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eSports

Valorant Champions Peak Viewership Drops in 2023

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With peak viewership in Valorant Champions dropping for the first time in 2023, Naim ‘Enkay’ Rosinsky, Editor at THESPIKE .GG, explores the path to esports growth in an exclusive interview with Rivington Bisland who witnessed the defining moments of both games.

2023 saw the continued rise in overall viewership in esport titles of League of Legends and VALORANT, video games released by the famed game developer Riot Games. While League of Legends, a title released in 2009, continues being at the forefront of popularity in the esports sphere, VALORANT has been climbing the ranks in the competitive first-person shooter sector of the esports market, despite it being a still young title, released during the COVID-19 times of 2020.

Naturally, League has established itself as a powerhouse in esports. An immense growth in viewership has not slowed down over the last couple of years as the MOBA genre continues to thrive, with Dota2 being the game’s main competitor in the sphere.

Meanwhile, VALORANT entered the competitive FPS scene with many more well-established competitive titles. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (now Counter-Strike 2), Rainbow Six: Siege, Call of Duty, or even Overwatch, have been on the market for much longer. Despite that, Riot Games’ sole FPS title continues to surprise year-on-year with improvements and new initiatives to its esports landscape. In 2023 one such initiative was the introduction of the franchised Tier 1 League, named VCT International Leagues 2023. This follows in the footsteps of League of Legends’ League Championship Series (LCS) which features a top-tier franchising system.

CHAMPIONS VS. WORLDS: CONCURRENT PEAK EVENT VIEWERSHIP

The VALORANT Champions and League of Legends’ World Championship (also referred to as “Worlds”) are the most notable events for the respective titles in any given season. These events boast only the finest Tier 1 teams that have excelled over the year in other events, granting themselves an entry to the elusive Champions or Worlds. It’s safe to say that the team that wins Champions or Worlds is typically considered to be the best team in the world in that season in the respective esport.

For the sake of a fair viewership comparison, this article compares seasons 2021, 2022, and 2023. VALORANT launched in June of 2020, and while it did hold esport events, it wasn’t until 2021 that it began to fully implement a more fleshed out structure with Masters and Champions events featuring the best teams. League of Legends has been seeing an immense growth in terms of peak viewership year-on-year. Each event that attained the peak viewership numbers given in the graph was the year’s Worlds event.

 

 

 

According to data that thespike .gg received from escharts .com, peak viewership in 2021 and 2022 both saw VALORANT Champions in the respective years feature a growing concurrent peak viewership. However, 2023, saw VALORANT Champions Los Angeles attain a peak viewership of 1 291 045, a dip compared to 2022’s Champions in Istanbul. The tournament with peak viewership of 2023 was VCT 2023: LOCK//IN Sao Paulo, which was a “kick-off” event featuring all teams of the newly introduced VCT International Leagues. To take it a step further, it would be fair to compare the numbers of the first three Worlds events against the first three VALORANT Champions tournaments. The following graph shows the peak viewership for the first three VALORANT Champions and LoL Worlds events held.

 

 

While the first Worlds event featured a mere 210,000 (still a hefty number) of peak concurrent viewers, 2012 and 2013 Worlds had garnered a lower concurrent peak viewership (excluding television viewers). Given that the two events took place ten years apart, it remains impressive how League of Legends managed to attain such a hefty viewership, especially considering the popularity and reach of esports in general back then was nowhere near as it is today.

RIVINGTON ON GROWING ESPORTS VIEWERSHIP

Rivington Bruce Bisland III, known as Riv, has been heavily involved as a commentator and analyst at both League of Legends and VALORANT.

He started his journey in 2012, being invited as a commentator for Season 2 Worlds. Since then, he’s been invested as a caster, commentator, and interviewer in League of Legendseach year until 2019. Starting from 2020 however, Rivington transitioned to being a commentator and analyst at a plethora of VCT events, including VALORANT Champions, Game Changers, or VCT Americas League. Additionally, 2023 saw him receive and invitation to a collegiate finals event, Red Bull Campus Clutch.

“So from League to VALORANT, it was a godsend because 2000-2010 was my Counter-Strike 1.6 phase. I played, competed, never professionally or anything cause the scene just wasn’t there yet,” said Rivington. “It was around 2019 when Riot said, ‘Would you like to do this thing? We have a side-project going on.’ And I was just like, ‘What?!’ Cause they knew I was a Counter-Strike player and that just lit my eyes up. It felt amazing to go back to my roots, to call the shots that got me into the commentary and be able to relate to the 2v1 site takes or the defuse clutch that for a while turned into baron steals and dragon fights to then go back to FPS.”

