Valorant Using Beta Drops on Twitch is Both Genius and Frustrating
Valorant has blown up by great marketing choices, but using Twitch Drops for beta access seems like a lack of respect towards players' time.
For around a month now, the latest popular esports title Valorant by Riot Games has gained huge traction by esports players and streamers alike. What I like to call by the name “Counter-Strike: GO: Overwatch Edition,” Valorant is a 5v5 objective-based hero first-person shooter where the offensive team must either wipe out the enemy team or detonate a bomb on the map. The game is currently in closed beta where only specific outlets, content creators, and influencers were given access from the get-go. For others, there is only one way those interested in the game can earn entrance, which is by watching Twitch streams.
While the Drops feature isn’t particularly new–as it has been available on Twitch since 2018–it feels like it has been relatively underused by developers implementing it into their games. I didn’t even know about the feature until Valorant’s popularity came up, and I stream on Twitch myself. Choosing to give players access to the beta by watching streams is nothing short of brilliant to get the game attention from as many gamers possible. This is for a game, might I add, that is only in its beta. However, shortly after recognizing Riot’s smart marketing tactics did I realize that it also feels like an incredible amount of disrespect for a potential consumer’s time and interest.
Like others, I also took interest in Valorant simply by seeing many streamers playing it. Once I found out how to gain entrance to what it seemed to be a “cool kids club,” I quickly realized that was a long investment of time for a game that I wasn’t even entirely sure that I would enjoy or be any good at. Through most of my time trying to obtain a Drop, I was watching streamers that I have absolutely no care or interest in whenever I didn’t have a streamer I actually follow playing the game. I’d watch a little to get to understand the game better, but it would lead to me muting the stream and putting it into a different window hoping that I would get a Drop while doing more important things.
I don’t know the specifics, but I know that I spent at least a week watching random streams (as well as some of my friends playing) to finally get into the beta yesterday. In a rough estimate, I would say that I had accumulated 10 hours of streams being played before I got the Drop and from what I’ve heard first-hand, that is on the quicker side of things. After posting about my experience trying to get a Drop on Twitter, I had a personal friend of mine tell me “Took me 80+ hours,” just to get into a beta.
Originally, only the most populated Twitch streamers had the ability to have “Drops enabled” for viewers to possibly get a code. On April 10, Riot opened it up to all streamers on Twitch playing Valorant, and even now the chances are slim. I think Riot’s direction in promoting Valorant is smart and precise when it comes to gaining people’s awareness of it, but having them wait tens of hours to play the actual game just feels wrong.
Most of the time when developers or studios are holding some sort of beta or stress test to prepare for launch later down the road, players get access to them through either pre-ordering or signing up for access on the game’s site. Now, I would ask “why can’t Valorant do the same thing,” but I already know the answer; it’s too good of an opportunity. Implementing the Drops feature allows Riot to get exposure for the game by only being able to get access through Twitch. Streamers will want to show off the game so they, in turn, will likely gain more viewership than normal with such an anticipated game. It’s a win-win situation for Riot and streamers, but after a certain amount of time, that isn’t the case for viewers and only feels like a loss for them.
Obviously, I do not know the level of flexibility that developers have when they use the Drops feature on Twitch. But I still feel like there is a way to make it so that Drops could come to each viewer in 2-3 hours instead of 10-100 hours, and still achieve the same effect for Riot, streamers, and viewers. This could maybe be achieved by contacting Twitch and telling them of their situation, which would allow Twitch to change how often Drops come. Again, I don’t know if developers can do that from the start, but if they can’t, I think Twitch should directly be able to help them with that, and ease some of the frustration with trying to actually play the game.
While Riot’s idea to gain Valorant some exposure was a good one, I still think taking the old school route would have been just as good for everyone involved. Having a general sign-up for players where waves of entry go out throughout the beta would, at the very least, have been more respectful of prospective players’ time and effort. Streamers could still stream Valorant, get their viewers that want to watch the game in action, and those viewers don’t have to stare at their notification icon for hours on end hoping for something that could very well never happen.