Franchising in VALORANT – What’s behind it

More and more organisations that didn’t make it into the VALORANT franchise are leaving the scene. Can Riot still turn the corner?

For several years now, the franchise model has been used in major esports leagues such as the Call of Duty League, the Overwatch League or the League of Legends European Championship. Now Riot Games is also considering founding its own franchise around the first-person shooter VALORANT.

What is franchising?

The internal structures of esports have changed a lot in the past five years. More and more classic models disappeared and new ideas took their place. One of these is the franchise model, which has been practised especially by Riot Games in its regional leagues since 2018. Developers such as Activision or Blizzard also follow this approach.

Through the model, a league or competition becomes a closed structure. Organisations cannot qualify for the highest division via a promotion system, as is known from classic sports such as football, but must buy the licence for a starting place from the organiser.

You become a permanent part of the league this way and have an advantage over the competition. Although organisations have to make a strong financial investment in the short term, they benefit in the long term from the expertise and established structures of the competition. For example, FC Schalke 04 benefited from the immense reach of the LEC.

In the community there are very divided opinions towards the approach. It is precisely for this reason that Riot should give special consideration to how the system can be implemented in VALORANT in the future, so as not to trigger a major shitstorm.

What is Riot planning for VALORANT?

VALORANT is a very young esport that has yet to reach its full potential. In order to strengthen the organisations and set up a long-term stable system for the future, the developer is now taking the next big step.

Currently, Riot is selecting the best candidates for the three regional franchises (Europe, Asia and America) in an elaborate application process, similar to what has already happened in League of Legends. There are a lot of applicants who absolutely want to be part of the leagues. However, only a total of ten teams per region make it in the end.

There are currently 20 teams still in the running in Europe. This includes BIG, which, as the representative of the German community, has a realistic chance of winning a franchise. With the necessary tact in the interviews and the necessary portion of luck, they could be there in the future.

However, so that the franchise does not lead to a complete separation from the rest of the pro scene, as in other titles, Riot plans to expand the regional leagues from 2023. In addition to the franchise league, there will be subordinate professional leagues. Teams will most likely not be able to advance from these leagues, but players will have the opportunity to prove themselves on the big stage in front of everyone.

Current franchising systems offer a lot of room for improvement. In particular, the opportunity to join the big boys should not be denied to challengers from lower leagues in the future. We hope that Riot will come up with an appropriate system for VALORANT.

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