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Image via Riot Games

VALORANT posts underwhelming viewership on launch day compared to closed beta

The closed beta opened with more than three times the viewers.

The release of Riot Games’ new tactical shooter VALORANT yesterday had light viewership on Twitch in comparison to when its closed beta launched in April. 

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VALORANT had 3.5 million hours watched on June 2, the day of its official release, according to statistics website EsportsCharts. That number pales in comparison to the 19 million hours watched that the game’s closed beta posted on its first day, April 7. 

Peaking at 1.7 million viewers, VALORANT’s closed beta launch averaged more than three times the game’s peak viewership on release day yesterday. But there are a handful of variables to consider when breaking down exactly why the closed beta outperformed the game’s actual release.

While the hype for VALORANT was much stronger going into the closed beta because no one had seen gameplay from the new shooter yet, things like Twitch drops, the COVID-19 pandemic, 24-hour streams, influential content creator interest, and recent social unrest all played a factor in the difference between the game’s viewership on April 7 and yesterday. 

Drop to the top

Twitch drops might be the most significant role player in VALORANT’s early success. With the game’s closed beta locked off to only a select few content creators and gaming reporters at first, access to the title was dished out on Twitch.

By linking your Riot account to your Twitch account, people were effectively given access to VALORANT’s beta in a lottery format. But the more you watched the game on Twitch, the higher your odds were to get into the beta.

Twitch drops aren’t a new marketing concept to enhance viewership statistics and they typically don’t generate the same kind of massive audience that VALORANT did. But it’s rarely the case that a developer will make an entire game available via Twitch drop. 

Typically, the drop rewards for viewership on Twitch are much smaller. Things like in-game cosmetics regularly grab some degree of attention from viewers but don’t have the same impact.

When Escape from Tarkov had a Twitch drop event that gave players impactful items in-game for watching streamers play, for example, the resulting viewership made it start the year as the platform’s most-watched game.

Riot simply amplified that one step further by making it so that the game itself was only available to people if they watched on Twitch.

With the game officially released now as a free-to-play title, the thousands upon thousands of viewers who were watching exclusively to get beta access don’t need to sit in a stream for days before being allowed to play.

All day, every day

Riot didn’t initially make it so that Twitch drops could come from watching just any content creator play VALORANT, however. At first, drops were only rewarded for watching content creators like Summit1g or TimTheTatman, who partnered with Riot for a closed beta event that included them testing out the game prior to the beta’s launch.

But it wasn’t long before Riot and Twitch made it so that anyone streaming the game on Twitch could stream VALORANT with drops enabled on their channel.

With demand for beta access so high, many streamers were incentivized to stream long hours and “livestream” old videos of them playing while they weren’t online and broadcast for 24 hours every day.

While many of the known influencers playing VALORANT initially were streaming on their regular schedules, others were gaining viewers by staying on all day to attract the people who were watching simply to get access to the beta.

Even though Twitch eventually put a stop to this practice, the vast number of extra broadcasting hours that many channels put into the beta with VOD content inflated viewership for VALORANT’s beta in the later parts of April.

Not a game

Social circumstances surrounding both VALORANT’s beta launch and it’s official release had contrasting impacts on the game’s viewership as well.

U.S. President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency on March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following that announcement, many states started to enforce “social distancing” guidelines and measures to prevent the spread of the highly contagious disease.

With most of the entertainment industry shut down and people locking themselves in their homes to stay safe, the VALORANT beta came at a perfect time for people who were bored of being stuck at home.

Twitch overall had already started to see an influx in viewership due in part to the cancellation of many sporting events, conventions, and concerts. So the addition of VALORANT, a new game that you could even get access to by watching, was almost assured to have an impressive opening.

Yesterday’s game release, on the other hand, came at one of the worst times possible. Following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minnesota, the U.S. has had a tremendous amount of social unrest filled with protests for the Black Lives Matter movement.

As a way to further the movement for racial equality in America, many people in the entertainment industry decided to partake in a demonstration called “Blackout Tuesday.” Since a lot of people turn to entertainers as a form of escape during difficult times, the idea behind this social demonstration was that influencers were going to stay off of social media, and streaming platforms in the case of content creators, as a way to force people to focus on the issues the country is facing.

People like TimTheTatman, Ninja, and Dr Disrespect took part in the event. For VALORANT, that meant that viewership from guys like Tim wouldn’t be realized on the day of the game’s launch. As it pertains to Tim specifically, he was the second most-watched streamer behind Summit1g over the first few days of the VALORANT beta, regularly holding more than 100,000 viewers.

VALORANT is by no means a dead game and it’s not likely to fade into irrelevance quickly. But the game went from having such a massive appeal in beta to a more tepid release day. 

The game was among the top five most-watched forms of content on the platform yesterday, however. And with popular content creators like TimTheTatman returning to Twitch to stream the game, it’ll have at least some degree of success.

But there’s no indication that VALORANT will ever see the same sort of audience that it generated during its thunderous introduction to Twitch for the beta launch, even though the game wasn’t even complete at the time.

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Max Miceli
Senior Staff Writer. Max graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a journalism and political science degree in 2015. He previously worked for The Esports Observer covering the streaming industry before joining Dot where he now helps with Overwatch 2 coverage.