As you read this, somewhere around 435,000 people are watching Valorant on popular video game streaming website Twitch dot com. Riot’s first foray into the world of Games That Aren’t League of Legends™ has routinely crushed the competition on Twitch by hundreds of thousands of viewers since it first went live earlier this month. (Fortnite, for comparison, currently boasts 168,000 viewers, while Call of Duty: Modern Warfare entertains 137,000.) A lot of that popularity comes from the fact that entry into Valorant‘s closed beta is tied to watching Twitch streams, but one might also assume that Riot’s considerable liquidity has something to do with it as well.
After all, we all remember when Ninja was paid $1 million to stream Apex Legends, the last big shooter to upend Twitch norms by not being Fortnite. Surely Riot, with the industry-leading depth of its pockets, would leverage all that financial muscle to help ensure that Valorant‘s launch ended up being as big as it has been, right?
“During closed beta, we have not paid any streamer to stream Valorant,” said Nikki Lewis, Valorant‘s Head of Marketing, in an interview with Engadget Senior Editor Jess Conditt published earlier today. “Our goal is to sustain a community for years, even decades, to come, and so our efforts are being put toward building a long-lasting relationship with streamers, looking for things that are of value where we can support the businesses they are trying to build.”
(By the way, it’s time for the customary Riot Games disclaimer. Riot is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tencent Holdings Ltd., and Tencent also happens to own the company that owns Fanbyte Media. This is mostly irrelevant to me since I’m contract, and because my editors put in a tremendous amount of effort to keep our work separate from whatever the hell it is that Tencent does, which I assume is either gambling or fracking. Also Jess Conditt and I worked together at Joystiq, may it RIP in peace, and while that doesn’t really flag any potential for impropriety, I like pointing it out.)
Lewis doesn’t say that Riot never will pay someone to stream Valorant, mind you, but right now it doesn’t seem like it would be all that necessary. While Lewis didn’t go into specifics about the kind of compensation that streamers might receive in lieu of cash — aside from beta access to the game, obviously — they did stress that Riot isn’t just looking to work with big names and established personalities.
“It was important for us to not play favorites, and just find people that have spent a lot of time streaming shooters, and hang out with those people,” Lewis said. “They know what quality looks like in the genre, and so for us they would be the ideal partners.” Lewis refers to the relationship between Riot and streamers as an “ecosystem,” one that Riot hopes will be “mutually beneficial for all.” It remains to be seen if Valorant‘s Twitch ratings will maintain their lofty highs once access to the game is widely available, but as far as making an entrance is concerned, you can’t argue with the results.