Valorant and the Platformization of Free-To-Play Games

Framing the Work of Content Creators as a Cultural Commodity

  • Kas van der Molen Utrecht University


By studying the early development stages of the free-to-play game Valorant (Riot Games, 2020), this research draws connections between game studies and recent platformization research. Traditionally, game scholars have treated the game industry as focused on selling premium-priced games. An alternative approach presents games as services that attempt to foster a long-term relationship with the player base. This paper zooms in on the latter, by studying the role of livestreaming in the service model of digital games. This sheds light on how service games can become intertwined with participatory modes of production, which benefits the longevity of service games. It points to a situation in which games, users, and platforms together make up one coherent system. The deployment of sociotechnical system scholarship identifies mechanisms that have been put in place to facilitate the interaction between users and platforms. With that in mind, this paper presents a qualitative content analysis of Twitch streams using a transcription method in which content creation is considered vital to the proliferation of the platform ecosystem. This work contributes to a growing body of literature bridging the fields of platform studies and game studies by taking into account the extended cultural practices and paratexts of both livestreaming and videogames.

May 18, 2022