VALORANT Champions 2022 ended last weekend in Istanbul with a splendid grand final. However, I have my doubts about Champions, and Riot Games needs to work on a lot before they head into VCT 2023, the next step of VALORANT esports. Let's see some of my reasons for that.
Holding a tournament in Turkey was a great idea. The country loved all the labels Riot Games produced and they are passionate fans of esports. Plus, it is a perfect place to hold an esports tournament: very few visa problems, cheaper than Europe while amazingly close, in fact, a part of it. So what went wrong (for me)?
Champions Istanbul was held in a single stage
Comparing such a new label with League of Legends, one of the most successful esports games in history, is obviously a mistake. But, Riot Games made LoL successful, and they seem to forget some of the things that made Worlds an unforgettable event since the start.
Even in 2013, the first few years of League of Legends, Worlds 2013 started in Culver Studios (capacity: 1500), the semi-finals were played in Galen Center (capacity: 10258) and the grand finals were held in Staples Center (capacity: 20000). Thus, using only Volkswagen Arena (capacity: 4500/6500) was the first letdown for me.
The problems with the choice of the stage didn't end with the capacity or the fact that the grand finals and the first playoffs games were played in the same venue. The stage did not change at all for the finals and aside from a magnificent performance from Ashnikko, we only had a small light show on September 16.
Plus, while I call Ashnikko's performance some of the best things in Champions 2022, it only took three and a half minutes. Last year, Champions 2021 was held in Berlin with no live audience, and the ceremony took more than eleven minutes.
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We didn't get to see some of the teams on stage
We started with some criticisms of the venue, let's take it to another level. After all, the choice of venue could be accepted to some degree, as Riot Games failed to fill the capacity in the first few days, even though some aggressive marketing strategies were in place and Turkey lets almost anyone from Europe to visit the country.
However, the first playoffs games were played with lots of empty seats and virtually nothing extra in the venue. Between September 16-18, Red Bull, HyperX and more companies found themselves a place at the back of the stage. We didn't see any of them in the first days, no shows, nothing extra.
Thus, I have to ask: why start from the playoffs? It seemed like there weren't any extra preparations at all. Why didn't Riot Games let us appreciate teams like EDward Gaming, KRÜ Esports, 100 Thieves or most importantly, Copenhagen finalists Paper Rex on stage? It is a question that I struggle to find answers to.
The fact that teams didn't bring any merch and only merch that was sold in the venue was official VALORANT merch was also heartbreaking. However, that can be explained by the difficulties of carrying products from overseas and selling them in Turkey while abiding by the law.
Between September 16-18, the venue started to liven up, but compared with other events from Riot Games, it was nothing. Considering that Riot shifted many workers from LoL to VALORANT, this shouldn't be an experience issue. Riot either decided to keep this one cheap and increase the budget for the next year when a new system will be introduced or just made some mistakes while developing the event.
The games were great, the teams were amazing and being able to watch the games with fans was a fantastic journey. But, Riot Games should hold Champions 2022 as an example, and work on it before holding new tournaments in 2023. While it could be an unforgettable event, Champions Istanbul is simply "good". I expected more.
I am sure that Turkish fans also expected more as this was the first major esports event to be held in Turkey.