After crushing Twitch records, 'Valorant' could be the biggest gaming sensation since 'Fortnite' — and it's launching for free on June 2

Riot Games
  • A huge new game called “Valorant” is rapidly becoming the next big thing in gaming.
  • “Valorant” broke Twitch records when its closed beta went live in April, with nearly 2 million concurrent viewers watching streams of the game.
  • It’s the first major new game from the studio behind “League of Legends,” and it’s a departure into a new genre: online, competitive, team-based, multiplayer shooters.The gameplay is best-described as a mix of “Counter-Strike” and “Overwatch.”
  • Best of all: “Valorant” is entirely free to play. The game is coming out of closed beta and available for everyone as of June 2, Riot announced on May 21.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

You may not have heard of “Valorant” just yet, but you will soon enough.

The free-to-play first-person shooter is almost certainly the “next big thing” in gaming – look no further than its record-breaking debut on Twitch in April, where nearly 2 million people were watching streamers play the closed beta at the same time.

So, what’s the deal? Why is “Valorant” blowing up? Here’s what’s going on:

“Valorant” is a free-to-play first-person shooter that’s best described as a mix of “Counter-Strike” and “Overwatch.”

Riot Games

In “Valorant,” teams of five race to achieve an objective: Plant a bomb, and guard that bomb from being diffused (or vice versa). Whichever team is able to plant the bomb 13 times, winning 13 rounds first, wins the match – best of 25, if you will.

There is, of course, another potential outcome: Your team gets wiped out first.

In each round, you’ve got one life to either plant/diffuse the bomb or kill enemies (or both). If you’re killed, you’re out until the next round.

In the matches I’ve played, it’s just as likely for teams to wipe each other out before anyone touches the bomb as it is for someone to plant.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because this kind of loose objective-based first-person shooter gameplay is – on paper – very similar to games like “Counter-Strike” and “Overwatch.”

And that’s far from the only similarity.

Like “Overwatch,” each character in “Valorant” has unique abilities — like suddenly conjuring solid walls from nothing.

Riot GamesPhoenix is one of the game’s ‘agents,’ as the playable characters are known.

Watching competitive “Valorant” play is much more similar to watching competitive “Counter-Strike” than anything else – aiming takes priority above all else, and line of sight is the main concern.

Put more simply: It’s a lot of peeking out from cover, shooting, and creating paths for enemies (bear with me).

“Valorant” maps are intentionally designed with only a handful of passageways from each team’s starting point to where they intersect. As such, there are only so many potential lines of sight where enemies could shoot from or where you can shoot them from.

As such, “Valorant” isn’t just about shooting – it’s about carefully, tactically covering your angles, and working with teammates to make sure you’ve got each other’s backs.

It’s also about using each character’s unique abilities to those ends.

At its core, “Valorant” is a competitive, team-based shooter.

Riot Games

In “Overwatch,” it’s entirely possible to play as a character like Winston and be very effective – despite not being very good at shooting.

That’s because he’s intended as a “disruption” character. He can hurt enemies, take a lot of damage, mess up an enemy team’s plan, and then get out of there. Even though “Overwatch” is ostensibly a first-person shooter, Winston’s “gun” is a lightning bolt that latches onto any enemy nearby – you don’t have to aim it so much as wave it in the general direction of bad guys.

There are no characters like that in “Valorant.”

Each character pulls from a pool of guns that all require some level of aiming ability, and their abilities are intended to force enemies in one direction or another. One such ability summons a literal wall that stops enemy bullets or outright blocks passageways while it’s up. Another forms a large cloud of smoke that obscures line of sight.

There are more traditional abilities, like air strikes and healing teammates, but the most effective abilities thus far appear to be the more tactical ones.

So, what’s the deal? Why is this game suddenly so popular?

TwitchHow lots of people are getting into the ‘Valorant’ closed beta: Access code drops that you get by watching streamers play the game live.

As you might guess, there’s not one special something that’s making “Valorant” such an explosively popular game.

For one, it’s a game with a tremendous amount of hype behind it – and that’s directly tied to its creator: Riot Games.

Riot Games is one of the most popular and scandal-ridden game studios in the world. It’s also the company behind “League of Legends,” which remains one of the world’s most popular games.

Aside from a few smaller projects, “Valorant” is the first major new game from Riot since “League of Legends,” which launched in 2009 – over 10 years ago. To say that the studio’s next game is highly anticipated is putting it mildly.

Another critical aspect of its popularity is how its closed beta was rolled out.

The game is currently in closed beta, and the main way to get into that closed beta is through “drops.” What are drops? Riot partners with a variety of game streamers on Twitch, and watching those streamers play “Valorant” is how you get a key to get into the closed beta.

“Drops are currently enabled on channels of influencers that participated in our digital event at the end of March,” the game’s PR lead, Jacqui Collins, told Business Insider.”This may be expanded in the future, but anyone you see playing ‘Valorant’ with drops enabled at the moment is one of the attendees of that digital event.”

The fact that popular streamers are hyping the game has certainly had a major effect, as well as the fact that several professional esports players have already jumped ship from their current games to go pro in “Valorant.”

When can you play “Valorant?” As of June 2, the game will be available for everyone.

Riot Games

“Valorant” arrives on June 2, according to Riot.

When it arrives, it will run on most PCs as the game was intentionally designed for wide compatibility.

So, how do you play it right now? The only way at the moment is by watching various streamers on Twitch with drops enabled, connecting your Riot Games account to your Twitch account, and hoping for the best. Or maybe you know someone who knows someone?

Regardless, the closed beta is limited to a handful of regions for now: “Europe, Canada, United States, Turkey, Russia and CIS countries,” according to Riot Games. And the closed beta is also scheduled to end on May 28, “enabling the team at Riot to reset player accounts, patch new content, and prepare,” the company said in a press release on May 21.

To get a look at the game in action, check out this video from Riot — or just head to Twitch, where it’s dominating the front page:

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