Valorant 2023 review: the Dissonance

As 2023 draws to a close, it's time once again to take stock of the fourth year of Valorant! After the year 2022 which was seen as a consecration of this new esport and its rise to prominence, it has to be said that 2023 has not necessarily continued in the same vein. While the game is doing well, concerns are beginning to surface on the esports front as the American bubble begins to burst. We take stock!

Valorant: A necessary step back

It's been a busy year for Valorant, as a game. Let's start with the usual roundup of new releases.

As Riot Games promised at the beginning of the year, Valorant has welcomed 3 new Agents: Gekko, Deadlock and Iso. The former has certainly found a place in the hearts of amateur and professional players alike. His Wingman has even become the franchise's semi-official mascot. The other two, on the other hand, are struggling to get noticed, but perhaps we'll just have to wait for the pros to make them their own, as is often the case.

There are also 2 new competitive maps: Lotus and Sunset. As well as these new playgrounds, there are also the returns of old, modified maps. The revised versions of Bind, Split and Breeze can almost be counted as new maps in their own right. Technically, there were 4 other new maps this year, thanks to the introduction of the long-awaited Team Death Match mode Piazza, District, Kabash and more recently, Drift. On the other hand, we're still waiting for the Replay mode we promised so long ago.

But apart from these additions, the most significant changes this year have been the various balancing adjustments to weapons and agents. As well as regular tweaks here and there, it's clearly patch 7.04 that has had the biggest impact on the game, as Riot Games made a point of reaffirming one of its promises when it was announced: in Valorant, you only kill with weapons, not with skills. Most of the skills have been nerfed, particularly the Ultimates, which now require more points before they can be used. The result is a slower game, but with more tension, tactics and pure skill.

Esport: A few scales under the gilt

Repeating the pattern of 2022, but even more concise, the Valorant Champions Tour 2023 will have covered just 7 months of the year, but 7 intense months. The competition kicked off in February with the LOCK//INan opening tournament with an original format designed to bring together VCT teams from around the world before they head back to their respective regions.

The season was marked by Fnatic victories in 2 majors (and a broken trophy), but the Europeans lost out to title holders LOUD in the Valorant Champions. In the end, against all expectations, it was Evil Geniuses who won the World Champions title. The American team had come a long way. Qualifying at the last minute for the Tokyo Masters, it won the points needed to qualify for the Valorant Champions and imposed its style.

Evil Geniuses wins the Valorant Champions 2023
Evil Geniuses players lifting the Valorant Champions 2023 cup

At Riot Games, we were obviously delighted that the Valorant Champions 2023 takes place in Los Angeles, the city where the game's developers are based. Gigantic room, XXL scenography and more or less prestigious guests like Ben Affleck or Elon Musk (booed by the public); the organisers had pulled out all the stops and everything was in place to give Valorant the impression of success and legitimacy.

But appearances can be a little deceiving. While Valorant has undeniably carved out a place for itself in the video game and esports landscape, some very worrying signs are beginning to appear about its stability.

In esports, the number of spectators is everything. More spectators means more advertising revenue, which is ploughed back into esport to create a virtuous circle. Unfortunately, Valorant esport statistics are down overall in 2023. Twitch audiences lost just over 14% over the year, while the Valorant Champions itself recorded a 7% drop in its overall audience compared with 2022.

Review Valorant 2023: the Dissonance - mandatory review valorant 2023 stats champions 2022 -
Valorant 2023 review: the Dissonance - mandatory valorant 2023 review stats champions 2023 -

Viewing statistics for the Valorant Champions 2022 and 2023 on all platforms.

Review Valorant 2023: the Dissonance - mandatory review valorant 2023 global stats -

Overall Valorant statistics on Twitch in 2023.
Source: SullyGnome

But the biggest weaknesses are to be found in the lower leagues. Most of the league's broadcasters are struggling to keep their programmes online. The VCL Polaris, the English league that Riot Games has delegated to Promod, has drastically scaled back its system from March, broadcasting only a handful of matches. In France, late payments to teams and commentators are also causing concern for Freak 4U's health.

It is also, and above all, the teams that suffer the most. Winning a place on the official circuit is not enough to pay players and structures. In France alone, during the first split, no fewer than 3 structures (BeGenius, HEET and Sector One) who withdrew from Valorant due to a lack of resources. The situation of the various structures and players is made even more precarious by the shortness of the VCT season. With a circuit that starts in February and finishes in August, most organisations cannot afford to pay players all year round. They prefer to part with their teams as soon as they are eliminated from their respective circuits and put together new mixes in the autumn.

What's most alarming is that even Evil Genius, the reigning world champions, are not immune to this trend. The American outfit is reportedly in dire straits and has imposed significant pay cuts on all its players, despite their results, in addition to block them in their search for other structures.

Things are happening on the Game Changers circuit too. Apart from Shopify Rebellion's victory, probably the most significant event of the year was the departure of DSGthe Disguised Toast structure. The team, one of the favourites, was disqualified after losing out to a proven case of cheating during the qualifying rounds. This type of incident is a serious blow to confidence in the integrity of the competition, all the more so when it is the structure of an influencer followed by millions of fans that is the victim and speaks out to express its displeasure.

All this goes hand in hand with an even bigger crisis in esports in 2023. Esports structures, especially American ones, are benefiting enormously from a speculative bubble that is in the process of bursting. With its IPO in 2022, a first for an esport team, FaZe Clan has more or less unwillingly given a precise value to its structure, pushing all the other structures and sponsors to estimate their own value in relation to that of FaZe Clan. Or, FaZe Clan's IPO a terrible failure. The value of the structure has continued to decline, as seen by all the players on the market, creating a total loss of confidence among investors in the structures. Historic structures such as TSM and 100 Thieves have also found themselves in difficulties and have even preferred to leave the League of Legends scene, which is one of the most stable in the industry.

In short, although 2022 could be described as an exceptional year, 2023 showed that the foundations of Valorant's esport ecosystem are still shaky. The year 2024 will therefore be crucial for Riot Games, if they want to avoid the situation getting any worse. We already know that the competitive circuit schedule won't be changing much. The real novelty will be the arrival of Première modewhich allows amateur teams to qualify for the official circuit. While the intention is good, there is a risk that it will exacerbate the casualisation of players and, through a snowball effect, reduce the overall level of competition. Something to keep an eye on.

The Mandatory team in 2023

Let's conclude our review of the year by taking a look back at our own journey! 2023 began with our collaboration with Chilla who composed the theme Battle! who has been with us all year.

In January, we recruited kAdavra to swell our ranks. After a very hectic season, we found an effective work rhythm that enabled us to finish second in the two VCL France splits. Twice we had to lose in the final to Squeezie, Brawks and Gotaga's new team, the Gentle Mates, who went on to win their place in the European league.

After this season, menegh and kAdavra have left the team. The first expressed a desire to coach other players to increase his experience, after two years with us. The second wanted to try his luck at the VCT, but the trials were incompatible with the rest of the schedules on the French scene.

This is how we were able to welcome Féfé and SoOnFéfé and SoOn are two Overwatch veterans who had already worked with HyP when he himself was playing Blizzard's FPS. Féfé is an experienced coach in both sports and esports, while SoOn is an efficient and calm veteran who was voted MVP of Split 2 by spectators while playing for Job Life.

The integration of these two members was still too recent to produce concrete results at the time of the the French Cup where we suffered a real setback by being eliminated at the group stage. But the team bounced back and went on to reach the final. win the RTBF iXPé 2023a tournament that pitted it against several structures in the French league.

We can only hope that this victory is a good omen for 2024!