The Fate of Indian Valorant Rides on Global Esports’ Shoulders at the APAC LCQ 2021
Is there a way to help ease their burden?
On 29th August 2021, Global Esports (GE) beat Velocity Gaming (VLT) in the grand finals of the Valorant Conquerors Championship (VCC). It was a nail biter with GE clinching the series 3-2 after winning the decider game on Ascent. The team has now secured a slot at the APAC Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) and with it, the responsibility of representing Indian PC esports at the world stage.
Over the years, Indian esports has had (and spectacularly blown) its fair share of opportunities on the international stage. But the stakes have never been this large. Hype for PC esports in India is at an all-time high, with the VCC grand finals clocking an impressive according to Esports Charts. Yet when it comes to Valorant, India vs international bouts have been few and far apart. The LCQ will be the first real test of India’s capabilities in the game when pitted against some of the best in Asia. And therein lies the burden of performance on Global Esports.
Nobody wants to watch trash tier esports teams competing in local tournaments
Dear reader. Before you jump the gun, I’m not insinuating that Indian Valorant teams are trash. But this is a perception that could easily be formed depending on GE’s performance at the LCQ. As someone that has seen first hand the rise and fall of Dota 2 and CS:GO in the country, I can assure you that GE’s current shot at international glory isn’t a first for Indian esports. Teams like Beyond Infinity, Signify, Elunes, Team Wolf, Entity Gaming and many more populate the graveyard of those that have fallen at the hands of global competitors since as far back as 2013.
When this happens repeatedly, esports fans quickly lose interest after realizing that there are higher quality matches that are easily accessible and viewable for free on the internet! Over time, watching international tournaments and rooting for international teams becomes a more valuable use of fans' time than watching (relatively) lower tier teams slugging it out in local tournaments.
Let’s face it, esports is and always has been a global phenomenon. Outside of South Asia, teams are often composed of players from multiple nationalities. In the larger esports landscape, the concept of supporting a team just because it hails from a particular country holds little significance. As esports fans, we’re looking for the sickest highlights, the highest quality of gameplay, the most entertaining storylines, and jaw dropping in-game moments that the world of Valorant can offer.
Given the VCC Qualifier#1 finals viewership data which skews towards Hindi language broadcasts, it’s an open secret that the Indian esports fan prefers to consume Valorant in local languages.
This might lead one to believe that there is inherent interest for Indian Valorant esports. Yet, if Indian Valorant teams were to consistently underperform on the world stage (much like their Dota 2 and CS:GO predecessors) we could witness history repeating itself. It’s entirely possible that in the long run, Hindi language broadcasts of international tournaments will outperform those featuring exclusively Indian teams in terms of viewership.
The point I’m trying to make is that if Global Esports gets smashed at the APAC LCQ, it’s possible that fans will start believing that Indian Valorant teams are trash and not worth watching – especially when there are international tournaments of higher quality available to watch online. And this is why it’s important to ensure that GE has the opportunity to compete at the LCQ under equal conditions – a task made harder due to the online format courtesy the pandemic.
The problem – high ping at the Valorant APAC LCQ
From 13th to 17th October 2021, ten teams from Southeast Asia, South Asia, China, Korea and Japan will compete in a double elimination bracket at the APAC Last Chance Qualifier. The winner of this tournament will earn its slot at the Valorant Champions 2021 (slated for December) where they will compete against 15 of the best teams in the world such as Sentinels, Gambit Esports, Fnatic and Team Envy.
Riot Games has confirmed that the APAC LCQ will be an online event which leaves some ambiguity about which server the tournament will be played on. Infact, after the . Assuming that most (if not all) matches will be played on the SEA servers, this would inherently give SEA based teams such as Paper Rex, Boom Esports and Full Sense a latency advantage. The problem may have been further compounded due to the following two steps that Riot Games has implemented:
To create the ten team bracket, the top seeded teams from SEA, China, Korea and Japan will be seeded directly into the second round.
SEA teams cannot be matched against each other in the initial rounds.
When asked about GE’s usual latency when competing on the Singapore servers, the org’s chief operating officer Rahul Hinduja confirmed that it ranges from 40ms to 70ms. He added that ping issues is something that gamers from across the globe have had to deal with for years.
“We’re all still waiting for the day when everyone across the globe will be able to compete in a 0-ping environment but that’s just the ultimate gamers dream.Until that becomes a reality our international players play anywhere between 60 to 150ms ping depending on their location and the tournament servers. We’ve even had players compete in as high ping as 180 ms and can certifiably say that it’s not a fun experience.”Rahul Hinduja, COO, Global Esports
It’s easy to see why the scales would be tipped against Global Esports should they have opted to compete from India.
