Feature

The eSports scene in India – does it suck or do we?

July 4, 2017 — by Manish "Trigger-Happy" Rajesh0

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Feature

The eSports scene in India – does it suck or do we?

July 4, 2017 — by Manish "Trigger-Happy" Rajesh0

Maybe it’s time for us to realise that it’s not eSports that sucks in our country. It’s us, we’re the ones that suck at eSports.

We constantly keep hearing about the eSports scene in our country and how it’s growing by leaps and bounds. Strangely though, by the end of it, we don’t really have much to show for it. We don’t seem to have the numbers or the statistics to show that eSports truly is growing in our country. If anything, the ‘eSports scene’ is in a very sorry state right now.
So what’s the problem? Why does eSports suck in our country? Sure we can rehash the same old excuses: we don’t have the infrastructure, we don’t have the internets, we don’t have this, we don’t have that. Heard it all before right? Maybe it’s time for us to realise that it’s not eSports that sucks in our country. It’s us, we’re the ones that suck at eSports.

eSports scene

What?! That can’t be right? Everybody says it’s growing! Well, show us. We’re sure there’s been some growth here and there but as a nation we really don’t have much to show for it. We’ve had some good tournaments in the past but the viewership numbers are really pretty bad. While tournaments abroad get millions of views and have thousands of people watching live online, here we barely manage a few hundred and that’s on a good day. We Indians really aren’t interested in eSports at all it would seem.

We’ve got a multi-million dollar gaming industry but it doesn’t look like a lot of that investment goes into professional gaming. Are the brands at fault for not tapping into the “potential” this country has? We don’t think so. Investors will not invest in something they know will not make money. Those few successful tournaments we’ve had are still meek when compared to tournaments currently hosted abroad.

eSports scene

Then of course, there’s the failed tournaments that have soiled our reputation in the eSports scene worldwide. Connection issues, lack of PCs, and even the players who don’t show up or are late. One of the biggest stains on our eSports reputation was the Indian Gaming Carnival of 2012 that was a huge scam. IGC was hosted by a group called WTF Eventz that promised a prize pool of a whopping 1.5 crore. And this was 5 years ago. That much money as a prize for a gaming tournament was unheard of; no wonder the eSports world was in a tizzy. Heck, we don’t see that kinda reward money right now! Unfortunately, the whole event was a failure and mired in controversy. They’d even gotten a famous International team down for the event, Russia’s Moscow 5, who reportedly got robbed while they were here. Good job India. Way to ruin our global reputation. In order to get to the bottom of things, we spoke to a number of people who are part of the scene.

The Pro

We reached out to Ankit “V3nom” Panth, whom you may all know as the captain of Team Brutality, for his take on the current state of eSports in the country. In case you guys didn’t know, Team Brutality is one of the best, if not best, Counter-Strike teams in the country right now.

eSports scene
Ankit “V3nom” Panth

According to him, we can’t really blame infrastructure or bad internet as much as we could in the past. “It’s all about the mindset. We as a nation don’t take gaming seriously. We aren’t in a position to take gaming seriously. As long as it’s not something you can make a living out of, it’s not worth our time,” he adds.

Players right now care only about money, “you give us money, we’ll play.” But according to him it takes more than just that. We lack dedication and professionalism. Other than a few top teams, Brutality included, everything is a mess. Players constantly jump teams, you’ll see them on one team for one tournament and then for the next one they’re on a different team. Mindset is really important here. As long as aspiring “pro” gamers think they’re just doing this for fun, it won’t work out. They’re not dedicated enough. As an example Ankit brought up professional players from the rest of Asia, who are contractually obligated to represent their own teams. They’re aware that they now represent a brand and behave accordingly, and they know that this isn’t just all fun anymore. These guys put in thousands of hours of practice.

When asked how Indians match up in skill Internationally, according to Ankit we’re far behind in skill and strategy, forget International, even by Asian standards. Asian teams practice dedicatedly and put in hours which we doubt any Indian pros put in. But then again, they also have the facilities for it. Before we can prove ourselves in the International scene we need to first prove ourselves in the Asian scene. Investment is very important because at the end of the day it’s still all about the money.

eSports scene
Team Brutality

Gaming is taboo in our country right now. You can’t earn from playing video games, not unless you’re really good at what you do. Which again doesn’t come unless you’ve put in hours upon hours of practice. Like with any sports, if you’re no good at it there’s no way you’re making money doing it.

According to Ankit the mindset of parents is very important. “Their biggest concern is that their child is earning and well-off. They’re obviously going to be against it but we can’t really blame them,” he says. There’s no consistency or reliability in gaming. Our country simply doesn’t have the acceptability gaming has abroad, where they’ve got training camps, coaches, instructors and other professionals in an established industry.

The Organisers

Last year we’d spoken to Akshat Rathee, CGO at Nodwin, Cofounder of Nova Play and CEO of ESL India. Yes, he’s the one who brought the largest eSports league to the country. So you can thank him for whatever progress we made last year.

