN UTD in the VCT this year, clearly with the scope to push for one of those VCT 2023 places.
To find out more about the general state of EMEA in 2022, as well as how Riot has been driving it forward throughout the year, we spoke to EMEA esports head Daniel Ringland.
To start with, could you tell us a bit more about where EMEA is in 2022 compared to where it was at the end of Champions?
Daniel Ringland: A notable change is the VRLs. By laying this foundation we have ensured that a strong talent development pipeline exists from which our VCT teams will see the benefits for years to come, resulting in more exciting matches for fans as well as national competition for fans to cheer along
VCT rosters are seemingly ever-evolving; how difficult is it to produce consistent narratives for the region when a roster you see in Stage 1 could be completely different in Stage 2?
This brings challenges but it also brings opportunities. EMEA is a large region consisting of many diverse countries. This means that our pro players come from all sorts of backgrounds and bring with them fascinating narratives of their journey. This provides us with a consistent source of inspiration and stories that should be told.
Conversely, these changing rosters indicate just how much talent there is in the region – how did Riot work throughout year one, and how has it continued to do so in year two to help facilitate this pool?
The VRLs are compelling tournaments in their own right
Our Valorant Regional Leagues are a key piece of this and will continue to be. The VRLs are both highly effective talent development pools as well as compelling tournaments in their own right, so expect to see us continue to develop these.
Heading into the second year of Valorant esports, Riot introduced both the VRL and VRC systems – can you give us an update on how those are going, and if they’re meeting your expectations so far?
I would confidently say that as concepts both the Valorant Regional Circuit (VRC) and the VRL layers are doing really well. Having a clear path from day one all the way to the big stage at Champions is important and is showing promise.
With OG pulling out of VRL France next year to partner up with LDN UTD, how will Riot ensure larger orgs in the tier two scene don’t abandon ship should they not secure a VCT EMEA partner spot?
Our plan is that over time the VRL system will continue to evolve and each region will become an even more compelling prospect in its own right. If you look at the success of the European Regional League (ERL) system for League of Legends, you will see both big orgs and known players participating in the national leagues
Both Masters events and Champions have taken/are taking place in EMEA – how does it feel being able to host all of this year’s LANs in the region?
I’m glad that during such an unprecedentedly difficult time for live events, we’ve been able to ensure we can still put on these events. I am however looking forward to putting the ‘global’ back in ‘global events’ and taking our events to more fans around the world
What more can you tell us about what Riot EMEA has in store for the region for the rest of 2022? (Apart from treating us to some fantastic LANs, of course)
The calendar is far from over so don’t get up just yet! We still have Game Changers Series 3, Game Changers Champions, the EMEA Last Chance Qualifier AND the Valorant Regional Leagues (VRL) EMEA Playoffs where the top team from each Regional League will compete against one another.