With the eSports scene in the country beginning to crackle with action in recent years, the inception of various tournaments has proven to be a sight for sore eyes for indigenous enthusiasts. 2016, especially has been an amazing year as the eSports scenario in the country broke its shackles and came to the forefront.
But 2017 is probably going to be the year when eSports will get a big boost, courtesy the pioneer of cable TV, TV, Bollywood films, sports and gaming in India: Ronnie Screwvala. Screwvala, whose daughter got married last week, has announced the launch of UCypher – a Rs 100 crore eSports tournament under the umbrella of his sports firm “USports”. It will be the first time the country would be witnessing an eSports event of such a large magnitude.
AnimationXpress spoke to USports, CEO, Supratik Sen to get more insights about the upcoming championship.
Why the sudden shift to eSports?
We did a research of close to three years and the past two years being pretty much focused on the games we are choosing, selecting and picking out players, talking to them, analysing the situation. The country’s bandwidth connectivity has gone through a paradigm shift in the past five years, the last two years being spectacular with the ping speed improving. The games are becoming far more effective for the Indian eSports athletes. All of this has given us faith enough that this is the right time to go about it and Ronnie Screwvala (CEO and co-founder of UTV), went by the fact that it is an opportune time in terms of the media and broadcast and so we inclusively decided, this should be done.
Yes, we also feel that it is a first of a kind combined multi-game, multi layered kind of a project, which we believe has to go through a certain kind of learning and only after that will we really decide the next step to it. So, I think the first couple of seasons are going to be about that.
Is the Indian ecosystem ready to accept such a big tournament?
The acceptance already to a great extent exists. To give a classic example, we know that there have been close to 20 million downloads of Counter Strike in the country according to the past 16 years of data from the organisation that actually distributes it and the numbers were even higher.
I’ve been in hostel and it is pretty safe to say that most people there are playing these two games if not more, on PCs. So, the numbers we feel are spectacularly large, even in terms of teams that have existed.
What would be the format of the championship?
So, for us the format is concerned what we feel is to track down teams from the 2,000 to the 100 to the final top 10 and we are talking to each individual athlete. However, moving forward it will be a CMS (Content Management System) kind of system, where you log on and come on to the leader board and from the ranking you’ll be picked.
Season 2 onwards, UCypher will have a platform where players would be able to log on and play and earn ratings for themselves and only the top ones will be drafted in.
What will be the games that would be played?
Counter Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 are definitely going to be there. The console and the mobile games are yet in the screening process. It will depend on how entertaining the games are, and that is what we will decide. It will be slightly more fluidic in those as they change every five to six months, with the new ones coming in. We have to see what is engaging and what is entertaining in terms of TV, as it is going to be a TV sport as much as a digital.
How are the players being chosen? Geographically?
It will be a national region tournament. However, once the CMS (Read: Leaderboard) comes in, we’ll try to go global as we have got interests for Korea, Japan, certain parts of Europe and the USA, as of now.
Which channel would it broadcast on?
We are going to shoot in March, and May is when we will have the broadcast. We are talking to the top two youth channels; we will select one of them and then it will be on multiple digital platforms as well.
How is UCypher different from other such championships?
Firstly, it will be on TV, and it is a complete tournament in itself as we are exploring multiple platforms and not just one. It would be interesting to see how team dynamics play out when there are few disciplines of eSports. There will be game winners, team winners, individual winners…because finally team sport is about that. It is multi-faceted and multi-layered.
How much is being invested in the event and what would be the prize pool?
The prize pool is something we would decide as we move along. Dynamic packaging investment would be somewhere around Rs 80 to 100 crore as we see it. In the next 24 or 26 months, that’s the kind of range we would go to.
Would the event have any online sections?
No, it will be all throughout physical. The selection would be done prior to the beginning of the championship, after that it would be league format of multiple games amongst each other.
How many seasons would be there each year?
It might be three seasons in 2017 but they will be like the test seasons, but after it, two seasons a year is how we see it.
How many days would a season last?
Right now 30 to 45 days, moving forward it would be 60 days.
How many teams would be there per season?
Right now there would be six teams competing against each other, with each team having a CS:GO, Dota 2, mobile and console team, then it will go up to 10 teams from season 2 onwards.
Where would the tournament be taking place?
Mumbai. That’s the plan till now. It is more convenient on the shooting and broadcast front.
Any shoutouts during the tournament?
It is the new age. It will be the rise of a new superstar and ‘UCypher’ will actually allow that as a platform and we are hopeful of the fact that eSports athletes haven’t found a platform good enough and worthy enough and this should be one of them that allows them to go global. It needs to be done at a certain level which is what we aspire to bring and the DNA that we have from broadcasting sports should do justice to it.
The format of the championship is indeed quite unique in itself and something which has not been explored in the country. USports, CEO, Supratik Sen did not rule out the inclusion of other popular titles like ‘League of Legends’ and ‘Overwatch’ to the PC gaming section in the future and not right now. It would be interesting to see which games are going to make it through to the kitty of console and mobile games. ‘FIFA’ and ‘Tekken’ are good contenders for the spot while ‘Clash Royale’ might be the one for mobile.
Various professional teams have already been approached by the organisation as the manager of Entity eSports, one of India’s major ‘Dota 2’ squads told AnimationXpress that they had already received an email about the tournament, however no other details were revealed.
We will have to wait and watch to see what’s next in line for UCypher.