Even Rathee agrees that we need to put more money in for it to work. While we’ve had other tourneys in the country before, a League like the ESL that’ll remain consistent is a much needed first step.

eSports scene
Akshat Rathee

When asked why Indian gamers don’t get paid as much as international players, Rathee’s answer was straight and simple. “Because they’re better than us. Usain Bolt is one of the highest paid people in the planet, right? Why isn’t someone like P.T. Usha paid the same?”

There’s more to it than just that though. According to Rathee, while gamers overseas are substantially better, the pay has nothing to do with community involvement, which is also lacking here.

In terms of infrastructure, what we’re lacking according to Rathee is competition. Indian servers have substantially lower competition than Singapore servers, which is even lower than US servers which is lower still than European servers. We’ve got the equipment and the Internet at this point, but no competition. Basically he’s saying we need to ‘git gud’.

eSports scene

We’d even reached out to Lokesh Suji, Chief Founder of ILG (Indian League Gaming) and Director of the eSports Federation of India. According to him, India has the largest youth population in the world, but despite that we’re yet to realise eSports in the nation. Parental approval, lack of infrastructure, and the lack of talent in the country have been contributing factors for this. According to him, there’s big gap in skill because of the lack of commitment in Indian gamers. This again is because Indian gamers don’t see the point of making the commitment to something that’s not a viable career. For those who are willing to take the plunge, we lack exposure and proper training and coaching facilities. It all boils down to monetary support.

eSports scene

The problem with most organised events in the country so far is that it’s the brands doing the organising. All they hope to gain from it is monetary gain but as a result they end up harming the industry and pushing it back rather than helping it grow. eSports events organised by those with proper know-how and those who know what the eSports community wants – those are the ones that take-off.

All’s not lost

According to Ankit, this year looks promising. There’s a lot of tournaments happening and the ESL coming in last year was a big factor. Huge investments are being made into the eSports scene, the Nazara Gaming League for example, which has promised a whopping 100 crore investment. Other than that you have Ronnie Screwvala’s UCypher eSports league which will be aired on TV, the Mountain Dew Arena 2, COBX and more. The frequency of tournaments is much higher now; previously, there were only one or two tournaments in a year. The cash prize for them would be 1 lac. That meant ₹20,000 for each player on an average, which was barely enough to cover travel expenses, and that was only if you won the tournament. More leagues and tournaments means more money, meaning more people, which in-turn means more brand investment. Top teams in India have boot camps to train and practice and even get salaries, albeit small ones. But it’s a start. We’re still not at a stage where we can say eSports is a viable career in the country, but we’re definitely better off than we were a few years ago.
On a final note, Ankit said that he’s been gaming for 12 to 13 years, and only now in 2017 does he feel like something big is happening in the Indian eSports scene.

eSports scene

A point Lokesh made was that the recent announcement to add eSports to the Asian Games by the Olympic Council of Asia is also a boost in a way. The Esports Federation of India is the nodal body that represents eSports in the country. Hopefully, that might encourage more parents to see eSports as a viable career path in the near future.

eSports scene

The eSports Scene in India: Looking forward

While India definitely sucks at eSports right now, the years ahead, specifically 2017, is looking like a good starting point for the nation. eSports has just been lurking around the corner these last few years and 2016’s ESL gave it enough of a nudge to bring it out of the shadows. There’s a lot of tournaments coming up and a lot of big investments happening. We’ve got big investments into the industry coming from the likes of Nazara (₹100+ crore investment), Ronnie Screwvala (prize pool of ₹50 lakhs) and recently Route mobile announcing a ₹50+ crore investment, and the year has only just begun. If anything, it looks like 2017 is the year for eSports to actually take-off in the country. We need to move past the failed tournaments and the closed mindsets. By all accounts it looks like the future of eSports is only getting better. The trouble is, we’ve heard that one before. Here’s to hoping it sticks this time around because the whole world’s watching.

Speaking of events, here are some of the more prominent ones you should watch out for and when they’re going down:

No. Name When Prize Pool Titles
1 The Taiwan Excellence Gaming Cup – Season 4 September ₹5,00,000 Dota 2, CS GO
2 Zowie Extremesland CS:GO Event – Season 2 July – August ₹67,00,000 CS GO
3 The ROG Masters – Season 2 November Dota 2 – ₹1,00,06,000
CS GO – ₹33,54,000
Dota 2, CS GO
4 Indian eSports Championship (IeSC) – Season 2 September – November ₹20,00,000 Dota 2, CS GO, Piercing Blow
5 The Dew Arena – Season 2 July – September ₹10,00,000 Dota 2, CS GO, Mortal Kombat, Forza Motorsport, Kung Fu Combat
6 ESL India Premiership – Second Edition May – December ₹42,00,000 Dota 2, CS GO, Rocket League, Clash Royale, Just Dance
7 Nazara Games’ eSports League Not conf /Unknown
8 Ucypher’s Indian eSports League Not conf /Unknown

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Manish "Trigger-Happy" Rajesh

If he's not gaming, he's... no wait he's always gaming.

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