A Look at Valorant’s Thriving Esports Scene from Red Bull Home Ground.
The Manchester venue has welcomed Run The Jewels, Charli XCX, and Placebo this year, among others. The Red Bull Home Grounds, an esports competition for Valorant, one of the world’s largest first-person shooters, was packed this weekend (December 9-11). (FPS). The world’s finest Valorant players competed for an 81,000-pound (100,000-dollar) prize, and many teams wanted to build a name for themselves before joining the Riot Valorant brand in 2023.
Two teams of five compete to detonate or defuse a bomb in Valorant (called Spike). Kill the rival team before it destroys yours. When the world’s finest players compete, it’s brutal. Professional Valorant players on a stage like Home Ground look different from amateurs. Head shots land in milliseconds, often faster than viewers can register an opponent, and this can cause random teams to frenzy.
Home Ground spectators like bloody sports. Cloud 9 (C9) Leaf player was applauded by the crowd after killing four opponents in a bad round, while Team Heretics’ AvovA stunned Vitality fans by killing all five of their teammates. Since Valorant’s biggest squads were flying in from America and Istanbul, the crowd was thrilled.
In the semifinals, flamboyant competitors Vitality and KRU flew out, allowing American teams 100 Thieves and Cloud 9 to battle in the best-of-five championship. 100T won the title after 3-0ing C9 and rousing the fans. 100T made the Home Ground victory look easy—the squad did not drop a game on the path to the trophy, and their last game versus C9 was a killer. The first two games in the All-American series were close, with scores of 13-10 and 13-9, but the final match was a massacre, with 100T winning 13-3.
C9 appeared fatigued by the final game after three wins today. 100T’s win was expected—no team could equal their domination on the eve of the final—but C9 fans in the audience were nonetheless disappointed.
Matthew “Cryocells” Panganiban of the 100T won the main stage in Manchester, adding to his stellar record of triumphs. Panganiban got into Valorant while studying when COVID-19 made everything online and gave him more time for games, he tells NME. After discovering he was good at the game, he entered a few random competitions before thinking it could be more.
“I requested my parents to let me take a one-year break to see where it would take me, and at first they really disliked it—despised it,” Panganiban says. “They let me leave in the end—so I’m delighted where I am.”
Panganiban only has competitive experience in Valorant, which he calls a “disadvantage” because many other competitors have expertise in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or Rainbow Six Siege. Panganiban teammate Peter “Asuna” Mazurik played Counter-Stike before joining Valorant.
Mazurik tells NME, “I was fired from my Counter-Stike team, and I was quite sorry about it — I was desperate and didn’t want to return to the skill level. “If you are fired and transfer to a lesser team, it’s incredibly discouraging, so I didn’t want to play Counter-Strike.”
Mazurik switched like many Counter-Strike pros since his sole friend played Valorant. Mazurik thinks Valorant’s “opportunity” draws players to migrate. Mazurik said Valorant allows users to “develop as a person as a player” because it’s a 5-on-5 tactical first-person shooter.
Experienced shooters and Valorant debutants made the 100T dominant. As franchising grows and Riot Games aims to make Valorant esports as popular as League of Legends or Counter-Strike, the number of players that play only Valorant may increase. Live broadcasts like Home Ground are an utopia for fans and players to celebrate their love. While the Manchester audience was energised throughout the matches, it was just as fun to roam about the hall between matches and listen to vibrant debates about people’s favourite teams, players, and ridiculously hot tournament reports.
As a fan, Valorant has the same potential as Home Ground champion Mazurik. Home Ground was a great tool to evaluate 2023 competition and showed a lively gaming community. We claimed in September that face-to-face esports events, like the Riot League final in Malmo, cannot be surpassed: The Home Ground, several months and hundreds of kilometres away from us, confirms that nothing has changed except the game.