In a recent interview, Riot Games President of Esports John Needham explained the main differences between the esports franchises in League of Legends and a potential Valorant franchise.
League of Legends and Valorant are arguably the biggest esports with some of the most popular international events in the year. While both titles are under the control of Riot Games, the developer has taken a vastly different approach when it comes to the franchises in League of Legends and the partnership system in Valorant.
“We took a lot of learnings out of the League of Legends partnership system and applied that to Valorant. I think we architected a very modern approach with Valorant. So, with League, the teams bought their slots, their bought in. [Valorant is] not permanent, there are evaluation periods,” said Needham.
According to Needham, the evaluation periods will be regular, at least once every two years. The developer evaluates the state of the teams and decides whether to keep them in the partnership program or not.
“One of the things you see in our big leagues, you have teams that are high-performing teams, then you have a set of teams that are low performing and they’re not investing in their roster or investing much back in the sport. I don’t think that’s a healthy way to set up a sport,” Needham added.
Needham explained in the interview that Riot’s esports are profitable and that their intention is to support the teams through partnerships. In return, teams must invest back in the form of content and competitive teams. The requirements for Valorant teams are strict, and teams must provide enough content for the broadcast, socials, and other channels. Teams that fail to meet the requirements can lose their slot in Valorant’s new competitive circuit.
The same is not possible for League of Legends. Even if teams don’t produce a single piece of content throughout the year, Riot cannot take the slots back. The only instance where the developer can interfere is in “nefarious” cases where the integrity of the league as a whole is at risk.
Riot announced 30 teams that would be competing in the VCT in 2023. While this is a set group of teams, it isn’t necessarily a franchise. Since teams did not purchase their slots in the VCT, Riot could opt to take the slot back if teams are not valuable partners.