Breaking down how long it takes to unlock all Valorant agents in a year
Riot Games’ Valorant, a game that pulled in 3 million players a day during its beta, has now been fully out for nearly a month. While its viewerbase has declined steadily since the beta, it’s still one of the most played games on the internet. Riot’s made it clear from the start that it’ll follow a business model similar to their other titanic success, League of Legends, which more than a decade after release still gets nearly 10 million concurrent players and consistently tops the Twitch charts. Whether that’s good or not depends on how you felt about their MOBA’s champion unlock system, which required you to either pay upfront for each new character or play dozens of hours.
In Valorant, this system has been slightly tweaked: instead of general-use currency, players must focus on Agent contracts. These contracts reward assorted cosmetics, sprays and player cards, but, more importantly, they are how players unlock the Agent. Divided into ten tiers, players must unlock the fifth one (at an accumulated cost of 200,000 XP) to get a new Agent. Seems big, right? Let’s find out just how big it is.
The path of the Grind
There are two ways to gain XP in Valorant, and all they require is that you play the game. You can earn XP by completing daily or weekly challenges and by completing rounds. You’ll get two daily challenges that give 2,000 XP each, and three weekly challenges that give around 10,000 XP each. For rounds, the XP depends on whether you win (300 XP) or lose (100 XP): the ideal match being a 13-12 win which nets you 5,100 XP total. But we don’t live in an ideal word—to paraphrase a famous philosopher and political activist, we must carry out the concrete analysis of concrete conditions.
Sampling from 100 random matches on tracker.gg, the average match is 20.76 rounds long. With some minor rounding, we arrive at the average match duration of 36 minutes and 17 seconds. Supposing a round win-rate that tends to 50% the more you play, that gives us 4,152 XP per match, on average. That’s 6,866 XP per hour played, not factoring break times and matchmaking. If we were to consider only round XP, it would take a player around 29 hours and 10 minutes to level an Agent’s contract to level 5. While this might seem low, it’s important to remember that you also need to factor in: matchmaking, general delays to start searching for a match, breaks and a number of other interruptions people take while gaming.
All things considered…
If we take Ubisoft’s statement that “the average FPS player spends 8-10 hours a week playing their favourite FPS”, that would mean between three weeks and a month of playing to unlock one agent, without taking into consideration the missions. Let’s factor them in. If someone were to play at this rate of 8 to 10 hours a week, and in that time complete all missions given to them (both daily and weekly), we could knock down a total of 48,000 XP per week. That would give us a total of two weeks and three to four days into the third week, with around 25h of actual match time to complement the necessary XP.
If Riot carries out their claim of six Agents a year, that would mean 150h played to unlock all of them in a year. That is true under the assumption you don’t upgrade contracts past level 5 before unlocking other Agents; if not, the required time goes up (the time required to achieve a single level 10 contract would be upwards of 100h of match time).
This, of course, requires a number of situations considered as true to hold up to closer scrutiny. Not only that, but people who play more than 8 – 10 hours a week will actually spend more time playing Valorant to unlock an Agent, while people who play less (but still complete all missions) will need less match time for the same amount of XP.
How does it compare?
Considering Ubisoft’s (the other develop with an FPS that has unlockable characters) claim that an operator requires 25 hours to unlock, Valorant’s rate seems to match this with unusual precision. However, taking into account League of Legend’s steady increase of Champion price, it isn’t a huge stretch to imagine operators costing more than they do now (and older operators getting their XP requirements toned down) as the game ages and its players grow accustomed to just playing the game to unlock agents instead of buying them out.
One important thing to note is that in Valorant you can’t save up XP for when an Agent comes out. Unlike League of Legends or Rainbow Six: Siege, a contract for an Agent can only be taken after his release, making a money purchase the only way to play the new character as soon as they are released.
It’s hard to argue whether this is fair considering the game is free, but anyone who’s played League or Rainbow Six: Siege knows that not having certain champions/operators depending on the match-up or map is a severe competitive handicap. How about you, reader, what do you think of Valorant’s monetization and how long you need to play to get agents without spending money?