The company behind 'League of Legends' is taking on Activision Blizzard with a new shooter game

Key Points
  • Called "Valorant," the free-to-play PC game sees teams of five players battle each other to attack — or defend — an objective.
  • It's the first major new release from Riot Games, which for years has been riding the success of "League of Legends."
  • The game will compete with Valve's "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive," Activision's "Call of Duty" series and Ubisoft's "Rainbow Six Siege."
A screenshot of Riot Games' new free-to-play PC shooter game "Valorant," which is slated to launch in Summer 2020.
Riot Games

Riot Games, the video game developer behind "League of Legends," has pulled the wraps off a new first-person shooter game as it aims to rival popular titles from the likes of Activision Blizzard and Ubisoft.

Called "Valorant," the new game is a tactical shooter like Valve's "Counter-Strike" series, which pits teams of terrorists and counter-terrorists against each other to complete certain objectives.

The free-to-play PC title will see teams of five players battle each other in a rounds-based system, with one team attacking an objective as the other defends it. While it draws heavily from "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive," a popular esports title, "Valorant" also alludes to the cartoonish characters of games like Blizzard's "Overwatch" and Epic Games' "Fortnite."

It's the first major new release from Los Angeles-based Riot Games, which is owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent. For years the company has been seen in the industry as something of a one-hit wonder for riding the success of "League of Legends," the world's most popular PC game.

Riot Games isn't stopping at shooter games though. The company announced last year that it has a slew of new titles in the pipeline, making a foray into new genres with yet-to-be announced fighting and adventure games.

Louise Shorthouse, a gaming analyst at market research firm Omdia, indicated that Riot Games' new title could take market share from "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive," as well as its two closest competitors — Activision's "Call of Duty" franchise and Ubisoft's "Rainbow Six Siege."

"Valorant could provide solid competition for the title, especially given Tencent's extensive experience in publishing successful esports games," she told CNBC.  "It will be interesting to see if the game can be globally successful, across the West and China."

Shorthouse said "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive" — which is also known as "CS:GO" — had struggled to find success in China, while a game released by Tencent called "CrossFire" has become known as "China's answer to CS:GO" but hasn't taken off as successfully overseas.

"Tencent has also been focusing its efforts overseas lately, and this new title could further establish the company as an international presence," she added.

Like "League of Legends," gamers won't have to pay to play "Valorant," but it's not clear whether it will look to monetize with in-game transactions instead. The new game is slated to launch this summer.

Michael Pachter, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities, said the game was just as aimed at taking on "Fortnite," despite not being in the battle royale genre, as it's free-to-play.

"Fortnite is probably the biggest loser, but there is room for the overall audience to grow," Pachter told CNBC. But, he added that he expects the game to perform "modestly" at launch.

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