But the details surrounding an event of this scale — and at this moment — will necessarily raise questions, especially with an extremely-online global fan base of gamers. Europe, in particular, has been the flash point for many of the questions surrounding “Valorant” esports.
During North America’s Masters event, Riot gave certain high-profile content creators, including Ninja, Pokimane and Shroud, permission to rebroadcast the stream with their commentary. Many of these co-streams boasted viewerships equal to or surpassing that of the main “Valorant” Twitch channel. European content creators haven’t been given that same opportunity. Fans have been clamoring for an explanation.
The simplest explanation: There’s one major audience language in the United States, and many in Europe, where “Valorant” teams are often composed of multilingual players supported by fans from a wide range of countries.
“In Europe, you have a lot more third party local language production companies that are producing those broadcasts. You also have a lot more languages in general,” said Jafroodi. “I think we really want to make sure that as we take steps to expand co-streaming, we are doing it carefully and in a way that allows each region the agency to develop the systems that best suit their region. Because ultimately what works in North America isn’t necessarily what’s going to work in Europe, and isn’t necessarily always going to work in Japan and Korea.”
That’s not to say co-streaming won’t ever come to Europe. (“I think it’s going to take steps,” said Jafroodi.) It’ll just happen on a timeline set by Riot’s team dedicated to that region.
The restrictions of hosting an in-person event during the pandemic also forced Riot to cap the number of teams that would compete at 10. Two of those slots were apportioned to Europe and Turkey collectively, and two to Brazil, drawing the ire of some fans who pointed to Europe and Turkey’s larger audience and competitive scene as justification for more slots.
“With 10 spots, there was really only one decision that had to be made,” said Jafroodi. “Whether Europe had three and Brazil had one, or Brazil had two and Europe had two.”
“We actually have no idea how these regions compare to each other,” said Jafroodi. “I know a lot of people have opinions on how good EU is versus NA versus Brazil, but we have yet to see them actually play. So, I think we had to make a decision on whether we took a bet on which region we felt might have been better, or we leaned more toward regional diversity. … I feel very confident in leaning toward regional diversity, learning more information on how well the regions perform, and then tweaking going forward.”
Jafroodi noted that Riot planned to broadcast the Iceland Masters in multiple languages, though the company hadn’t yet decided whether there would be casters on-site, or working from local studios around the world. In either case, casters from different regions would be paired on-air to provide expertise on the scenes they’re most focused on.
For months, rumors have circulated in the North American “Valorant” competitive scene around an investigation into match-fixing conducted by the Esports Integrity Commission. Many of North America’s “Valorant” pros formerly played in the Mountain Dew League, an amateur “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” league. Some players named in online speculation and are believed to have participated in match-fixing toward the tail ends of their “Counter-Strike” careers also played in the last North American “Valorant” Masters event.
Though Jafroodi declined to comment on the specifics of any investigation, he noted that Riot’s quick response to Sentinels (a team participating in the last Masters event), suspending a player in response to sexual abuse allegations, was a testament to the robust protocols the company had in place.
“We had a protocol in place, and part of that protocol was engaging with the team. So we did work with Sentinels throughout the process, and our competitive operations team was very much involved in that, even in the review and approval of a substitute.”
The Post’s conversation with Jafroodi happened before ESIC commissioner Ian Smith announced in an interview on the YouTube channel slash32 that the group was working with the FBI on an investigation into sports betting related to match-fixing in “Counter-Strike.”
In a follow-up statement, Riot confirmed that it was monitoring the situation.
“We have been looking into the allegations regarding match fixing by players within the esports shooter community,” a Riot spokesperson said in a statement after Smith’s announcement. “Riot and Sportsradar monitor ‘Valorant’ matches for any suspicious betting activity. Sportradar also supports Riot’s internal due diligence into players moving from other games into ‘Valorant.’ Riot Games has and continues to conduct investigations into allegations of matchfixing by players who have previously competed in other titles.”