The COVID-19 pandemic threw the esports world out of its typical routines. Many of the most important annual tournaments never took place. We learned what happens to certain ecosystems without live events, and those struggles will be carried on into the new year until the pandemic is finally resolved.
Still, there were important bright spots throughout the year. The release of Valorant created major upheaval in the shooter space. Rainbow Six Siege was able to take center stage early in the year, showcasing the value in a developer collaborating with its community.
Looking ahead to next year, while much will remain the same (particularly as the pandemic remains most prominent in all our minds), by the end of 2021 parts of the esports landscape could look quite different. These are the esports titles that will rise up in 2021 to challenge the status quo, or perhaps return to their former glory.
Probably the safest call anyone could make, but there’s no question that Valorant deserves to be on any list of up and coming esports in 2021. Riot Games’ new shooter has pulled professional players away from other popular titles like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch, and has already seen commitment from most of the major esports teams.
Next year, Valorant will have an official global ecosystem supported by Riot Games which will open the door for greater investment from teams and brands alike. What’s more, Valorant will likely have its first-ever offline international tournament in the latter half of next year. The lack of live events for more than a year will no doubt create such a fervor that Valorant’s first world championship could be one of the biggest events of the year.
One thing that also makes Valorant particularly exciting is the continued impact it can have for women’s esports. With Cloud9 White expected to participate at the pro level and a robust women-only ecosystem already developing, the increased attention and infrastructure moving into Valorant can only serve to help grow the game’s position as a leader in women’s esports.
League of Legends: Wild Rift was at the top of our list last year for mobile games, but the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the game’s global rollout, making it an important release for 2021. In Asia, mobile esports already lead many regions, so while Riot has some stiff competition building an esport in those areas, the League of Legends IP and the developer’s reputation for top-notch esports infrastructure will no doubt propel Wild Rift to the top of the heap.
Where Wild Rift becomes especially interesting is its potential for finally helping mobile esports breakthrough in North America. There have been numerous attempts, but we have yet to see the same level of team or brand investment in mobile…
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