Overwatch’s Esports Foothold Slipping Because of Valorant

Blizzard's hero shooter faces competition from Riot's tactical FPS, with both player passion and political stances influencing the switch

Overwatch Esports Competition at BlizzCon
Overwatch Esports Competition at BlizzCon

Ever since Blizzard moved into the FPS market in 2015 with one of the most innovative and iconic shooters of the generation, Overwatch has remained a staple of the Esports scene. 

With big competitions, huge prize pools, and a large selection of talented teams and players that have kept audiences coming back for more at every time of asking. However, it seems that a new kid on the block is overshadowing the once-unrivaled hero-based shooter. That new kid on the block is of course Riot Games creation, Valorant.

Key Takeaways

  • Valorant, a tactical FPS from Riot Games, is rapidly gaining popularity in esports, challenging the dominance of Overwatch, the once-unrivaled hero-based shooter from Blizzard.
  • While Valorant’s fresh gameplay is a factor, some professional Overwatch players are switching due to a perceived lack of passion for the game.
  • Blizzard’s punishment of a Hearthstone player for supporting Hong Kong protests in 2019 may have also driven players and pros toward Valorant.
  • Both Overwatch and Valorant have different trajectories. It remains to be seen if Overwatch can adapt or if Valorant will become the new king of esports.

Valorant for PC
Valorant for PC

When this title was first announced, many cynical gamers were happy to write this one off as just another Overwatch clone like Paladins: Heroes of the Storm. However, since Valorant’s release, the title has gone from strength to strength, forging a path to success and becoming a mainstay within the typical esports line-up of gaming titles, a feat that is very hard to achieve in this modern age of gaming.

Passing of The Torch To Valorant

This success has been a burden upon Blizzard as up until the release of their rival, Overwatch was unparalleled in the field of multiplayer FPS games, aside from perhaps Call of Duty. Yet now, Overwatch is chasing Valorant as it grows at an exponential rate, and due to this, many Overwatch pros have flocked to the newer, fresher title.

Jay “Sinatraa” Won
Jay “Sinatraa” Won World Cup 2019

In November 2019, Overwatch lost one of its marquee players in the form of Sinatraa. The former San Fransisco Shock player decided to switch to Valorant claiming that he “straight up lost the passion for Overwatch.”

Then just days later began his assault on the Valorant Competitive scene where his skills have transferred over without much time needed to adapt. Other notable pros that have made the switch also include Babybay, Rawkus, Corey Nigra, and HyP.

A Political Pitfall

It would be easy to argue that many of these players and fans have jumped ship purely due to the newer, slicker, and more exciting gameplay on offer within Valorant. However, we wager that there have been other factors that have helped fans and pros alike make the switch.

We are of course referring to the issues surrounding Blizzard and the effects that took place regarding the Hong Kong protests which began in late 2019.

Just as a reminder, in October 2019, Blizzard punished Hearthstone player ‘Blitzchung‘ for voicing his support for the Hong Kong protests during a live stream. This decision would provoke a negative response on a global scale leading to a mass boycott of all Blizzard products. These events would even lead to a letter from the US Congress.

So with these events in mind, it is fair to say that this could be a factor leading fans to jump ship. Gaming is meant to provide an escape from reality and be a fun, light-hearted pastime. Gamers are an outspoken and opinionated crowd unafraid to stand up for what they believe in. So it wouldn’t be all that surprising if many gamers moved to Valorant to spite the Overwatch developer.

Whatever the reason is regarding this change of power in the esports community. It is fair to say that each game has completely different trajectories at the moment. So it will be interesting to see how each title responds in the coming year.

So that’s our piece regarding Overwatch and Valorant. What do you think of the two warring factions? Do you think that Valorant is going to put Overwatch in the ground? Or do you think that both have their place in the esports community? Let us know in the comments section below. 

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