The solution – send Global Esports to SEA
Seems like a no brainer, right? Send the entire Global Esports squad to an SEA country like Singapore, ideally for a week prior to the APAC LCQ where they could bootcamp and then compete without a latency disadvantage. This is easier said than done for a couple of reasons:
Singapore (among other convenient Southeast Asian countries) is currently not accepting Indian passport holders due to COVID restrictions. Global Esports has chosen to send its players to Thailand to compete in the tournament, however this comes with its own set of problems. Thailand is reported to reopen for Indian travelers under a , however reports have claiming that the country has pushed back its plans of reopening major cities like Bangkok to November.
The Valorant APAC LCQ begins on 13th October, 2021. Assuming a week’s worth of bootcamp, the team would need to reach its destination by approximately the 6th. Navigating issues around vaccinations, visas, accommodation, gaming facilities etc. is a lot harder in the pandemic. GE is cutting it really close.
All of this costs a lot of money! By our estimates, the cost of flights, ten days of lodging, daily allowances and bootcamp expenses for just five players and a manager in Thailand could cost anywhere between $20,000 to $25,000 USD (~INR 15 to 20 lakhs)**.
Global Esports’ founder Rushindra Sinha recently announced that they will be offering 1,000 units of limited edition Global Esports merchandise.
Brands are notorious for offering barter deals which unfortunately won’t help cover the cost of competing from abroad. The proceeds from this merch drop which will be used to send the team to compete in the APAC LCQ from Thailand. A conservative estimate puts the cost of the team’s Thailand odyssey at $20K (INR 14.4 lakhs). Assuming a (generous) profit margin of 40% per unit of merchandise, the team will need to find 1,000 buyers at a price point of $50 (INR 3,600).
The team received $16.5K (INR 11.9 lakhs) for winning the Valorant Conqueror’s Championship. We asked Rahul Hinduja (GE’s COO) what the prize pool split looks like between GE and its players.
“While we can’t get into the exact specifics of the contract, the usual industry standard prize split is anywhere between 10-40%. This depends on the region and the tier of events the players are participating in. We are well within that range so it’s not too hard to guess”Rahul Hinduja, COO, Global Esports
Let’s make another generous assumption here and say that GE keeps 60% of the Valorant team's prize winnings for itself. Additionally, let’s also assume that these funds (which will probably be received at a later date) will be used to subsidize the costs of the trip. That’s about $9.9K (INR 7.1 lakhs) less that the team needs to earn from its merch drop.
Finding 1,000 buyers at a price point of around ~$17 (INR 1.2K) doesn’t sound unreasonable at all. However…
Should GE be paying the bill for its Valorant APAC LCQ 2021 bootcamp at all?
$20K is a sizable amount of money and Global Esports is a start-up that is unlikely to be able to bear this expense out of its own pockets. Prize money details haven’t been revealed for the APAC LCQ making it hard to estimate whether or not a top placement at the tournament would help further subsidize this cost.
“The fact that teams have to always look for funds in order to represent themselves at the highest levels, I think that’s been a long-standing problem for India. We seem to have funds for a lot of other things but when it comes to supporting the growth of esports at the highest levels, the support diminishes and it’s really sad to see. I’m glad to see Global Esports trying their best to make this happen. There is also a larger debate to be had about who should bear this burden but it’s just sad that we are seemingly always short of funds when there’s an opportunity for our teams to represent India.”Nimish Raut, Head of Global Partnerships, NODWIN Gaming
So, who then could possibly foot the bill to give Global Esports a chance to compete on equal footing? Should Riot Games be responsible for ensuring competitive integrity given the online format of the tournament? Or should it be NODWIN Gaming* - the organizers of the VCC from where Global Esports earned its slot? A case could also be made for the organizer (if any) in charge of the APAC LCQ to absolve Riot / NODWIN Gaming / GE of this responsibility.
But equally justified would be an argument that Global Esports needs to find a way to foot the bill itself – either via brands, fans, its own balance sheet, or a combination thereof. And that’s where you, dear reader, come in once again. Now that Global Esports has been put in a place where they need to bear this burden themselves, it’s time for their fans to consider coughing up some money to buy the merchandise when it drops. Whether it's priced at INR 1.2K ($17), INR 3.6K ($50), or even higher. Else I fear that yet another chance for India to achieve international esports acclaim, and by extension the solidification of South Asian PC esports viewership, may be squandered courtesy the bane of every gamer – shitty internet.
*Disclosure: NODWIN Gaming is a client of and a minority investor in AFK Gaming.
**USD 1 = INR 72