TL staff share opinions on VCT 2024

TL staff share opinions on VCT 2024

Hey Valorant Community,

I wanted to share some perspective from TL employees about Valorant’s 2024 schedule/structure because orgs are a bit of black box in esports right now. Even many of the well-informed people in esports don’t know how an org lives, only how one dies. This isn’t really meant to be a “Team Liquid Official Statement” or a press release. It’s more us trying to show what all this schedule/structure could mean for an org by sharing some thoughts from people within TL, who have worked in esports for years.

Those perspectives are: Brittany, our Senior Esports Manager, and Eamon, our Valorant Manager, as well as myself (Austin, Editor). We’ve all been in esports for years now and have solid knowledge of different sections of the industry. The post is long so I’ve broken it into two sections, each with a TL;DR at the bottom. I’m posting directly to reddit to make this as readable as possible, but you can also find this article on our website! I’ve also included an extra section about the LCQ on the website version. 

Before digging in, despite some criticisms we’ll give, the general TL vibe towards Riot is a positive one. Riot has its issues, as all of esports does right now, but I think it’s fair to say that very few other devs do esports as well as they do. The goal here is less to roast Riot/VCT 2024 and more give a sense of what teams worry about.

Number of games:

This might be the biggest topic, so let’s tackle it first. Eamon approached this with a very neutral “wait and see” mindset, focused more on player growth. 

Eamon:The game is in its infancy and there is no real right answer. I think you can look at many esports titles that all have slightly nuanced approaches to their calendars. Ultimately we just need people to keep an open mind and continue to try and work through best practices with Riot.

I would say that right now the development of new talent is slightly hampered by the structure of the tournaments, but I think that is more down to there being no real tournaments where they are competing vs T1 opponents.”

I can understand waiting for results to bear out, because esports is an experimental field. However, Brittany and myself were more worried about the lack of games and what it means for organizations in particular. 

Brittany: “There's eight teams who will probably only play 12 games. It's really hard to build an audience, which determines how much investment there will be into the space. It's going to be a lot harder finding sponsors to partner with if you can’t show good audience engagement. And then why are [fans] gonna be engaged with your team if you're not even playing? And then how are you going to market stuff like team-branded skins?

It’s not only that, we have to promote the players, promote the teams. How are you gonna come up with a cool, engaging, fun promotion if you’re playing twelve weeks of the year? [...] and then you're putting this investment into the team. You have to move them to Berlin, you have to pay their salaries. And it feels like a big loss.

First, a quick aside: digital goods like skins, stickers, icons, are one of the better revenue sources for esports orgs everywhere. They are a major part of a lot of dev-org relationships, and their implementation can be a quiet decider on the health/size of an esport. 

Now, let’s talk about bad/weak teams. Brittany and I spent a while discussing the issue of weak teams in esports. Particularly, that there’s no stop gap for a team spiraling down, like a draft system. And there is no generational, physical, fanbase yet so that weak teams tend to lose sponsors as they lose games, while strong teams build from strength to strength.

The current VCT schedule is especially punishing through lack of games and through a lack of interim offseason periods where teams could make roster changes. You get voices in the scene saying “12 games is enough of [worst team].” But the bottom teams still bought into the league, and buying in was a big enough investment that it could cause serious damage if it doesn’t give a return. This is how you end up with another round of shutdowns or layoffs. Layoffs are terrible outright, but they also make esports as a whole less attractive to investment. More games means more safety.

Brittany: “It’s more the feeling you’re at least getting what you paid for when you signed a team. Yeah, we're not winning. But at least we're on stage. our partners are being viewed on our jerseys. We're getting impressions. We have something we can tweet about.”

And for my own part, I think it builds the vibe and character of an esport to feature bad teams. As an NBA fan, watching the Wizards and Pistons race to the bottom is great. Sure, I don’t want to see the Wizards once the season wraps, but I think DC’s franchise really might not recover if their games got slashed in half for not making it to the playoffs. Esports can have a very “then perish” energy towards underperforming teams, but if the NBA had let teams like the Cavs or Warriors die, then it would have also seen the death of some great storylines. I mean, just imagine having no KCorp/Sideshow battle last year.

