Mar 20, 2023

Bettor eyes on: VCT International Leagues

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Fresh off the heights of the VCT LOCK//IN tournament in São Paulo, the Valorant world turns its eyes to the next leg of top-tier competition: the VCT International Leagues.

São Paulo brought together the best teams in the world – which saw Fnatic win it all in a dramatic five-game series against Brazil’s LOUD. Now the International Leagues will see organisations return to home soil and fight amongst their region for spots at the second major tournament of the year, Masters Tokyo.

The International Leagues are a cornerstone of the revamped competitive structure introduced this year. Years one and two of Valorant were very decentralised in terms of the ecosystem, with lots of fragmented tournaments strung together into one professional circuit. This didn’t stop the title from catapulting up to the number four spot in terms of overall betting turnover in 2021 and doubling in total turnover generated in 2022.

New competitive structure

The new format and Valorant Partner Program means the esport has a more structured approach, with more stable teams and regularity of matches at the top-flight, the S-tier competitions.

This isn’t just good for Valorant esports itself, but for betting operators too. The new structure’s increased consistency and stability means a greater fan following because the same teams are appearing, storylines can be built, and operators can better market their
products with more known quantities at hand.

Based on data in the first two years of competition, S-tier competitions accounted for roughly half of all Valorant turnover. This partly points to the appetite for the esport at lower levels, with lots of smaller tournament organisers running competitions and fostering future talent. But it’s very likely that we’ll see S-tier competitions take a larger portion of turnover in 2023 due to the format changes.

Positive signs for Valorant betting

At PandaScore, we’re finding that operators are trusting Valorant esports much more, promoting it more and finding that its popularity amongst bettors is consistently growing.

We’ve found you don’t get the peaks and valleys in turnover you’d find in the Call of Duty or King of Glory seasons. It’s something that people consistently bet on, whether it's the S-tier tournaments run by Riot Games or more regional and local-focused tournaments run by independent organisers. Additionally, Valorant has been relatively match-fixing free and when cases have occurred, it’s been dealt with accordingly – a good thing for all parts of the ecosystem.

Potential in the US

CS:GO is the most popular title for esports betting across the globe, but the Counter-Strike scene in the United States is relatively small. Call of Duty might be massive in the US but is almost entirely geared towards that market, while Valorant is immensely popular both inside and outside the States.

For tier-one operators in multiple jurisdictions, Valorant is strategically useful for reaching already existing audiences across the globe as well as capturing new audiences in the US. With a large domestic competitive scene and a healthy US player base, Valorant is positioned to capture new bettors as state-by-state regulation trundles along – something operators should watch closely.

Teams to watch

The new partner program and competitive structure changes have had some significant impacts on the teams involved, looking back on previous years we can see which teams have proven popular with bettors.

2021 top five teams in betting turnover:
1. Sentinels
2. Fnatic
3. KRÜ Esports
4. Cloud9
5. Gambit Esports

2022 top five teams in betting turnover:
1. OpTic Gaming
2. FunPlus Phoenix
4. Paper Rex
5. DRX