What's the story?
The last calendar year was pivotal for the professional gaming or esports community in India. Several influential market players such Electronic Sports League (ESL) ventured into the unknown and mystical land of Indian esports, garnering massive numbers in the process. Arguably, in its biggest boost yet, Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) franchise U Mumba owner Ronnie Screwvala is all set to invest as much as Rs 100 crore into their latest cyber tournament Ucypher. The League will consist of 10 teams across India on various platforms such as PC, mobile and console.
Earlier today, he confirmed of this particular development and said, “We have been planning an esports league for a long time now. We were waiting for the correct time as there was not enough participation before. However, smartphones have changed the game for Indian esports. Also, with the introduction of fibernet and cheaper pricing of consoles, number of gamers are increasing in number everyday. There will be no franchise selling in the first year, but yes we are targetting TV broadcasting.”
In case you didn't know...
The E-League, which recently aired on American television, roped in 10 million viewers highlighting the popularity of the world's newest sport. Similar to the old Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) format, the league will have two seasons in a year, with an undisclosed prize pool. According to sources, it is expected to be one of the biggest yet.
The heart of the matter
Ankit Panth, captain of one of India's top Counter Strike teams was contacted by the organisers. He told Sportskeeda, “Their (Ucypher) core team is a bunch of guys who have done their homework pretty well and know about everything that's been happening. After meeting them, I can say that now we are in safe hands. These gentlemen are passionate gamers themselves and have gone through various discussions during the meeting. They were keen to know what problems does an Indian gamer face rather than boasting about their league.”
The format of the league or the games are yet to be shortlisted. However, Counter Strike, Dota 2, FIFA and Clash of Clans are likely to be frontrunners for selection. Ankit added, “The format was not discussed, but we did talk about how events are organised abroad. They want to package it for television and not just online.”
Online viewership of esports in 2016 raked in 256 million viewers across the world, with the number expected to rise to 345 million. Ankit added, “If we go mainstream like this and also with UTV getting involved, it’s definitely going to help. I think this move would be beneficial for a player run organisation like ours. You won't believe, I showed this article to my relatives and mom and just by reading the name Ronnie Screwala and UTV, they were more than happy and asked me if I needed some financial help, this proves that the name game has got a sense of trust with it and the figures Rs 80-100 cores, it will lure a lot of people into this.”
According to sources, out of 1600 teams, 16 were shortlisted. A further categorisation based on popularity and results reduced the number to 10.
This will be a major boost for E-sports, which already witnessed several marquee tournaments in 2016. However, their major viewership was restricted to the online realm, whereas this is will cater to a mainstream TV audience. It’s biggest challenge will be to rope in the tier 2/tier 3 town crowd, similar to the ones in Kabaddi.