TL;DR: The low amount of games ratchets up the risk level for every team and makes returns more swingy. It punishes bottom-of-the-table teams most but, as far as Brittany and I can tell, it hurts the long term health of the whole scene. I believe it hurts the character of the VCT as well. 

The schedule

The VCT 2024 schedule is the more complex discussion. There are hours of content around the good, bad, and ugly of this schedule and yet, talking with Eamon there were still new elements I hadn’t seen covered. The biggest being a patch desync with tier 2:

Eamon: “One thing I would say is the fact that all the regional leagues are playing slightly different types of tournaments (some play BO1, some play BO2, some play BO3) on different patches, out of sync with T1 is a massive issue. It makes practice extremely difficult and ultimately this has huge implications for the development of T2 teams and upcoming players.”

When I saw the schedule, I thought Ascension and tier 2 having their own time slots could only benefit tier 2 — and Valorant. But Eamon’s worry makes a lot of sense given that at big events tier 1 teams often have to practice with tier 2 teams. And these moments are incredible for tier 2 growth! (Our Game Changers team bootcamps in EU, partly to scrim with our VCT roster.) Hopefully Riot has a workaround here, or is just very cognizant with their patch timings.

However, when it came to building our tier 1 roster, the long offseason has been an unexpected positive. 

Brittany: “This year, we actually felt like we could take the time to do a thorough trial process. It wasn’t just like, ‘sign the available superstars and the orgs fight over them for two weeks.’ Now it felt like we could do decent trials, try new players [and] combinations people hadn’t thought about.

“From a purely administrative perspective, it gives me more time to find them apartments, get their visas, register them, get their bank accounts, their health insurance — that was definitely a lot more relaxed this year. [...] Also it gives the new teams [some help]. Gentle Mates have to navigate this all for the first time. You have to set up your German entity for payroll. [...] So it's also nice for those teams.

“I was okay with the long offseason and I think generally the guys are feeling good about it too.”

Eamon largely agreed with the long offseason being nice but he pointed out that this was due to Team Liquid making every event and getting to attend an offseason one too. For other teams with even longer or shorter offseasons, the answer probably differs.

Eamon: “We took a very short break of around 2 weeks during / after champions (maybe the only good thing to come from being eliminated first from the tournament) whilst we waited for other teams to conclude their year. We knew there would be roster moves happening, so it was really important to be ready to go instantly with trials when players were available. For a team that played at most tournaments the longer off season break is very welcome, it just becomes slightly complicated when that is the only opportunity to change your roster.”

Both Eamon and Brittany pointed out that, while nice, the long offseason was the only good window for roster moves. For Brittany, it amped up the pressure of an already scary season. Not only do you get very few games if your team underperforms, but you also have much less room to make a correcting move. (Sidenote: Hearing all this made the 10-man EG roster feel much more sensible.)

They also agreed that the real trick for Riot, and esports writ large, is to find the balance between too much and too little. Illustrating the difficulty of that, both wanted a longer schedule but had different ideas on how you’d go about that.

Eamon: 6 Weeks in the middle of the year would be good. This is my own personal opinion because I know even amongst ourselves there is not a general consensus. [...] My personal opinion is that we shouldn’t go to a too light schedule. Ultimately this is an entertainment industry and we have to give the fans things to be interested in and watch.

One thing I really like about CS (which will never happen in Valorant) is the fact that teams have somewhat of a choice as to which tournaments they decide to play in. That variety in TO’s is something I think Valorant would definitely benefit from. It would be a great way for T1 & T2 teams to mix in tournaments and so on. I think with CS the clearly defined player break is something we are moving towards in Valorant, but the position in the calendar seems to make more sense with how CS do it.

Brittany: “I can point to things that are not it, right? [VCT 2024] is not quite it. Last year of CS, I think the team was on the road 300 days of the year. That's definitely not it either so there's got to be some range between 12 weeks and almost every single week that works.

“I think the VCT schedule needs to be way more spread out. To account for player burnout, [you] give them break time and you would put Game Changers or Ascension events in those spots. [...] Maybe they put it at the same time as Masters so they use the same venue. The first two weeks are the Game Changers Masters and the second two weeks are VCT Masters.

“What could be better is if Riot’s going to do a shorter season, this leaves more chances for off season tournaments. I think there were maybe two this year with the one we competed in Red Bull. Maybe if there were more offseason tournaments it [would give] teams more options to try out rosters and practice.”

