Tournament organisers play a big part when it comes to promoting the new competitive multiplayer on the block. Valorant’s unprecedented rise in popularity in India, and South Asia as a whole, owes a lot to the efforts of The Esports Club and how they were able to tackle the competitive scene of the game.
The professional quality of their broadcast is what sets The Esports Club apart from the rest of their competition. And they are indeed setting the standard for Valorant tournament organisers in India.
However, achieving this grade of professionalism while still keeping the competitive integrity of the game intact comes with its own brand of hardships.
In an exclusive conversation with Abhishek Mallick of Sportskeeda, the Co-Founder of The Esports Club, Ishaan Arya, spoke about the challenges of hosting tournaments for new titles, the future of Valorant in India, and what he expects from their ongoing LG Ultragear TEC Challenger Series.
Here are the excerpts from the conversation:
Q. You were the first organisation to host a Valorant tournament in India, and the AMD Cup was a very successful event in terms of viewership numbers. What made you realise that Valorant had such a big potential in India?
Ishaan Arya: Our entire team comes from an esports and gaming background. With over 40 years of combined industry experience, we are always looking ahead and studying trends. Valorant was one such example where we were confident it would end up being big in India. This is why after an initial event (the AMD Valorant Cup), we moved swiftly to establish an amazing recurring competitive platform for teams with the TEC Challenger Series.
Q. Hosting your first Valorant tournament must have been a tremendous challenge. Can you give us an insight into what it took to organise all the cogs of the machinery, from gaining the Riot Games Community Competition License to setting up your own online broadcasting?
Ishaan Arya: It’s no easy task to run a ‘proper’ esports event. From licenses to maintaining international broadcast and content standards, we pride ourselves in being capable of running top-tier events, and Valorant was no different. We’ve worked closely with Riot Games from day 1 and done everything by the book. We are proud of the swift and successful adoption of Valorant by our in-house team.
Q. The broadcast quality of your competition was, by all means, top-notch and incredibly professional. It’s not easy capturing the attention of the audience for long in this day and age but you have been able to do it quite successfully. Can you talk about some of the challenges you faced when it came to production and monitoring certain aspects of the tournaments like competitive integrity?
Ishaan Arya: Quality is of utmost importance to us at The Esports Club; we spend hundreds of man hours designing our broadcast assets in house. Valorant was an opportunity for us to set the standard when it came to Indian esports broadcast and we’re happy that the community has responded extremely well to our content and quality. At no point does our broadcast or format hurt competitive integrity, and we’re always looking out to ensure we create the best possible competitive platform for players and viewers alike.
Q. What is your take on the future of Valorant esports in India? How far do you see the game going? if we are to compare it to something like PUBG Mobile, how well will it hold out?
Ishaan Arya: Valorant is an extremely exciting space for us to be a part of. We feel we have an opportunity to help shape the future of Valorant esports in India like never before; to help it develop in a sustained manner that encourages the top tier as well as up and coming teams to ensure a thriving ecosystem with plenty of competition and opportunity.
PUBG Mobile was an interesting scenario where the stars aligned and things fell into place; I doubt we will see such a meteoric rise again anytime soon but Valorant is already winning hearts and minds across the gaming community in India, and I am confident it will play a major role in the Indian esports ecosystem.
Q. Let’s get into the CS: GO vs Valorant debate a bit. The Esports Club, as a tournament host, has catered to the needs of both CS: GO and Valorant, and you have recently even announced a Dell Pro League for the former. Which of the two titles do you feel is more popular in India (SouthAsia) at the moment?
Ishaan Arya: There is no doubt CS: GO has the higher player base in the country; there was a time not too long ago that CS: GO boasted 1.5 million active bi-weekly users from India alone. While Valorant has done phenomenally well, I don’t think it has reached that status just yet.
As an organiser, we realise that Valorant and CS: GO present two of the largest PC esports audiences in India and are looking to cater to both in a way that is best for each audience set. CS: GO, with a Long-Term TEC Pro League, and Valorant, with a recurring monthly TEC Challenger Series, which requires a little less long-term commitment from players given the game is still new and people are finding their feet.
Q. The western countries were not the only ones who saw the CS: GO-to-Valorant exodus in terms of both pros and players. India, too, was a witness to the likes of CS: GO professionals like Tejas “Rite2Ace” Sawant and Sabyasachi “Antidote” Bose quitting an already established career and seeking a new one. How do you feel about the future of the Indian CS: GO scene at this very moment?
