U Sports is all set to launch the country’s first ever multi-platform, multi-game e-sports championship, which will premiere on January 19on MTV. It will be shown every day from 10 pm to 11 pm and culminate on February 23.
The championship will also make digital debut on January 19 and will be available on platforms such as Twitch, YouTube, YouTube Gaming, Voot and their own platform USports.in. While viewers can see an hour long edited version of the tournaments on MTV, the digital platforms will air the complete tournaments for avid fans of gaming who do not want to miss any details.
U Sports is investing Rs 25 crore in the first season of U Cypher. The company is looking at having two seasons of the championship in a year and if everything goes according to plan, the investment will go up to Rs 50 crore this year (Rs 25 croreper season).
“This year we are investing between Rs 25-50 crore and this money covers the entire auditioning of the games, creating the infrastructure, the prize money, getting the players from around the world, keeping them in captive environment and the production cost,” said Ronnie Screwvala, Founder, U Sports.
According to Screwvala, there are 20 million hardcore gamers in the country and another 20-30 million who are on the periphery or are casual gamers. And while the championship is targeted at these two groups, U Sports is also hoping that it will create enough interest among the 40-50 million people in the country who are ‘fence sitters’.
“These are people who have played a game once or play games as a way to pass time or have played some of the simplest games on mobile but now want to move and get more active. We are trying to reel these people in as well and build a universe of 100 million game players in India,” explained Screwvala.
Speaking about sponsorship for the championship, Screwvala said that they had learned from their Pro Kabaddi experience (Screwvala is the owner of the team U Mumbai) and have therefore not brought any sponsors on board for this season.
“We learnt our lessons in Kabaddi where we did not sell any advertising during the first season and that stood us in good stead because when you sell the first time, it is a new spot and you get no negotiations. Since this is such a brand-new tournament and we don’t have any reference point, we have decided to go without any specific sponsors for this first season only,” said Screwvala.
The first season of U Cypher will have six teams, with 14 members in each team. Each episode will have two teams face off across titles like DOTA 2 and CS: GO on PC, Real Cricket 2017 on mobile and Tekken 7 on PS4. The prize pool is Rs 51 lakh.
The international gaming market is estimated to be over $500 million and active e-sports users in India have grown five-fold from 3,00,000 per month in 2014 to 1.5 million in 2017.