Given the large gap in viewership, we asked Rivington at Campus Clutch Finals in Istanbul, what does he think Riot Games should do to bring the viewership numbers of VALORANT closer to that of League. With a smile on his face Riv exclaimed: “T1 Faker in VALORANT!”

Despite a clear joke, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok has become a global esports icon. In 2023, the famed League player won his fourth Worlds, being the only player to do so ever with Bae “Bengi” Seong-woong taking the number 2 spot with 3 World trophies behind his belt.

Naturally, each discipline, be it esport or traditional sport, features icons that are globally recognizable. Be it football’s Ronaldo or Messi, Formula 1’s Schumacher, League’s Faker, Counter-Strike’s s1mple, or VALORANT’s Boaster. Knowing that, Rivington argues that the storylines that develop from competitions are what drive viewership forward.

“I think the stories are huge,” he continues, “the way they’re growing the scene (Riot for VALORANT), from collegiate here, Red Bull is helping with that. We never had this kind of stuff in League of Legends and LoL was able to take the world by storm.” “So I think we’re in that growth period now for VALORANT and it’s going to be exponential with how it’s grown for League of Legends because it’s still Riot. They still know how to grow and how to create those stories to get people attached to a team you may not know in China, but you’re going to love them at the end of it. You don’t have to like VALORANT to do that. That’s one of the greatest things that can bridge that gap for people. Like ‘What’s this game?’ I may not know, but I’m involved with this story.”

VALORANT recently held its next iteration of VALORANT Game Changers Championship with Shopify Rebellion lifting the trophy in Brazil. With a growing interest in women’s and marginalized genders’ scene, hopeful improvements to the Tier 2 ecosystem, and the VCT International Leagues slightly revamped for the 2024 season, VALORANT has many more storylines to unfold. And with that, according to Riv, soaring viewership for the competitive shooter.

eSports

eSports in the CIS region , Q&A w/ Viktor Block, Senior Sales Manager/PandaScore

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eSports in the CIS region , Q&A w/ Viktor Block, Senior Sales Manager/PandaScore
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Esports has long been popular in the CIS region, with various top-tier teams and players all calling it home. How has the landscape evolved over the last few years? Have any particular trends emerged that have surprised you at all?

Esports boomed in the CIS region in 2008 when Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games became really popular. While esports had been a thing as far back as 2003, the rise of games such as Counter-Strike and DOTA2 was a major catalyst for the upward trajectory the sector has been riding ever since. In recent years, the infrastructure needed to support esports has improved drastically across the CIS region, including the construction of the Pixel Esports Arena in Minks, Belarus, and the Cyberspace Arena in Almaty, Kazakhstan, both of which hold top-flight contests. Internet connectivity has also improved, while support from local and international sponsors such as Monster Energy, Red Bull and War Gaming have provided funds for further investment while also driving awareness. Ultimately, this has seen the landscape evolve into a thriving industry with lots of opportunities for further growth.

In terms of trends, and especially relating to esports betting, I’ve been surprised by the high demand for betting on console games – we call them eBattles and they include disciplines such as eSoccer and eBasketball. I think this is just a natural development that has occurred off the back of strong demand for video game content, which is often the bridge between traditional sports and esports.

 

What factors have contributed to esports’ growth in the CIS over the past few years?

One of the biggest factors for me is that teams have become more professional and are now training and playing in well-run clubs. This takes place in dedicated buildings and rooms, set up with high-speed internet and the absolute best gaming equipment. Player salaries have also gone up, which has increased the calibre of players taking part in contests across the region, taking competitiveness to the next level. Today, many CIS players now play for high-ranked teams such as Virtus.pro, Team Spirit, Betboom or Na`Vi which compete on the international stage. This in turn is helping esports grow across the CIS region.

 

Given how many countries are in the CIS region, can you walk us through some of the biggest regulatory differences when it comes to betting on esports? And how does PandaScore navigate these changes?

The legality of betting and esports betting differs from country to country within the CIS region. Some are super strict or even prohibit gambling, while others take a more liberal approach, regulating the activity and licensing operators. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest markets and their approach.