Ishaan Arya: Historically CS: GO has had the largest audience set on PC, comparable only to DOTA 2, which has waned in recent years.
The exodus from CS: GO to Valorant is mainly due to a lack of recurring opportunities in CS: GO. We aim to change that by providing gamers that platform with the Dell Gaming TEC Pro League, which will give an opportunity to new players and teams to make a name for themselves over the next 5 months.
Parallelly, we also acknowledge the interest and excitement around Valorant and are catering to that player base to ensure that the game doesn’t face a situation where players don’t have enough top-tier opportunities to compete and earn; hence the LG Ultragear TEC Challenger Series.
Q. The services of The Esports Club have not been limited to PC Gaming alone. You have also catered to the needs of the mobile gamers, who by far make the majority of the gaming population in India. Is your investment in the two platforms the same or does one take more priority over the other?
Ishaan Arya: You cannot deny the impact or importance of the mobile gaming ecosystem in India. Esports in India is where it is today thanks to the massive investments and awareness that has come from PUBG Mobile.
However, our engagements in and around mobile esports have been limited as we wanted to focus on our strengths and cater to an audience that was largely ignored over the past couple of years as organisers pivoted to mobile esports.
Mobile games are definitely part of our plans. However, I cannot commit to a timeline as to when we will be able to take our formats, expertise and quality to the mobile esports ecosystem.
Q. The Valorant LG Ultragear Challenger series is well on its way. How successful has the competition been so far, especially when it comes to meeting some of the expectations you have of it?
Ishaan Arya: The first LG Ultragear TEC Challenger Series was a phenomenal success. Massive viewership, engagement and watch time throughout the tournament making it one of the most popular PC esports events in the country to date.
We see that trend continuing and growing, with series 2 currently underway, and are confident that our talented admin and production team can keep up the standards throughout the 5-month series!
Q. It’s no news that Velocity Gaming have been the most successful and dominant team in India at the moment. They have won every single Valorant competition that South Asia has thrown at them, and they were even ranked second in the vlr.gg Asia-Pacific charts. What are your thoughts on our super team?
Ishaan Arya: There is no denying that Velocity is enjoying their time at the top. However, we do see the likes of Global Esports and Noble Esports competing with them in the not-so-distant future.
Player and team development take time. Velocity were lucky enough to pick up a roster of established CS: GO professionals pivoting to Valorant; other teams will take time as they develop their rosters over the next few months.
Our entire format and prize pool breakdown is created to reward teams for constantly improving and getting a little further every time as they work to become champions of South Asia.
Q. A big part of the Valorant Indian community looks at Velocity Gaming’s dominance as a double-edged sword. Knowing who is already going to win, even before the competition starts, puts off many fans from even viewing the match. Do you feel this to be a worrying permanent trend that will affect not just The Esports Club’s tournaments viewership numbers but will also negatively impact the future of Valorant in India?
Ishaan Arya: In any sport or esport, there is always a favourite, especially in an under-developed region like India where too many teams do not have the time or resources at their disposal to put together or improve a squad.
We realised this long ago and adopted different tournament formats and prize pool distribution systems to ensure we are always rewarding as many teams as possible. There is merit in finishing in the top 16 or top 8 and coming back with more hunger the next time around.
While there is certainly a lot for the favourites and to-be champions to play for, we have structures in place to reward more teams and players to encourage them in their esports journeys. This is why we focus on creating tiered structures like the TEC Pro League or the TEC Challenger Series with its hybrid single-double elimination format and prize pool distribution.
Q. What are your plans for Valorant after the LG Ultragear series? Can we expect something big on the horizon?
Ishaan Arya: For now, our focus is to continue to provide the best competitive Valorant experience in the country for both players and viewers through our LG Ultragear TEC Challenger Series till the end of December. We do have some interesting plans after that but I cannot comment on those at this time.
Q. Is a partnership with Riot Asia on the cards? As their official broadcasting partners.
Ishaan Arya: We’ve worked closely with Riot’s support and blessing for our various Valorant and League of Legends events. The idea with the TEC Challenger Series was to help create a thriving ecosystem around Valorant from an early phase. I cannot comment on their behalf or any potential partnership.