PandaScore: Wagering eyes close in on Valorant changes

SBC News PandaScore: Wagering eyes close in on Valorant changes
Oliver Niner – PandaScore

2021 saw esports audiences engage with Riot Games surprise hit of Valorant – a 5-vs-5 team shooter game. PandaScore’s Head of Sales, Oliver Niner, anticipates that new game and format changes will entice wagering on Valorant to help deepen esports betting markets.

Big in 2023: Newly structured Valorant

Riot Games’ FPS game, Valorant, burst onto the esports and betting scene when it debuted in 2021. Blending the gunplay and format of CS:GO with the unique characters and special abilities you find in MOBAs like League of Legends proved a hit, with the player base and the esports scene mushrooming in its inaugural year.

Valorant’s popularity was also reflected in the changing tastes of bettors. The game leapfrogged all other esports titles outside the big 3 (CS:GO, Dota 2, LoL) to cement its place as the 4th most popular game for esports betting.

2022 was no different, with viewership continuing to grow, more teams buying in and events of an ever-grander scale. At PandaScore we found that operators offering Valorant enjoyed this growing popularity, with year-on-year (YoY) turnover for the esports title doubling from 2021 to 2022.

This year brings significant changes to how top-flight Valorant esports is structured. Publisher Riot Games’ Valorant Partner Program will have notable implications for bettors and operators alike.

Betting benefits from the new system

The first 2 years of Valorant ran on a semi-decentralised ecosystem with lots of tournaments strung together into one professional circuit. While not decentralised to the level of Counter-Strike, Valorant benefited from the hype of big tournaments at certain parts of the year, while suffering from the inconsistency that comes with teams living or dying from tournament to tournament.

This year, professional Valorant will feature 3 international leagues with 10 partner teams each, competing in 2 splits running throughout the year. This is in addition to the much-lauded Masters and Champions tournaments, as well as a revamped Challengers circuit and promotion-relegation system.

This more structured approach will help stabilise teams, competitions and the regularity of top-flight Valorant esports.

For operators, more consistency is a good thing. It will result in a greater fan following: the same teams are appearing in competition and greater storylines will be built, so fans and players alike have a journey to follow over time. For marketing and customer engagement, operators will have more known quantities and time to build campaigns, activations and content that converts.

Aside from these changes at the top, there are plenty of other reasons why Valorant is going to be big for esports betting this year.

Lower-tier competition still hugely popular

The passionate player base and thriving grassroots scene demonstrate there’s a strong appetite for the game, which is why there are plenty of smaller tournament organisers running competitions.

This bodes well for the esport’s long-term health, fostering new talent as well as engaging fans further down the professional pyramid. These lower-tier tournaments – which PandaScore often ranks as B-tier and below-level competitions – have drawn in very strong viewership numbers considering their size, and it’s reflected in the betting activity too.

Organising a tournament in Valorant’s inaugural year was often a mad dash. But looking at the YoY growth from 2021-2022, turnover almost quadrupled for B-tier and below Valorant tournaments. It’s a strong sign to operators that Valorant is popular and profitable not just at the top, but through to your more regional tournaments.

A healthy, reliable esport

We’re finding that operators are trusting and promoting Valorant much more, and have found the title to be consistently growing in popularity for their customers. The new system will give Valorant a higher turnover floor compared to the peaks and valleys of previous years.

Considering the game’s immense popularity and healthy player base in the US, Valorant should be a title that operators watch closely while state-by-state regulation trundles towards legalised esports betting.

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 Oliver Niner, Head of Sales @ PandaScore

SBC News PandaScore: Wagering eyes close in on Valorant changes

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