At the ESL India Premiership’s Challenger Cup held in Pune last month, we saw lots of guns, glory and shake-a-leg’s. Thanks to the good guys at Nodwin Gaming, it was a professional gaming extravaganza unlike any other that the city had witnessed as the ESL India juggernaut crashed into town.
The two-day event was held in a sizable cultural hall in the city centre, attracting over 500 gaming fans who were willing to hang around and just watch some of India’s best gamers battle it out in the competition at hand. Just to see a crowd of about 100 or so spectators sitting quietly – not distracted by their phones or chit-chatting idly – focusing as hard on the game as the pro gamers competing on stage was a revelation of sorts. This goes to show that the Indian gaming scene is evolving thick and fast, where an eager audience is already hooked on to gaming networks like Twitch.tv and are willing to travel away from the comforts of their gaming PCs and spend a weekend huddled in a hall with like-minded gaming enthusiasts, enjoying just watching others play. This is a significant trend, and it’s only going to rise as pro-gaming competitions increase in number.
Before we give you the skinny on who won and who lost at the Challenger Cup, we’d really like to impress upon Nodwin Gaming’s professional execution of the whole event. The pro gaming machines were setup in two different zones, ten-apiece – one each for DOTA 2 and CS:GO eliminations, respectively.
Two zones of five gaming PCs were set up side-by-side on the podium where competing teams could sit, with a giant 30-feet widescreen behind displaying their game to the audience. The booths each had electronic boards at front displaying each team member’s profile picture and name, just like you see in ESL games worldwide. The casters watched the game on their own personal 32-inch screen, kept aside to one corner of the hall. And right next to the casters was the control room which monitored IT, video, audio and live-streaming of the Challenger Cup on ESL India Premiership’s Twitch channel.
The only spoilsport in this whole apparatus that otherwise functioned very well was the lack of steady, consistent Internet connection in Pune, as most games suffered from packet drops and several forced pauses, much to the gamer’s chagrin. What was great to see, however, was that despite all these minor technical glitches, most of ESL India Premiership’s Challenger Cup went on smoothly, and in fact the CS:GO finale was actually showcased live for an hour on Twitch.tv’s global homepage, clocking over 2200 simultaneous viewers at peak. Not bad, eh?
ESL INDIA: Who won, who lost?
Okay, enough of the setup and ambience, time to spill the beans on who won and who won – surprise, there are no losers here! The ESL India Premiership Challenger Cup saw quarterfinals and semifinals for a bunch of games, all of which were held on Day 1, while the grand finales were all held on Day 2. Quarterfinals and semifinals for DOTA 2 and Counter Strike Go were already on from as early as 10 AM on the first day, with a great bunch of casters keeping the audience enthralled with their enthusiasm. After a busy day of eliminations, Day 2 had all the finales that the assembled audience was really looking forward to.
In DOTA 2, the five-men team of Beyond Infinity (sponsored by ASUS) won against Invisible Wings in a hard-fought series of games by a narrow 2-1 margin. Beyond Infinity won the first game, only to see Invisible Wings hammer them in the second game. As expected the third game was a cagey affair, with both teams taking calculated risks and it was a nail-biter to the finish as Beyond Infinity nicked it at the end. They pocketed a cool Rs.1.5 lacs in team prize money. Both teams qualified for the grand finale of ESL India Premiership to be held later this year.
It was a similar scene in CS:GO, the night’s mega event, drawing the most crowd, as Indian pro-gaming’s pride and glory Team Brutality took on Invisible Wings in three different maps – Cobblestone, Dust 2 and Mirage. Invisible Wings knocked Team Brutality out of the first game on Cobblestone, only to see Team Brutality comeback from 0-8 down to win game two at 16-11 on Dust 2 – easily the best game of the match. It was all for nothing, though, as unsung heroes Invisible Wings eventually shut out Team Brutality by winning the final game and clinching the best of three final by 2-1, thus pocketing Rs.1.5 lacs.
Hearthstone finale saw Sankalp Sharma take the crown and win a well-deserved Rs. 25000. Competitions in Just Dance and Cosplaying were also held at the venue, which proved to be a good hit among the assembled crowd. The Just Dance competition was open for anyone to compete in, and it was great to see a youngster from the audience – who had come in to support some of his cosplayer friends – win the Just Dance competition and earn Rs. 10k in the process. Not bad for shaking a leg on a rainy Sunday, eh?
Beyond pro gaming…
Apart from the pro-gaming competitions held in the ESL India Premiership’s Pune leg, the venue also had partner booths on display. Technology brands like ASUS, Kingston and HTC Vive were seen showcasing their latest and greatest products, keeping the crowds busy on both days of the competition.
Both ASUS (under their Republic Of Gamers brand) and Kingston were title sponsors and were displaying their latest RAM, SSD, headset, motherboards, gaming rigs and peripherals aimed at gamers. Both their booths had gaming PCs for people to try out and learn more about the components that separate a good PC from a truly great one. The HTC Vive booth, which was set up in a corner, was truly a revelation of sorts, as it gave a lot of people their first real taste of just how VR is going to disrupt the gaming world. Volunteers had a chance to try out the yet-unreleased HTC Vive VR headset and try out a couple of VR game demos (powered off Steam VR), and this experience more than anything else left people with a real sense of wonder and unbridled joy at ESL India Premiership’s Challenger Cup held in Pune.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as more ESL India Premiership heats are coming up in the months ahead. And we’ll be bringing you all the action from these events, as pro-gaming in India really takes off in a big way. Stay tuned.
Jayesh "Big Daddy" Shinde
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