The decision by Riot Games to formalize VALORANT’s esports presence through the creation of a partnership program is a milestone that reflects the long-term potential of the game for both players and viewers.
Version1 has submitted a bid to join this program as a partnered team in the Americas region, and is working closely with Riot Games during the partnership application process.
How Riot’s Partnership Program Creates A Sustainable Model For VALORANT Esports
“Riot Games has been a leader in the esports industry for over a decade and has had tremendous success building competitive ecosystems and business models that have staying power,” says Brett Diamond, Chief Operating Officer at Version1.
“With any sort of franchise or partnership system, you have to ask yourself what the structure and the framework of that model is incentivizing organizations to actually do. Is it actually encouraging organizations to do the things that are best for the ecosystem as a whole?”
For Diamond, the model put forward by Riot Games promotes collaboration between the publisher and esports organizations.
“What we’re seeing with the VALORANT partnership model is that Riot has chosen to set the system up in a way that helps both parties work toward the same goals.”
For example, instead of requiring a multimillion dollar franchise fee, partnership models like what Riot Games is proposing for VALORANT heavily incentivize organizations to invest in team resources that strengthen the competitive scene of the esport overall – from the fan base to the player talent pipeline.
Building Player-First Esports Ecosystems
“Riot has been doing this for a long time,” says Jacob Trobaugh, Vice President of Esports and Acquisitions at Version1. “League of Legends esports is the number one title in the world, and they have years of experience working with their current partners. With the new partnership system for VALORANT, we are seeing Riot take all of the knowledge they’ve gained from those experiences, good and bad, to produce an exceptional esports experience for both fans and teams.”
Trobaugh notes that Riot Games has identified the frustrations that have emerged in other esports titles, and seems focused on building a system for VALORANT that addresses these issues at a foundational level.
“Riot is prioritizing not only communication with professional players, but also their well-being and happiness, which very much aligns with Version1’s philosophy on player and talent treatment,” says Trobaugh.
“One of Version1’s goals has always been to create a truly player-first organization — we strive to create a first-class environment for our players. As a result, we are an organization that players want to be part of, because they know that they will be treated well here. They know they will be given opportunities, and that we’ll do everything in our power to set them up for success. These are things that we pride ourselves on as an organization.”
Version1’s Commitment To VALORANT Esports
Version1 entered the VALORANT competitive scene in February 2021. Three months later, Version1 was one of two North American teams competing at the international Major in Iceland – Riot’s first official international LAN event for the esport.
Version1 quickly earned success in VALORANT, and in little over a year, the organization established itself as a dominant force in the North American landscape of the VCT.
As the VALORANT esports fanbase continued to expand in 2021, Version1 doubled down on its investment and established VersionX, an all-women VALORANT team. VersionX has a strong presence in Riot’s VCT Game Changers events and is currently ranked in the top eight.
Although the Version1 roster struggled during Stage 2 of VCT 2022, Version1’s commitment to VALORANT remains solid at every level of the organization.
“Ownership is very bullish on VALORANT,” says Trobaugh. “There’s a minimum threshold for success in esports, and our teams have surpassed that. If you look at our overall results, we’re one of the most consistently performing organizations in North America.
We’re in it for the long haul, and we continue to ensure our players have every possible resource at their disposal to help them find success.”
Driving Innovation In Esports
Minnesota Røkkr, one of Version1’s four esports teams, is a franchised Call of Duty League (CDL) team, and the organization has made a name for itself as a trend-setter in that space.
“One of the most interesting aspects of putting our VALORANT bid together was looking at how we take what has been successful in engaging Røkkr fans in Minnesota and mapping out how we scale that to the national and international community,” says Diamond. “For example, our Rocket League team is competing in London for the RLCS Spring Major next week, and we’ll have IRL fan events in London, NYC, Chicago, and Minnesota.”
“Riot’s goal is to make VALORANT the number one FPS esport in the world, and we have nothing but faith that they will do that.” says Trobaugh.