In a time when choosing a stable career path is crucial for any youngster in India, video games were long seen as a waste of time and resources. However, now you can consider those days of holding onto these narrow mind-sets long gone as eSports is steadily gaining a foothold in India, the young-bloods have another avenue to follow their passions in the form of eSports. Taking this dream forward, the year 2016 has been an exceptional year for the Indian Video Gaming community, if not for eSports alone. When the news of a new partnership being forged between global eSport organisers, ESL and an Indian company, NODWIN Gaming broke out, eSports in India took a turn for the better and the ESL India Premiership can take all the goodies home for the ushering in this change for the country’s gaming culture. This tournament has managed to reignite the imaginations of countless gamers across the nation and abroad, as well as at the same time clearing out the stigma associated with Indian eSports. Truly, a tabula rasa moment.
The 2016 season of the ESL India Premiership carried a prize money of INR 42 Lacs and focused on 4 competitive games, namely, CS:GO, DOTA 2, Clash Royale and Just Dance. Over 10,000 gamers defied all odds and participated in an event which stretched for over 9 months. To support them at the arious LAN and offline events were the audience whose numbers exceeded 75,000. Adding to it, games worth more than 2,000 hours were played.
Young Turk – Bhavin Kotwani, the captain of CS:GO team, Dare2Dream
A first-of-its kind in the country, the first season of ESL India Premiership also shattered and created new records on Twitch.tv, a popular streaming portal online. The event’s Twitch channel clocked in over 900,000 video plays and recorded a con-current viewership of over 3000 viewers at a given point of time. Through the streams, over 65,000 minutes worth of content was enjoyed by the internet denizens. On Facebook too, the story was no different. Posts about the various events conducted by ESL India attracted over 3.75 million impressions.
This gigantic tournament which kicked off in April of 2016 was divided into different segments, which included the Starter Cups, Challengers and the Masters. The Starter Cups were online tournaments which occurred once a month. There were a total of 6 Starter Cups and the total prize pool allocated for this event totalled INR 5,40,000. CS:GO, DOTA 2 and Clash Royale was played at this events as Just Dance is fundamentally an offline video-game. An astounding 1,714 CS:GO and DOTA 2 teams registered, while 388 Clash Royale players tried their luck at this pan-India online event. Unlike other tournaments, the ESL India Premiership did not carry any entry fee for team registrations. As there can only be one winner in the end, the Starter Cups acts as a sieve, with only the top two teams or players moving forward to the next event.
Our Neighbours – Team 3 Cheers 4 Divine Ascension, a DOTA 2 team hailing from Nepal
The next in the hierarchy come the Challenger events. A Challenger is an offline LAN event which takes place at the end of every three Starter Cups. There were 2 Challengers in total and it featured the top two teams from the respective Starter Cups. The cumulative prize pool for this tier of the competition was INR 17,78,000. Challenger 1 took place at Pune in the wane end of July. The winners at the end of this event was Beyond Infinity in DOTA 2 Category and Invisible Wings in the CS:GO category. Challenger 2 took place in Bangalore alongside the Bangalore Comic Con. Apart from having the top 2 teams from the remnant Starter Cups, Challenger 2 also had an International team invited from Bangladesh, The Council, who had sent forth its DOTA 2 as well as CS:GO squads for this event. Dare2Dream, The Council and MRIN placed themselves at the number one spot at the event’s end. Further filtering out the participants as well as raising the quality of competition, only the Top Four teams from each Challenger were invited to play at the grand finale to occur at the year’s end.
Our star casters – (From Left) Prashant, Sudhen, Vivek and Nishant
Going by the title ‘2016 Masters’, the grand finale of the ESL India Premiership promised to be a top class event. INR 18,85,000 was ear-marked for the final leg of this 9 month journey. The best of the best teams battled it out in the different game categories. Risky Gaming, a seeded CS:GO team in the SEA circuit made its appearance at this event, taking the competition level to an all-time high. Other international teams included Evolution Gaming for CS:GO, while 4Merical and 3 Cheers 4 Divine Ascension hailing from Nepal made an appearance for DOTA 2. At the end of this 5 day bonanza, filled with an equal amount of heartbreak and joy (or maybe more), there could be only one winner in each game category. For DOTA 2 it was Beyond Infinity (now Entity Esports), who had an unbeaten run throughout this event and they once again proved why they are the best DOTA 2 team in the Indian subcontinent. Risky Gaming won the CS:GO category after suffering an early scare in the competition by losing to Dare2Dream. MRIN showed once again why he was the rightful King by dominating the Clash Royale category.
Winners of 2016 Masters – (From Left) Risky Gaming, MRIN and Beyond Infinity
Besides competitive gaming, the ESL India Premiership conducted Cosplay Contests at all of its LAN events. Many cosplayers turned up for the event and displayed their mastery through the intricately detailed cosplays they developed over months of toil. The best cosplayers were awarded special prizes, for instance, the top cosplayer from Challenger 2 and the 2016 Masters get to travel to Malaysia and represent India at ESL One Genting.
Winners of the Various Cosplay Contests – (From Left) Yogesh, Sameer and Zara
The numbers accumulated at the end of this successful season prove that eSports in India is on the rise. With many international brands such as ASUS ROG, HyperX, Twitch.tv, including ESL taking a keen interest, India is slowing moving closer towards the ultimate goal of being placed on the global eSports map.