Since VALORANT's launch, it has been in direct competition with CS:GO, leading to countless debates among players over which game is superior. It's difficult to reach a conclusion, as both games have their own strengths and weaknesses.
Despite not receiving the highly anticipated Source 2 update, CS:GO has had a successful year thus far. The recent release of the Revolution Case set a new record for active players, surpassing the previous record set three years ago with a peak of 1,320,219 players.
Although a new active player record was set, Counter-Strike's Esport scene has seen a decline in viewership during the two recent events, BLAST Premier Spring 2023 and IEM Katowice 2023, compared to last year. It remains to be seen whether this is just a temporary dip or the beginning of a new era in which another first-person shooter game takes the mantle of being the most-watched FPS title.
BLAST Premier Spring Viewership Comparison
The recent BLAST Premier events have raised concerns about the health of Counter-Strike's Esport scene, as there have been noticeable declines in average and peak viewership statistics. For example, the average viewership in 2023 saw a steep drop of 42%, down to 152,139 viewers from 262,944 the previous year. This resulted in a substantial difference of 143,000 in peak viewers.
Is it the Brazilian effect, or was the event simply less interesting for spectators?
Brazil played a crucial role in elevating Counter-Strike's Esport scene through the Portuguese co-streams that drove viewership. However, this came to a halt when MIBR sold its BLAST spot to Heroic. Despite the team's perceived weaknesses, they could still attract the highest number of viewers in their match against Natus Vincere.
According to a report from Dexerto, the peak viewership for Portuguese broadcasts dropped 69%, from 121,087 in the 2022 Spring Groups to just 37,067 in 2023.
Following the Portuguese broadcast, the Russian broadcast also witnessed a dip in viewership with 53%, which can justify the lesser views during 2023.
IEM Katowice Viewership Comparison
Unfortunately, the same scenario happened in IEM Katowice 2023, where the viewership still dropped regardless of being one of the biggest events in Counter-Strike.
Last year’s event attracted more viewers with less air time, from over 1,100,000 peak viewers to only 700,00 is enough to question the long future of the scene.
Though the event witnessed the early exit of big names such as FaZe Clan & Team Vitality, it cannot stand as a solid explanation for the dip in viewers considering the event still had the top-ranked teams in play.
Regardless of the dip, it was the most popular non-Major event within the last six months surpassing ESL Pro League Season 16 and many BLAST Series tournaments in peak viewers, including the Worlds Finals.
It is premature to conclude whether the game is in decline as there are several upcoming events that could potentially impact its popularity. The ESL Pro League Season 17 and IEM Series in Brazil are expected to generate high numbers due to the game's popularity in the region and the BLAST.tv Major in Paris, a unique event for the country, is especially noteworthy as it has the support of none other than "Le Président De La République, Emmanuel Macron.
While CS:GO's numbers may be fluctuating, VALORANT is gaining ground as its competitive scene continues to grow. Since its release two years ago, Riot Games' shooter has garnered impressive numbers, and its VCT circuit has achieved a significant global reach. Unlike Counter-Strike, VALORANT is particularly popular in Asia, which helps to further boost its numbers.
VALORANT: Worldwide Reach, High Viewership
The timing proved to be critical in both games, and ironically, the real world reflected this dynamic. As the pandemic hit, the CS:GO North American scene struggled, and VALORANT's release coincided with its downfall, allowing it to dominate the region. During the first year of VALORANT's competitive scene, the game attracted a significant number of ex-CS:GO pro players, who saw it as an opportunity to find success in a new game. While many of them were not considered top-tier players, organizations played a crucial role in the growth of VALORANT's Esports scene. Many organizations recognized the opportunity to invest in a new game, especially since CS:GO already had an established, expensive competition. Additionally, VALORANT was more sponsor-friendly than CS:GO, which made investing in it more appealing.
The situation was similar in the Asian region, where CS:GO had almost no presence except in China, where it struggled to gain traction due to the dominance of MOBA games. However, Riot Games managed to break into the market with VALORANT. In the 2021 VALORANT Champions tournament, five out of sixteen teams were from Asia; the following year, the number increased to six.
A Look into VALORANT’s Viewership
The first VALORANT Champions in 2021 attracted 469,083 average viewers while peaking at over a million in the Grand Finals series. The Semi-Finals also exceeded a million live viewers across different platforms.
Those are certainly high numbers and even increased during the Champions 2022 with an almost 50% increase in peak viewers, reaching 1.5 million with 525,817 average viewers.
Picking the VALORANT Champions events wasn’t random, but rather to show the growth of viewership within a year and the potential to grow even bigger.
It might not be fair to compare the biggest event in VALORANT to a significantly lesser important tournament in CS:GO; for that let’s take a look at a better example.
The last two biggest events had strikingly similar numbers, which suggests that VALORANT is quickly catching up to its predecessor, Counter-Strike. Unfortunately for Counter-Strike, a recurring pattern of declining viewership after each Major tournament doesn't bode well for the game's future. Although the average viewership remains consistent, the peak viewership is in a steady decline.
So, will VALORANT surpass CS:GO in viewership? It's looking increasingly likely, and sooner rather than later, if nothing changes in Counter-Strike. This may be a tough pill for fans of the game to swallow, but as they say, the numbers never lie.
Cover photo: Riot Games