Developing esports in countries that don’t currently have a strong infrastructure can be a challenge, and the battle to bring Indian esports to a wider audience has been going on for some time. Sadly, though, the balance of power and different levels of attention mean that it is often a case of one step forward, two steps back for companies looking to work out there, and we’ve seen that again with ESL One Mumbai after NIP, Alliance, Gambit, J.Storm and Chaos withdrew from the event.
This means we have a new format for the event in India, with a revised group stage and North American org Team Team filling in. This is not the first time a Valve event has clashed with a Dota tournament, and frankly should not be happening given the overview Gabe and co. claim to have over the competitive scene.
Due to the fact that it ‘clashes’ with the Dota Pit Minor in Croatia (the events do not overlap, but take place one day after the other, meaning travel would be impossible), a number of decently big teams have pulled out of ESL One Mumbai, an event that looked like one of the best to be held in India in recent times. NiP, The Alliance and Gambit will all be heading to Europe instead, needing as they do to secure a place at the forthcoming Major, for which they are yet to qualify.
The withdrawals remove the majority of the star power from the event and the absence of big names such as PPD and Fear could also be an issue for viewing figures. Admittedly, neither of those players are in their prime, but even so they are draws, and the absence of the five teams we’ve lost does leave the event looking distinctly light on name brand value.
Of the teams left in India, there is likely to be healthy competition between Keen, Na’Vi, Mineski and a couple more, but this is typical of the way Indian esports has gone. Even last year, when OpTic Gaming decided to invest in Indian CSGO, the scene quickly had to backtrack on the celebrations when the star man Forsaken was revealed to be cheating at LAN events.
With any luck ESL Mumbai can rise above these withdrawals and put on a great show, but the expansion of esports into new territories also requires the likes of NiP and Valve themselves to do better planning their schedules, so fans can rely on their word in future. As long as these events are built up just to then be treated like they don’t matter when something better comes along though, it will be hard to get Indian fans to care about esports, and rightly so, when esports doesn’t care about them.
Image: NSCI Mumbai