In Ukraine, esports has been recognised as a sport since 2018 and in 2020 the country regulated and licensed gambling for the first time. The law focuses mostly on standard betting – sports and casino – but is likely to also include esports betting given that esports is a recognised sport in the country with tier-one Ukraine sportsbooks like Favbet and Parimatch offering it to their players.

Kazakhstan has a growing gambling industry with betting shops and casinos operating in major cities such as Almaty and Nur-Sultan. Gambling is regulated by the Ministry of Culture and Sports and while the regulatory framework is somewhat restrictive, sports betting – which is likely to include esports betting – is permitted.

Navigating the constant changes in betting regulation across the CIS region can be challenging, so we make sure to keep up to speed with the latest developments by monitoring legislative updates and amendments to regulatory guidelines. We also track industry trends and best practices to anticipate regulatory changes ahead of time, allowing us to adapt quickly if needed. This can involve benchmarking against competitors, attending conferences and networking with key stakeholders.

 

In your view, are there any unique opportunities for the expansion of esports and esports betting within the CIS region? And how does this differ to other regions?

It’s important to understand that CIS, especially Ukraine and Kazakhstan, play by their own rules. By that I mean they are very different to other esports markets, so don’t think what works in Italy will work in Ukraine. For example, while League of Legends is very popular in Europe, in CIS, it’s Dota 2 that takes the top spot. But for those who can understand the region and each market, there are plenty of opportunities to explore.

Let me elaborate. Dota 2 is thriving in the broader CIS, with regular tournaments and events attracting large audiences both offline and online. teams like Natus Vincere (Na’Vi), Virtus.pro and Team Spirit have achieved significant success in Dota 2 competitions, contributing to the game’s popularity in the region. While Dota 2 is big, other video games also enjoy significant popularity, including CS2, World of Tanks and Fortnite among others.

Operators need to consider this when deciding their markets and odds, marketing strategies and plans for player engagement.

 

What would you say is the key to creating a successful esports product for a CIS audience?

Understanding layer preferences in each market and delivering an experience that exceeds their expectations. For the CIS region, this means focusing on Dota 2 – this is a game that offers deep and strategic gameplay requiring teamwork, communication and skilful execution of plans and strategies. Its competitive nature appeals to gamers as they enjoy the challenge of multiplayer experiences – this goes back to the original MOBAs back in 2008. These factors must be present in the esports betting experience offered to players – at PandaScore, this means a comprehensive Dota 2 offering that covers markets such as Kills, Towers, Roshans and Barracks, with players able to challenge themselves in a betting competition against others.

Support is also key to delivering a quality player experience. We offer round-the-clock assistance and are regularly rolling out updates to improve the experience players receive when betting on esports at sportsbooks using our data, odds and betting tools such as our Bet Builder. We are always working hard to expand our offering to cover the most in-demand games including CS2, Valorant, Call of Duty and many more.

 

What trends or developments do you anticipate shaping the future growth of esports in the CIS region over the next few years?

The industry will continue to grow and become more professional. Esports is different to traditional sports and it still lacks recognition in some markets, even though it is considered an official sport in a growing number of countries across the CIS region. I think as it evolves, more governments will provide more support for esports as it brings tremendous economic, cultural and social benefits. This could include funding for esports initiatives, rolling out regulatory frameworks, helping to foster partnerships with esports organisations or simply recognising it as a sport.

The continued proliferation of smartphones across the region will be a further catalyst for esports growth. Titles such as PUGB Mobile, Free Fire and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang will attract large audiences and provide new opportunities for teams, players, sponsors and other stakeholders to explore. This is a really exciting time for esports and esports betting in the CIS region, and PandaScore is thrilled to be part of it.

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Aurora Gaming Crowned Champions of $350,000 Skyesports Masters 2024, Earns Spot in Skyesports Championship

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Aurora Gaming has been crowned the champions of the Skyesports Masters 2024, defeating OG 3-1 in an intense Grand Finals. With this victory, the team will take home $105,000 of the $350,000 prize pool and secure a slot in the next tournament of the 2024 Skyesports Counter-Strike 2 roadmap, the Skyesports Championship 2024.

The Skyesports Masters 2024 took place from April 8 to 14, featuring eight teams from India and Europe competing for the lion’s share of the substantial prize pool.

Coming in after a first-place finish at the Skyesports Grand Slam 2024 in Pune, India, last month, Aurora Gaming were on a hot streak and favored to win it all. The Siberian team had a dominant run throughout the upper bracket, achieving first place.

