Game On!

The professional gaming industry is on a high these days. Before you jump to the conclusion that this is another run of the mill article dealing with cricket and and its paraphernalia, have a little faith. The gaming industry being referred here is the cyber gaming industry.

‘Cyber Gaming Industry’, you ask? Well, this is basically the conglomeration of companies, teams and individuals who has realized the potential of virtual gaming as a lucrative market.  Computers, Internet, consoles and even our cell phones tap into this ever expanding abyss of potential. Ever since Atari built the very first video game, consumers have been hooked. The target audience has varied from children to die-hard adults. However, with the onset of computers and the internet, this niche has expanded to leviathan proportions.

Till about a decade ago, the scenario was quite different. The virtual gaming industry was of pure entertainment value to the consumer. The various companies like Atari, Nintendo and our very own Media, made profit by selling hardware to the consumers which could install a variety of games made by them or some third party developers. Later on with the onset of XBOX from Microsoft, the Playstation from Sony or even the personal computer, the battle went to the next level. Cartridges for both television as well as hand held devices, memory cards as well as CD Roms were the gamers ammunition. However, the overall investment by the consumer reaped benefits in the form of entertainment only. The gainers in this arrangement were the hardware manufacturers, in this case the PC and console vendors, or the software manufacturers, the game developers.

All this changed with the advent of the game ‘Half Life’ by Valve Software. Although immensely popular, its modified version, called ‘Counter Strike’ spawned one of the first successful co-operative gameplay via the internet or LAN. The astounding success of the game, which involved multiple players to cooperatively play against each other, gave rise to a new era in gaming. Circa 2000, the professional gamer was born.

The professional gamer brought something new to the table. Not only did he or she buy consoles and gaming titles, like their predecessors, they also played to benefit financially. The rise of LAN gaming encouraged professional get-togethers that usually ended up rewarding the best team or individual with cash or kind prizes. So now, gaming became not just an entertainment but a way to earn some ‘moolah’.

Following this trend, the industry saw the formation of gaming councils and regular gaming leagues. The noticeable ones were and still are the CPL(Cyber Pro Athletic League), the WCG (The World Cyber Games) and the ESWC (the Electronic Sports World Cup). These tournaments featured more and more new games and encouraged an entry fee. Games were either single player oriented or consisted of team based efforts. The bottom line was, ‘play against the best in the world and win!’.

Due to the largesse shown for the prize money, team selection, player equipment as well as advertising became the new watchwords.

International teams like SK Gaming (Sweden) and Team 3D (USA) ushered the concept of team managers, contracts as well as sponsorship deals into the tournaments. Like the English Premier League, there were sponsors vying for teams, transfers of players between teams and contracts being drawn up for team members.

Suddenly, being a gamer was paying off and still is.

Looking at the gaming scene from a purely Indian perspective, we still are in the infancy stage in comparison to the States or Europe.

Professional cyber gaming is still not a mass phenomenon and is reserved for a select few. With the ushering of Reliance Cyber Cafes and various other gaming parlours, the industry is still strugging to get to its feet. The lack of awareness, good sponsors and closed mindset is hampering the prospective growth of an industry which is already booming abroad. The South of India has a better reception with Pune, Mumbai and Chennai being quite gaming popular. The North, with Delhi, Jaipur and Chandigarh are slowly catching up.

However, on a concluding note, the Reliance Infocomm owned Zapak.com and similar such sites have enticed the casual internet surfer to take some time off and play on line. The growing cell phone market is also educating the market on the issue of gaming and its financial benefits. I’m sure those days are not far behind when we can proudly host the Indian ESWC.

– Prateek Swaroop (Batch 2009-11)

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