The main event for VCT Game Changers North America starts this week and the qualifying rounds already yielded their fair share of surprises. Most notably, several signed VALORANT teams—including CLG Red, XSET, and Gen.G Black—did not make it past the qualifying stages.
Instead, there are three organization-less teams competing in the main event: Sanri-O’s, Dart Monkeys, and Ariana Grande Perfume. This is an increase from the last Game Changers NA event in April, where Dart Monkeys were the only unsigned team to make it through to the main event.
As franchising looms close over competitive VALORANT, the question of the current viability of these unsigned teams remains. Though some players see the free-agent teams as an unpredictable wild card, others with organizations know they have a leg up after signing.
“The established teams have the chemistry, they have the long practices and hours that they’ve already put in,” Immortals player tupperware said in a press conference today. “There are so many talented free agent teams, I just truly believe that the established teams do have the foot up when it comes down to it.”
Yet while some free agent teams have less experience, this tournament has already showcased them getting the better of those who have been competing in Game Changers since the beginning.
Some members on signed teams also aren’t convinced that being a part of an organization is the be-all-end-all of the evolving professional VALORANT scene.
“Sometimes, being signed is an illusion,” said bENITA, a veteran who now plays for Shopify Rebellion. “It doesn’t mean they’re going to dedicate all their time and effort into it. So I’m actually not really as surprised about the bracket.”
Many teams have seen past tournaments, including Game Changers, as opportunities to get themselves noticed by a larger organization. And in a tournament where the whole point is to get people of a marginalized group involved with VALORANT, it makes sense that more and more unsigned teams seem to have success every competitive cycle.
Game Changers also expanded the number of teams that competed in the open qualifiers this time around, which gave more opportunities to these unsigned players. Allowing more teams made up of women and non-binary players to compete will help grow the scene as a whole. After all, every player who plays for an organization now was once a free agent.
“If Game Changers is doing its job… then free agent teams beating signed teams is almost an inevitable consequence,” Cloud9 White coach x0tek said. “When you have more girls who are playing at higher and higher levels, they’re getting pulled into the ecosystem, and the ones who are already there, sort of by definition, are not going to be the only competitive players.”
For the unsigned teams, making it to the main event means a lot, both for expanding the female VALORANT scene and for their personal goals. But they aren’t satisfied with just being in the top eight.
“It’s very overwhelming at first, it’s something I’ve always dreamt of,” Sanri-O’s FAIRY said. “Now that it’s come true, it shows the hard work that I’ve put in. It shows a lot of our commitment to the game, and how much work we’re willing to put in to make it to the top.”
The VCT Game Changers NA Series Two main event starts at 3pm CT on July 6.