Valorant will be getting its eighth map, named Pearl, in Episode 5 Act 1, and the underwater map looks to take things back to basics, gameplay wise. However, for the first time, the overall map pool in Valorant will not be expanding. That’s because Pearl will be replacing one the FPS game’s original maps, Split.
This will come as a fairly big surprise to some players, however Riot has its reasons for essentially vaulting one of its maps. In a blog post on this topic, Valorant’s map design lead Joe Lansford explains why a seven-map rotation is “the sweet spot”.
“Last year, we were really excited to get to seven maps because it meant tournament best-of-five’s could have two map bans without any repeat picks,” he says. “This year though, we’ll be at eight maps with the launch of Pearl in Episode 5… After working with our esports team, surveying players, and talking to professional organisations, we’ve decided to keep a seven map pool and will be rotating Split out for now.”
Split will be removed from unrated and competitive queues at the very start of the Episode on June 22. Pearl will be in the unrated rotation from the get-go, but won’t be in ranked rotation until patch 5.01 in July. Players will still be able to access Split in custom games and other casual modes like Spike Rush, however.
Split will also continue to be played in the Valorant Champions Tour up until the end of the VCT Champions last chance qualifiers in August.
When addressing why Riot chose to axe Split over any of the other Valorant maps, Lansford says that the looked at a number of criteria.
“We looked at a bunch of different factors when making this decision. Player sentiment, time since release, past and future planned updates, what the map brings in terms of strategic variance, as well as where Pearl fits into all of it (to name a few).”
Lansford also hints that this is not the end of the road for Split, and we will likely see it return with “some tweaks”.
Unless Riot’s stance on a seven-map pool changes, expect new maps to keep coming in each Episode and booting out one of the older maps in return. While keeping the map pool somewhat limited is a good move in regards to mastering maps and not feeling overwhelmed, there will be some worrying that their favourites will be getting thrown in the Riot vault in a future update.
Find out more about the new Valorant Pearl map in our dedicated guide.