Facing Aurora in the Grand Finals was OG. The team had already lost to Aurora in their opening game of the Skyesports Masters and had to navigate through a high-stakes lower bracket, eliminating ENCE, Ninjas in Pyjamas, BIG, and BetBoom to reach the Grand Finals.

Aurora proved to be the stronger team this time as well, with a decisive 3-1 finish. The map-wise results were as follows:

● Anubis: 13-6 (Aurora Gaming)

● Mirage: 11-13 (OG)

● Ancient: 13-10 (Aurora Gaming)

● Overpass: 13-3 (Aurora Gaming)

In a post-match interview, Aurora’s Evgeniy “Norwi” Ermolin expressed gratitude to the team’s fans, stating, “I am feeling really good; we played really well today. Thank you for watching, for the support, and for everything. We will continue trying our best and look forward to playing some LAN.”

The Skyesports Masters 2024 reached a peak viewership of 41,833, a significant increase from the previous year, according to Esports Charts. Counter-Strike esports in India was given a revival through the 2023 and inaugural edition of the Skyesports Masters, the Playoffs for which happened in Bangalore, India. Skyesports has also announced that the Skyesports Masters will return for its third edition in the summer of 2025 with a six digit prize pool.

With this victory, Aurora Gaming has secured a slot in the Skyesports Championship 2024, the details of which will be announced later. It’s the next tournament in Skyesports’ 2024 Counter-Strike 2 esports roadmap, which has paved the way for international teams to look at the tournaments as viable IPs for them to participate in.

Commenting on the Skyesports Masters 2024, Shiva Nandy, Founder and CEO of Skyesports, said, “Congratulations to Aurora Gaming for winning the Skyesports Masters 2024. With more than 40,000 concurrent viewers, the tournament has made a significant impact in the global Counter-Strike 2 esports ecosystem, and I couldn’t be more excited for the future. Up next, we will bring another elite tournament, the Skyesports Championship 2024, which will be the sixth edition of this IP and the first time that Counter-Strike 2 will be a part.”

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eSports

Denis ‘electroNic’ Sharipov is a New Virtus.pro Player

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Denis ‘electroNic’ Sharipov (pictured), one of the most decorated and famous players in CS2, a Major champion and winner of the Intel Grand Slam, is moving to Virtus.pro.

“The arrival of star players always generates excitement within the club and among its fans,” the Chief Executive Officer for Virtus.pro, Nikolai Petrossian, said. “Denis is a well-known figure in the world of eSports with an impressive list of major victories and exceptional skill. Few players won both at Major and Intel Grand Slam events.

“Our CS2 roster is strong thanks to teamwork, a clearly defined playstyle and the individual talents of our players. Transferring players with outstanding skills to improve specific areas is a common practice in sports. I am confident that Denis joining will give a powerful boost to the team in the upcoming challenges in Dallas, London and beyond.

“Denis will replace Nikolay ‘mir’ Bityukov in the VP lineup. Nikolay has been a loyal and valuable member of our team and we express our gratitude for his contributions. Nikolay ‘mir’ Bityukov is open to offers from other teams.”

“Virtus.pro is a top team,” Sharipov said. “The core of the roster has won a Major not a while ago and all the players are in their prime and ready for victories right now. We share the same ambitions and goals. Besides, I’m also excited about the idea of playing with Jame as he’s one of the most unique IGLs in the game. Can’t wait to adapt to my new team and start doing what I came here for, winning trophies.”

Sharipov has dozens of victories at elite tournaments, including:

  • PGL Major Stockholm 2021
  • Intel Grand Slam Season 3
  • BLAST Premier: Global Final 2020
  • IEM XVI – Cologne
  • EPL Season 14
  • BLAST Premier: World Final 2021

In addition, Sharipov was among the top-ten best players of the year by HLTV four times.

Updated Virtus.pro CS:GO roster:

  • Dzhami ‘Jame’ Ali (captain)
  • Evgeny ‘FL1T’ Lebedev
  • David ‘n0rb3r7’ Daniyelyan
  • Petr ‘fame’ Bolyshev
  • Denis ‘electroNic’ Sharipov
  • Dastan ‘dastan’ Akbayev (coach)
  • Pavel ‘PASHANOJ’ Legostaev (analyst)
  • Nikolay ‘mir’ Bityukov (substitute)
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