Riot cracks down on Valorant app that gives players a significant advantage before the match even begins: 'It's hard to describe how disappointed I am'

(Image credit: Riot Games)

Riot is shutting down a third-party Valorant app that gives players an early advantage in character selection.

Unofficial companion apps for multiplayer games usually exist to provide enhanced (and harmless) stat tracking or live ranking insights. Recon Bolt, made by Swiss developer Julian Dunskus, attracted Riot's ire for its most unique feature: the ability to lock-in characters on your phone before the option is available on PC (as spotted by Dexerto). 

Recon Bolt has been live since at least October 2022, but this week Dunskus announced to his Discord server that he'll be shutting down the app after receiving a cease and desist notice from Riot.

"It's hard to describe how disappointed I am that things have turned out this way, but Riot has shut down all attempts from my side to have a conversation about this and figure out a way forward together," Dunskus wrote.

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Dunskus told PC Gamer that Recon Bolt has amassed over 338,000 downloads since its release, and averages around 88,000 monthly users. The app will go offline on both iOS and Github on July 20, tomorrow. 

"Thank you so much for all your support throughout the app's existence; it's meant the world to me."

Riot hasn't openly shared the reason for the demanded shutdown, but Dunskus told PC Gamer that the studio has been trying to shut down Recon Bolt for months. After asking Riot why he'd been locked out of Riot's developer portal in May, a representative cited Recon Bolt's use of an unsanctioned login tool, the character selection shortcut, and the inclusion of an "item store checker which is not in line with our policies."

Riot might have also taken issue with Recon Bolt's premium tier, a one-time $5 purchase that unlocks a few extra features. Last year, Riot took to Twitter to remind players that "using unauthorized 3rd-party apps that pull information hidden by the game client can get you BANNED."

recon bolt app interface

(Image credit: Julian Dunskus)

Allowing players to pre-select their character before everyone else certainly sounds like something Riot would consider an "unauthorized" use of its tools—in other words, a cheat, though Dunskus claims his app was originally authorized by Riot.

Dunskus has argued on Twitter that Recon Bolt is no less fair than Valorant's default method of doling out characters, "where people who have faster PCs or are faster at clicking the necessary buttons (or set up a macro) get dibs."

"Personally, I'm counting on Riot to replace the 'first come first served' system we currently have with one where no one gets ahead through speed," Dunskus wrote in April. 

That's one way to look at it. It's true that the race to lock in characters can be a headache of its own—it's enough of a consideration that someone even created an "Instalock Trainer" app that simulates Valorant's character selection screen so you can practice speedily clicking on your main.


♬ Originalton - aldinTV •twitch streamer

Valorant's character selection isn't strictly fair, though I doubt most players would be happier having to load up an app before every match to even the odds. Streamers have also complained that Recon Bolt could be used by stream snipers to identify which character streamers are playing, though Dunskus says this was not an intentional use of the app and was patched out some time ago.

Wherever you fall on Recon Bolt's legitimacy, it's ultimately up to Riot to revoke API access at will, or in this case, threaten legal action against tools it deems unsavory.

Dunskus is taking the news in stride. He was surprised by Recon Bolt's success, and "blown away" he was able to live off the revenue it made for as long as he could. He's now looking around for a "real" job as an iOS developer.

Note: This article has been updated with comments from Dunskus and app usage figures.

Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.