If there is a unifying element, it’s that pretty much everyone wants more third-party events. However, like Eamon said, it’s hard to see more third-party events happening given the current environment in esports. Esports events take risk and cost money, and there are only a handful of tournament organizers in esports that could run events to meet Riot’s standards. 

To add to the bind, one of those organizers is ESL, which partners with Monster Energy. Since Riot partners with Red Bull, that makes it hard to see a world where ESL enters Valorant. (If you look at esports broadly, you can see that Red Bull and Monster have partitioned up most of the industry, with some smaller scenes like the FGC being an exception. This is the Esports Energy Drink Schism.) So I don’t see a clear road to Valorant getting a substantial third-party-led offseason, let alone something like a third-party circuit.  

With few paths to an external circuit, it only makes more sense that Riot should lengthen their overall season. As a viewer and Content Person, I like Brittany’s idea of having breaks where Ascension or Game Changers play, because it keeps a sense of momentum. The downside is that it could make it harder to line the patches up properly between the scenes. That is the thing with the schedule: There probably isn’t a way to make it perfect as much as a few ways to make “X” better and “Y” worse, hopefully resulting in a better overall circuit.

In my eyes, there is one positive of the long offseason that truly no one is talking about: Increasingly Deranged Reddit content. I think Riot has a chance to run a social experiment where they keep adding a bit of length to the offseason, just to see how the truly Valorant-obsessed fans react with almost no fodder for their niche hobby available. I have seen some pretty good, pretty deranged offseason posts on here already but I think we could plumb the depths of hobbyist derangement even further if the offseason was slightly longer and esports chilled out for a year, so there was less to talk about.

TL;DR: There is no perfect solution, but the current system could be improved. VCT 2024 is too crammed, could hurt tier 2 by desyncing patches, and needs more third-party tournaments (difficult) to feel right. The big gap is nice for orgs (especially new ones) to build rosters and get organized, though. Brittany recommends layering in Ascension and GC to allow intermittent breaks. Eamon recommends 6 weeks right in the middle. I think Riot should extend the offseason even more, in order to produce increasingly deranged posts from this subreddit in particular. 

Extra: The LCQ

The LCQ was the main topic that I felt was interesting but could be sectioned off as “extra material.” The reason being Eamon, Brittany, and I were all fairly torn on the decision.

Brittany: “This is a tricky one. I think it’s really hard to build a good product if there’s no reason to watch certain games. There are some games that just no one cares about because they don't mean anything and then all of sudden LCQ [comes] and everyone watches that.

“I can understand [points] for the overall product, having each game mean something. [...] And for a player-perspective, mentally it also mentally does something to you too. There is a reason for me to want to play and win this [regular season] game. [...] I do feel like the points, it feels a little more in your control. So maybe it is a good [change].”

Eamon: “I feel very conflicted. I think LCQ is one of the most hype tournaments to watch as a spectator and being part of them is always very exciting. It produces some great storylines and ultimately gives teams that have a slow start to a year something to aim for in regards to qualification to the end of year events. It is also always nice to see other teams winning the LiquidChanceQualifier ;).”

My roots in the FGC ultimately make me favor the LCQ. In the very points-driven circuits of Tekken and Street Fighter, the LCQs always become some of the most tense, competitive, and narratively compelling tournaments. Win or go home. Plus, an LCQ works well to add more games and narrative into the circuit. Riot’s gauntlet runs in League have been some of the best within that esport and I feel we could easily see a legendary run or two in Valorant. 

At the same time, I can understand that the LCQ tournaments are probably difficult to schedule and expensive in a moment where money and time feel more scarce than normal. The points system does give Riot the ability to add weight to the regional splits too. I wonder if Riot couldn’t run a smaller LCQ that featured 1-2 teams from the main regions, perhaps even right before Champions. I’d imagine this would cut costs and shake up the scrims. Though, I think the LCQ’s future will truly rest on how interesting the points feel and how secure esports feels in 2025.

Poynts are always on the schedule

Thanks for reading, getting more perspective on the VCT 2024 schedule/system, and learning what it means for orgs like us. Enjoy some poynts for your dilligence.