Having attended over 5 LANs under the ESL India Premiership tag, there was really nothing that I was expecting to surprise me at the Summer Season Finale of the 2019 season. In fact, it was the 3rd Summer Season finale I was attending, with the previous 2 also having taken place at the same location. The seasonal LAN finales have become a staple in the Indian esports calendar but how will they rank against the other events that took place earlier this year? Let’s take a look:
Like we have done for our previous events, the scores are all decided by a team of people rather than an individual and each parameter has sub-parameters which are scored by different individuals from AFK Gaming who attended the LAN. Since few of our colleagues were directly involved with the event as talent and content providers, we have not included their inputs as part of the scoring process.
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AFK Reviews: ESL One Mumbai tops the list as India's best esports tournament till date
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The ESL India team has improved by leaps and bounds in terms of quality of production and having attended the very first LAN, ESL Challenger 1 in Pune in 2016, this growth has been quite apparent to me. Many issues like long delays, poor internet connections and player setup times have all been worked upon and the end result is a more or less seamless event. If you were in attendance at the venue, then the biggest complaint would be the jarringly low fps screen on which Dota was shown on Day 1. The problem was rectified on Day 2 when CS:GO was aired.
But if you were watching on the stream, be it the LAN finals or sometime in the online phase, then you’ve been on the receiving end of some truly poor quality streams. The choice of streaming platform - Hotstar is one that ESL India have already taken flak for as it is less than ideal for an esports event. Without the chat feature, it's hard to keep viewers engaged, especially considering that this isn’t the highest quality of gameplay or casting available to them. Additionally, the quality of the stream is quite poor with low fps, lag and low discoverability on the website itself.
This time around, both the quality and quantity of non-gameplay content seemed to be increased which indeed is a positive and while the talent for Dota has largely remained unchanged over the seasons, we got to hear some new voices for CS:GO. While its good to see up and coming talent make their way to LAN, it would be disingenuous of me to say that they have the same qualities that someone like Bleh brought to the table in earlier seasons. However, the CS production for the LAN attendees was superb with some very unique elements and features.
Normally we do review social media handles and use it as a criterion for rating an event, at this time AFK Gaming are currently in a partnership with ESL India and are managing their social media channels. Given the potential conflict of interest that could affect our perceived objectivity about the same, we have refrained from rating the ESL India Premiership's Social Media activities and have omitted this parameter from the overall event rating as well.
Barring the games themselves, there were a decent number of activities and side attractions to enjoy. A couple of sponsor booths did have some quite engaging events, while on the stage itself, there were giveaways and stand up comedy. The HyperX flash sale is also a big attraction at the Premiership LANs and always draws a sizeable crowd. Since it was a small-medium sized LAN, access to players and talent wasn’t really difficult as everyone was in and around the stage itself.
Since it's the 3rd Premiership event at Phoenix MarketCity Kurla, the setting was quite familiar. The LAN setup was decent and had some new and interesting features in terms of production especially for CSGO. Since it’s in the middle of a mall, the food and beverage options are abundant too. Additionally its a free to attend event, which means that there tends to be a large casual crowd of walk-ins.
Unfortunately, the area itself (Kurla) is one that isn’t necessarily the most accessible especially during monsoons, which means that the turnout can often be lower than other Premiership events. The rains also affected audio quality and it was quite annoying to follow the casters especially when the weather turned bad. Also, the main viewing screen was a bit smaller than previous years which did negatively affect the viewing experience.
Being an ESL event, there is little to complain about in terms of integrity. Checks and balances have also been increased since the forsaken incident. However, despite an extensive online phase, the fact that teams are eliminated on the back of a single bo3 result does seem to sting. Format has definitely been an issue of contention for the Premiership but with limited days of LAN play, there are definitely limitations on the TOs themselves.
The LAN itself will always be remembered as the one where Signify Dota’s unbeaten streak was broken while Signify CS:GO picked up their first and last LAN trophy. There really isn’t much to write home about other than these 2 storylines and not much stands out otherwise. It really was just another edition of the Premiership and while each season has been an improvement in terms of execution and production, the footfall is still disappointing. And while we have seen people pouring in for international Dota, at ESL One Mumbai, it seems as if there are few who want to invest time and effort to watch Indian teams duke it out. The Mumbai monsoons are certainly a contributing factor for the low footfall but it’s still disappointing to see nonetheless.
Disclosure: The ESL India Premiership is organized by NODWIN Gaming who is a client of and a minority investor in AFK Gaming.