Like many other sectors around the world, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused disruptions to the operations of businesses which indirectly affect the consumers. In the esports scene, professional players and fans have been forced to watch or play inside the safety of their homes which has changed the way the tournament structure. Despite that, Riot Games 2021 esports structure can be considered the biggest success during this time and has given many others the hope that things will go back to the way they used to.
How Covid-19 Affected Esports
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic during 2020, most of the esports leagues were forced to take a long hiatus or restructure their tournament scene to adjust to international health protocols that prevent players and fans from having physical contact outside of who those people live with. Even though the scene has changed, players and fans’ passion for esports remained strong and only meant that only viewership skyrocketed during those tough months.
The biggest problem during the Covid-19 pandemic was the lack of tournament support due to the fact that no one would be able to attend tournaments held at big stadiums. As Riot Games operations were forced to work from home, MSI 2020 was canceled until further notice. Other tournaments also had an array of technical difficulties since everyone suddenly had to adjust playing from offline tournaments to online ones. This made fans afraid of what will happen with the Riot Games 2021 tournaments.
Valorant’s Release Amids the Pandemic
Valorant was announce during Riot Games 10th Anniversary but it was already being developed and set to release in 2020. Sure enough, the game released on June 2, 2020 as a game that was hype up to be CSGO’s biggest competitor in the tactical FPS genre. However, with the game being released during the pandemic, a lot of people thought that the interest for the game would flop early on and the hopes for a huge esports scene would die shortly after.
Unfortunately for the haters, Valorant’s release was a huge success and the game quickly became a favorite among FPS fans. Counter-Strike supremacists still didn’t believe that the game would have long-term success and for a short while they were right. Once the Valorant hype died out, almost 50% of the original playerbase became inactive. However, that didn’t discourage the company as Riot Games 2021 plans for the game were just beginning.
The Valorant esports scene looked promising, especially with how successful Riot Games manages all of the League of Legends tournaments before. Big name organizations started investing in players to create their own Valorant rosters even before the official tournament road map were disclosed to the public. Former CSGO pros saw Valorant as greener pastures and a large number of them alongside some veterans from other FPS games began to make the switch to Valorant.
It was really sad to see the Valorant Esports scene officially kick it off without a live audience to physically show their support. While the love could be felt from across the monitor, it didn’t feel the same. A lot of official matches weren’t even streamed throughout the year. People would just suddenly hear that one of their favorite orgs won a tournament. Luckily, devoted fans stuck to their favorite players and orgs despite limited viewership opportunities.
Riot Games 2021: A New Hope
At the beginning of 2021, people started to see signs of hope as daily cases started dropping in some countries while even fewer managed to fight off the disease due to proper governance. Talks of vaccine rollouts also made it possible for people to start feeling safe again. Because of these, the esports scenes began offline tournaments again with some even allowing limited audiences. Riot Games 2021 Roadmap also revealed that the major tournaments will go as planned.
The regional tournaments in both Valorant and League of Legends became more accessible to the viewers. After the recent League of Legends World Championships in 2020, many fans began seeing that esports was still alive and kicking with Riot Games trying their best to ensure that the quality of the tournaments doesn’t drop too much. Finally, they announced that both League of Legends and Valorant’s mid-season grand tournaments would be held in Reykjavic, Iceland.
Reykjavic Finals Overview
Riot Games 2021 mid-season tournaments were both held at Reykjavic, Iceland. Both ended successfully with an large amount viewership. The MSI 2021 and Valorant Masters tournaments both garnered a lot of fans which proves that Riot Games is the master of organizing esports events for the fans. Two champions emerged from these separate tournaments which we’ll taking a look at further to discuss how the tournament went.
MSI 2021 Champs: Royal Never Give Up
The powerhouse region once again reclaims the throne after beating defending Worlds 2020 Champions, Damwon Kia, in the finals of MSI 2021 with Royal Never Give Up representing them. RNG quickly became the favorites to win the tournament after going 2-0 against DK in the Rumble Stage. Despite being pushed to 5 games in the finals, RNG were dominant when they won and were holding strong during losing games which proved that they were the better team that day.
With RNG’s win in MSI 2021, the LPL will receive their 4th Worlds Slot meaning that at 3 teams will automatically go to the Group Stage while the 4th seed will compete in the Play-Ins. As the strongest region in the world with the Top 3 teams arguably having equal skill levels, that’s a very scary idea to think about. LCK will also receive their 4th seed as the 2nd placer and previous World Champions.
MSI Finals MVP: GALA
GALA (ADC) delivered quite the performance throughout the finals making very few mistakes and making clutch plays for his team. While Ming also performed out of his mind, the panel decided to give the MVP to GALA. His plays reminded a lot of people the smart aggression and positioning that Uzi had during his prime. An inherited legacy but an individual’s story that’s only started to bud. He played 5 straight games of Kai’sa, a comfort champion he stuck with even in the LPL.
VCT 2021 Champs: Sentinels
North America may have had a disappointing run in MSI 2021 but their Valorant representatives sure redeemed NA’s reputation in the Riot Games community. Sentinels blew away the competition by going undefeated throughout the tournament, effectively completing a perfect run in a Major Tournament against the best teams in the world. It was safe to say that NA won’t be getting memed at the FPS scene thanks to their dominant standing as the current world’s best.
Fnatic were Sentinel’s biggest hurdle in the tournament. After a powerful lower bracket run, FNC faced off against eventual champions again in the Grand Finals. While they managed to push Sentinels to overtime, the powerhouses from NA were simply too much for the Europeans. ShahZam also played a big part in Sentinel’s success as he both played well during the finals and led the team to victory with their unparalleled strategy dominating the tournament.
The TenZ Factor
TenZ was an unintentional addition to the Sentinels roster but quickly transitioned to be a key member of the team. After a very disappointing few months with C9’s Valorant roster, it was announced that he would simply focus on streaming. If he had not been presented the opportunity to play as a substitute for Sentinels, who knows if he could have achieved what he has now. TenZ is still officially a member of C9 but looking at the results of this tournament, Sentinel’s might buy him out… for a large amount of cash.
Riot Games 2021 Moving Forward
Riot Games 2021 plans still aren’t done, there’s the next half of the tournament roadmap coming. League of Legends Summer Season begins in June for all of the competitive leagues around the world. Every team will start preparing to compete for a slot at the World Finals in Shenzhen, China some time around late October or early November. This is what all of the teams compete for throughout the year to prove who’s the strongest team and region.
Meanwhile, Valorant Champions Tour Stage 3 will also be held in Berlin. The League of Legends and Valorant competitive scene will diverge so that the hype for these tournaments won’t overlap and overshadow one or the other. Now that the world has established which regions and teams are on the watch list, the competition will be even fiercer than before to redeem themselves from the glory that they’ve failed to achieve during the previous tournaments.
Will China compete in Valorant Champions Stage 3?
Unfortunately, China has not been registered as a part of the Valorant Champions Tour for 2021. As Tencent begins to file for Valorant to become an official esports in the country, the earliest that the region can officially join the Valorant Champions Tour to compete at international tournaments is 2022.