Shane ‘Rawkus’ Flaherty, a three-year Overwatch League veteran for the Houston Outlaws and former Team USA Overwatch World Cup Champion, has officially retired to pursue Valorant.
People were immediately curious about the future of esports when Riot Games announced Valorant, a tactical shooter meshing Counter-Strike’s FPS mechanics with the abilities Overwatch brought to FPS from MOBA titles like League of Legends. Now, Rawkus is the latest OW pro to jump ships.
Thank You, Overwatch
— Shane Flaherty (@Rawkus) August 1, 2020
Following in the footsteps of Damien ‘HyP’ Souville, Jay ‘Sinatraa’ Won, Corey ‘Corey’ Nigra, and Zachary ‘ZachaREEE’ Lombardo, all of whom either dealt with partial play time or a middling roster—Rawkus, who dealt with both, is giving Valorant a go.
Counter-Strike professionals and Overwatch DPS players were considered the most likely to try and get into Valorant early, as a new IP from the developers behind the world’s largest esport was expected to be an obvious draw. But flex supports are some of the most mechanically gifted aimers, so it’s unsurprising that players like HyP and Rawkus, whose OW futures felt uncertain, opted for a career reset in a high-upside title.
Hey Outlaws fans, it’s a sad day in H-Town—as we bid farewell to our #1. Please #AnteUp and wish Rawkus a thank you worthy of his 3-year run with the Houston Outlaws!
Once an Outlaw. Always an Outlaw. pic.twitter.com/XuczkYACS1
— Houston Outlaws (@Outlaws) August 1, 2020
Part of the allure of a career reset and foregoing the stability of an Overwatch salary for an attempt at Valorant is likely influenced by age, as Rawkus is 26 years old and inching toward what is widely considered the later years of an esports career.
The Outlaws are 6-14 this season, the 17th-worst record in the OWL, and he was already splitting time with a support in Kim ‘Rapel’ Jun-keun. Leaving a guaranteed contract is a definite risk, but this is likely the best opportunity he’ll have to reinvigorate his career in a fledgling scene with major aspirations.
At the moment, it’s not clear whether Rawkus is already signed to a roster or not. Many orgs have already taken shape, as Sinatraa’s Sentinels team just won the PAX Invitational tournament while Corey and ZachaREEE have joined forces on FaZe Clan.
In his Twitlonger discussing the retirement, the former World Cup champ was relatively noncommittal about his next team but did indicate big news was on the horizon.
“As for what’s next? Valorant … Some more exciting news about my future will be coming soon and I can’t wait to share my journey with you all.”