Time felt like it stopped during the Valorant Red Bull Campus Clutch World Finals. A little place in time and space that seemed entirely divorced from the realities of the frosty northern hemisphere. Snow started falling as my plane left Heathrow to take me down to Sao Paulo as we all convened to watch the most talented collegiate level Valorant teams battle it out to decide which among them was best.
It was almost too easy to forget as I wore sunglasses and shorts that the year was coming to an end. But with the buzzing atmosphere of the Campus Clutch and the oodles of Valorant talent on-site, it was a good opportunity to ask everyone how they felt about Valorant right now, and what they wanted in the future.
I spoke to lots of people at the tournament, from G2 Gozen to the Team USA winners of the tournament about what they were looking forward to in 2023 from Valorant, but I started with host Iain Chambers.
“So VCT Game Changers was in November and how that ended with the viewership for women’s esports was just awesome,” he says. “I want to see more of that in the new year – a focus on that would be really cool.”
But it’s not just Game Changers that’s got Chambers excited, it’s the whole damn scene, in part, thanks to Valorant’s win at The Game Awards this year.
“The fact that Valorant won Best Esports Game at The Game Awards this year – I think it’s just going to get bigger and better,” Chambers adds. “Like more live events, more live audiences. Not just VCT, but more events like this – off-season stuff where people can come out in numbers and continue to experience the game outside of the regular season.”
Ever since the Game Changers Championship – the most watched tournament in women’s esports history – fans have been chomping at the bit for more Valorant tournaments, and G2 Gozen’s Petra ‘Petra’ Stoker and Anastasiya ‘Glance’ Anisimova believe that’s only a good thing.
“After the last Champions, I feel like it’s going to grow next year,” Petra says. “And I really hope that we will have more LANs and smaller tournaments.”
“Yeah I agree, on LAN, we have those tournaments, but they feel like [they’re] every three months,” Glance continues. “But I feel like we need more LAN experience because it [GCC] was my first LAN, and it was a very different atmosphere. You can see your enemies, you can see your teammates, you can fist bump – it’s a very different way to play the game, and I want more events like that.”
In short, Gozen’s players just want to play more Valorant so they can show the world what they can do. Glance is even up for a mixed gender tournament, so they can see how they stack up against a professional men’s team. “I would just like to have that experience just to see how good we are against 100 Thieves or G2’s male team,” they say. “It would be great.”
There’s also a desire among the up and coming pros to see more investment in the collegiate scene. Following the culmination of Campus Clutch, Team USA’s ‘Dark3st’ praised Red Bull for looking after them. “There’s not that many tournaments this big, where the organisers will fly us out and take care of us and that have a prize pool, and rewards,” he says. “It feels really great to have something like this. So just putting more money towards that is the only thing I’m really asking for.”
The investment into collegiate esports might not sound as enticing as seeing top teams duke it out on the big stage, but that’s far from the truth. These tournaments are vital in helping discover new talent, and that’s why it’s also at the top of caster Loviel ‘Velly’ Cardwell’s 2023 wish list too.
“When it comes to the future of Valorant, it’s pretty much a no-brainer that what Red Bull is doing right now is incredible for these students,” Velly says. “Last year we saw Team Egypt win and then right after that one of the players got signed to a professional team. That changed the course of his life forever. And that’s something that we all want for all these students out here now.”
Beyond the collegiate scene, though, Velly isn’t convinced much needs to change.
“When it comes to Valorant though, it’s been out for a couple of years and it is killing it,” he says. “My expectations were modest, but Valorant is now leading the way in just about everything out there. It’s crushing viewership, the matches are fun to watch, [as are] the talent, the players, the personalities. It seems like Valorant is ticking every box, even boxes that we didn’t even know we needed to tick yet.”
However, if he could wish for one thing it’s that more American teams are thrown into the mix. “I want to see my boys show up in a big way,” he adds.
Red Bull Campus Clutch might not be the VCT. It might not have the best players in the world, but frankly that didn’t seem to matter one bit. Everyone was hyped to be there, excited for the new year, and for the future.
Everyone just seems to want another bite of Valorant in 2023, and, after the year we’ve had, can you blame them?