Riot Games’ Valorant has been out for less than a month, and there’s already an array of requests from the community. Weapon balancing and discussions about the current meta are not uncommon for an online hero shooter, even this early in its life cycle. But players weren’t expecting a region-lock, rendering them unable to choose as it always had been the case before (as with League Of Legends).
If you happen to be based in Europe, but always played in North American servers (making overseas friends online is now mainstream after all), jumping into Valorant will immediately lock you into European servers. As with Riot’s MOBA, it’s no longer possible to purchase Riot Points to change your region, nor is there a region selector in the launcher anymore.
Ever since last year, when the studio moved from the old account system to requiring a given player to have a single Riot account — shared between all current and upcoming games. The use of the new so-called Region Shards has been proving troublesome.
In my short experience, as someone who lives in Argentina and already had a South American account (LAS for short) for League of Legends, I didn’t get a sudden region change. But my first attempt at matchmaking took me to an NA server, which I could tell both from my ping (around 120-150) and the English chatter from my teammates in voice chat.
I’m not the only one going through this, but if there’s one region in particular that has been a constant mention on Reddit, that is Puerto Rico. Geographically, Puerto Ricans should be placed in NA servers by default, but that hasn’t been the case for many, who have ended up in the Latin American shard instead. Some report that matchmaking randomly puts them in both LAS and NA servers, which is frustrating since they can’t play with friends, but are placed in different servers all the same. Thanks to this, latency and language barriers are becoming a constant problem.
User Nuclear7k has been going through this exact problem, unable to play with his friends from Canada (placed, as you’d think, in NA) and the United States. He was lucky enough to hear back from Riot and successfully changed his region. “Thankfully, they seemed to fix the problem fairly quick,” he told me. “Two or three days after I submitted a ticket, they sent me a link that checked my Shard and said: ‘Your region is: Puerto Rico. We think it should be: United States’ and then it gave me the option to switch. At least I’m able to play with friends now, but it was still weird to be considered part of South America.”
Both Legends of Runeterra and Valorant players have been affected by this. According to the original statement this change became mandatory, as Riot realized that they “flat-out couldn’t launch more games” unless they made some “major adjustments.” Starting in October, players began receiving emails stating that they had to update their account in order to establish a unique global name, which was then implemented in February of this year, regardless of how many accounts they used to have before.
“I live in a Caribbean country (English speaking) and have always played League of Legends on NA servers with no ping issues,” reddit user HolsteredBanana wrote. “For Valorant, my region shard has been set to [the] Latin American servers. I did the logical thing and assumed there was error on Riot’s part and filled a support ticket. Well, they responded by saying that my country has been correctly assigned to the LATAM region, and they cannot transfer my account to the NA servers.”
League of Legends wasn’t retroactively affected, so those additional accounts still have a unique region attached to them, but Valorant is a curious recent example. It makes sense for an online first person shooter to try and prioritize matchmaking in regional servers, reducing the chance of ending up in a match with high latency. The problem is that players don’t get to choose anymore.
All these accounts are now region-locked by IP, and Riot has only been accepting transfers for some. Most users are either still waiting for a response, or had to create a new account with a VPN active, fooling the registration into thinking they’re based in a different region.
Reportedly, there are no additional check-ins after this using said method, so matchmaking won’t try to correctly set you into low latency servers as with Counter Strike: Global Offensive, but folks lament losing the main account they’ve had for years. This remains true for players who took part in the closed beta as well.
While progress was deleted for everyone, players who completed the beta contract received five tiers of rewards. In addition, some went ahead and purchased Valorant Points during the beta. Reddit user dauji, for example, had 12,000 of them along with the rewards by the time they messaged support for a region change, and lost both in the process. They were lucky enough to retrieve them, but many others are still in limbo, or have received a straight no for an answer.
I have been checking on the game’s subreddit for days now, and I keep finding all sorts of different cases. A couple of users have been told that their region is correct and a change isn’t possible. Others were successfully moved to their desired shard, but lost their progress.
The VPN method is common knowledge already, yet it’s more of a workaround than a solution, and Riot could just add more verification steps beyond the registration phase. It sucks that region-lock is not letting players team up with their friends, but this imposed matchmaking is arbitrary at best, placing folks in servers with high latency as a result, and adding language barriers in a game that depends so much on communication.
Another case involves user seraphite98, who’s based in India and has been assigned to the Asia shard. They mentioned they have been playing with friends in EUW (short for European West region) for 8 years now, but Valorant has been a different story. “I have friends from Pakistan who are also assigned to EUW despite being closer to India and quite literally living in Asia,” they added.
The player mentions two interesting facts: there’s no proper indication of what your region is, unless you “try to find a player in a match with a #region tag,” which isn’t the norm, and that some people think region-lock provides “extra protection for ping abusers,” but seraphite88 doesn’t consider this to be the solution.
In a response from Riot’s support to user doyoulove_me, they stated that “the main reason is due to legal situations involved on the payment methods”. I We reached out to Riot for clarification on this, but didn’t hear back by the time of publication.
It makes sense for Riot to streamline their internal account system in order to make it easier to log into all games without issue, but as it stands, it is slowly but steadily dividing the user base. The fact that there’s no option to change a region manually means that support must be swamped with requests, which delays the time for a response. But even so, since some players have been denied the region transfer upon request, we just don’t know if the policy will hold or be clarified.
Of course, they could follow a similar procedure as the one in League of Legends, offering purchasable transfers to players from both Valorant and Legends of Runeterra, along with upcoming games, but that shouldn’t be locked behind a paywall.
At the very least, as Nuclear7k pointed out, switching your region shard should be a one-time option. “It is unfair to get region-blocked like this,” he concluded. “Hopefully, if people start complaining and voicing about it, Riot will make it so.”