Riot Games’ development team and those in charge of the studio’s esports ecosystems are definitely one of the best in the gaming industry. The recruitment of Alex Francois to serve as the Global Head of Competitive Operations proves Riot Games’ ambitions for VALORANT and their other titles as well. Considering his 6-year stint in the NFL, serving as the Manager of Football Operations and Rules Administration towards the end of his career, he is an incredibly valuable asset.
In an interview with The Loadout, Alex Francois discussed a number of interesting topics commonly raised in the VALORANT esports community. This includes questions surrounding the Champion Tour format and how it was created, future VALORANT esports plans, potential LAN tournaments, and the year-long competition instead of adopting a similar system to League of Legends’ eight-month competitive period.
We will start off with the latter, where Francois explained how the VALORANT esports scene is still in its infancy. This makes every single player and team want to prove themselves and climb to the top, and he sees it as Riot Games’ responsibility to offer a consistent and constant stream of competitions to achieve that.
“We wanted to make sure that we provided ample content for fans as we saw a really significant, strong appetite in 2020 across a bunch of regions for VALORANT esports. But we also wanted to provide ample content for players and teams. A lot of the teams in our ecosystem are amateur teams trying to make a name for themselves, so we figured we’d give these teams and players as many opportunities as possible to show that they belong at the top level.
We feel like now is the time to really put as many opportunities out there as possible,” said Francois.
VALORANT Champions Tour schedule, © Riot Games
For some, the VALORANT Champions Tour’s format might be confusing. However, Francois explained how it was adapted from the originally proposed system to allow for more flexibility and a streamlined qualification process. There could have been a simpler system overall, but this is definitely one that allows several equal opportunities for small and big teams to make it through.
“Honestly, the format that we landed on was the format that we felt was best for the ecosystem. It looked a little different in terms of qualification as there was a bit more auto-qualification from Masters events. But the way we landed eventually was we took our ideal system, and we basically just tried to make it flexible. Adding Masters circuit points gave us the flexibility to pivot to regional Masters from Global Masters without having too much of a shift to our qualification. So yeah, this was our ideal setup,” said Francois.
Of course, the question on everybody’s mind is what could have VALORANT esports looked like in a world without the COVID-19 pandemic stopping us from hosting LAN tournaments. Francois’ answers gave a glimpse of what the studio had in store if things were different, how they adapted, and even the shift in their plans to accommodate the new conditions. We already heard before how Katowice was a candidate, among other notable cities for sure.
“We’re really close. We’re working actively on that and we’ve narrowed it down to a few cities. COVID has made it very difficult to lock in a lot of plans. Essentially, it’s hard enough planning for Worlds, planning for the possibility of quarantine, planning for the possibility of extended travel time being needed – it’s all taken a bit longer for us to lock down those plans. But we should be announcing plans for where Champions will be held in the near future. It’s just, for obvious reasons, taking a bit longer than it usually would this year.”
“So we’ve got cities that we prefer, but they’re pretty much in every region. And that’s part of having that international aspect, both with the story we’re trying to tell and Riot’s footprint in multiple regions. So we haven’t narrowed it down to one or two regions, we feel like we can hold a pretty compelling event in a lot of regions. But we’ve narrowed it down to cities within those regions. And like I said, I think in the next few weeks, or maybe the next like month or two, we should have an announcement for the community there,” revealed Francois.
Where do you want to see VALORANT LAN tournaments be held the most? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!