LOUD wins Valorant world championship — In front of an audience of millions, the Brazilian esports team LOUD defeated North America’s OpTic Gaming in the capstone event of the 2022 Valorant Champions Tour on Sunday, marking the first victory for LOUD on the international stage. The grand final treated fans at the Volkswagen Arena in Istanbul to a 3-1 slugfest, with multiple maps going into overtime.
Visibly emotional, LOUD players wiped away tears as they stood up from their desks, yanking off their headsets and in-ear headphones.
“I have no words about it, it’s just so amazing,” said Matias “saadhak” Delipetro, reflecting on the feeling of being cheered on by fans in the arena. “It’s unreal.”
As the winners, LOUD will take home $300,000; OpTic will receive $150,000. The third place team, South Korea’s DRX, walked away with $110,000. The event’s final weekend was a good representation of the esport’s global reach, with the final four rosters hailing from North America, Brazil, South Korea and Europe.
“Valorant” is a 5-v-5 first-person shooter in which teams compete to be the first to win 13 rounds. The game has developed a huge following: In April, the game’s developer, Riot Games, announced that “Valorant” had attained 15 million monthly players. On the live-streaming platform Twitch (which is owned by Amazon, whose founder, Jeff Bezos, also owns The Washington Post) “Valorant” is among the most watched games. The title’s release right at the beginning of the pandemic likely contributed to its success; the video game industry saw a huge boost in audience interest and engagement as people increasingly stayed indoors.
Online, the grand final’s concurrent viewership peaked at just under 1.5 million (not including Chinese platforms) according to the analytics and tracking service Esports Charts Gaming News Site, setting a record for “Valorant” esports viewership. Last year’s final peaked at just over 1 million viewers.
That popularity was evident both within and outside the venue as well: Long lines of spectators led up to the entrance, and the seats were packed when the games began. (A Riot spokesperson put the grand final’s in-person attendance at 2,200 people.) Fans cheered as the final two teams arrived in white Mercedes vans and crowded around barricades to gawk at influencers, players, Riot executives and popular Twitch streamers like Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek and Tarik Celik on a makeshift red carpet. Many of the streamers later set up in skyboxes above the venue to co-stream the games, providing unique running commentary over the game footage and further boosting viewership numbers. The singer Ashnikko also made an appearance, performing their song “Fire Again” onstage before the match began.
OpTic and LOUD have what is arguably “Valorant’s” most prominent and high-stakes rivalry. Before Sunday, the teams had faced each other five times at international events in 2022, with OpTic winning three of those matchups. At an earlier event held in Reykjavik, Iceland, in April, OpTic faced LOUD under similar circumstances, losing to LOUD in the upper bracket, then winning the grand final against them after a lower bracket run. But OpTic was unable to replicate that performance Sunday.