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The lulz that it was- The Lenovo India Gaming Week

Lenovo launched its new gaming notebook with few variants a few days ago. It came with an updated hardware based on Intel Skylake CPUs and Nvidia GTX 960M graphics. Those who followed the launch news know about it already. What I didn’t bother to notice is that it was a week-long gaming tournament- Lenovo India Gaming Week. Cash prizes were involved and done by an organizer I never heard of.

For the purpose of this post, remember this sentence: If shit hits the fan- run away, man!

i million prize pool

One of the earlier pictures with the word ‘1 million’ changed to ’10 lakhs’, but same denomination.

The Lenovo India Gaming Week was done by an organizer that I never heard of. Although this is a generalized statement, there are very handful of proper tournament organizers in India. Either they don’t earn enough to support themselves because they offer their services for a very low cost- or will rip the brands off, promising the stars and what not, but they do end up putting up a good show most of the time and gamers get what they need- the prizes. Some are shady, who decided to organize tournaments, thinking that they can take companies for a ride and get to keep some things for themselves. We caught one of these types simply by looking up photos. I noticed a lot of these over the years whenever a tournament is done. Same shit, different organizers.

There are also those inexperienced who can do a good job, but they have to walk through ‘the pit of fire and bullshit’.

Not all of them are bad, but credit goes to the individuals who are in this line of work. Some brands are good in a way that they know what type of promotions are mutually beneficial, and now how to interact with gamers and what kind of people buy their products.

They also know how to see bullshit from a mile away. But they also know a good opportunity when they see one.

Most, however, don’t know what they’re doing or what should they be doing, apart from throwing in cash which what attracts scammers at some point. Some brands don’t know how and where to start, but they do ask. Their fate is determined by whom they take the advice from.

Some brands take the organizers and gamers for a ride by not provide the winnings as promised- but their country head does have a big heart to take one over-hyped gamer/quack for a dinner and a treat for honey noodles with vanilla ice cream in a particular Chinese restaurant chain in Kolkata- and posted an update in Facebook for the organizer to see.

Ouch!

How do you identify who is who? If anyone uses the “promoting e-sports in India” cliché more than they should, it’s a sign that you as a sponsor and/or a gamer should exercise caution. The name of this country or the cities in it are also loosely used in such suspicious events. India Gaming Carnival is one of the biggest scams I have seen unfolding. This was a tournament that had Ben Varghese as a brand ambassador,  and also awarded by Lenovo India during the Indian Gaming week  as a first true e-sports Hero at the Awards Ceremony. It’s sad in a way because Ben Varghese was a part of a CS clan ‘ATE Gaming’, but only an individual is applauded, further promoted by brands who are not really familiar with the scene. Furthermore, there were more people back then- Reuben Periera, Arun Ravi and a lot more. Then there was an old Counter-Strike clan called ACID (Accelerated Caustic Intensity Defined) whose names were Karan Kapur, Lalit Nangia, Deepak Nangia, Rahul Rohira and Jenil Patel. This was back in 2003. We have a very rich legacy of gamers in the past.

Which is exactly why Indian gaming community now is nothing more than a competition of self-proclamation and who does more PR. It’s like the most useless of tech bloggers in India having a title ‘India’s best Tech site’ and all that similarly sounding bullshit. In fact, sponsored gamers can learn a lot from Indian tech bloggers because they’re heading the same way- down the drain.

At one point, even an organizer was caught putting up lies one after the other and the sponsor’s product manager kept on defending until they couldn’t. They not only played in their own events, pose with a hardware and having a set of matches being played somewhere else without sponsors knowledge.They even lied that gamers & sponsors are happy about it. Till date, nobody knows the fate of those motherboards.

Don’t misunderstand or play with words no matter who you are. At the end of the day, its a business. Usually in the lines of marketing to promote sales. Gamers attend for money. Organizers take care of tournaments for money. Sponsors do it for a niche level promotion to gain attention- and eventually sales which brings in the money. It’s only the casual ones that come and play for fun on a demo system in a mall or in an expo. Note that sponsored teams get monthly salaries and products, even in India. A team said showed interest in the most colourful way possible during an interview by JAGS. Nobody cares as long as the money flows in, even if it’s a brand with questionable quality/value for money. And that’s sad because passion is pretty much dead except with people who play more updated games that are usually graphic intensive, the actual people who buy newer hardware.

There’s nothing wrong with money flowing in. Money is good. Money pays for the bills, traveling expenses, equipment, food and all that. But doing it with a wrong intention always does more harm than good.

Those who went out of their way to get things done are the ones who really promoted e-sports in India. Unfortunately, is a MUCH smaller number than some people would like everyone to know (either that, or one is in denial). Eventually, they reach to a point where they end up joining a particular brand. While it’s a good decision on a personal note, but as an ecosystem it shows that the situation is crippling. Nothing new. People have been saying that pro gaming/e-sports will grow big ever since Quake 3 arena days back in the 90s.

A couple of teams highlighted a lot of inconsistencies done by the event organizer. The inconsistencies were typical of what shady organizers are known for- vague information, improper match schedules, allegedly fixing matchups, etc. It was concerning. For those who want to understand what really happened can read the following screenshot. There’s also a Reddit post made by a manager of a team ‘Neck Break’ Sid Joshi, whose is usually known to be either of the top two winners in Indian based tournaments that I’ve noticed so far (you’ll know why I’ve pointed this out once you read more of this).

derailed gaming

But it was more concerning when Lenovo practically raised its hands when it should have shown ownership to effectively solve the issue. This response to this entire circus is as follows:

“Lenovo, in an attempt to promote E-sports in India partnered with the organizers of the India Gaming Week 2015. The objective was twofold, to promote gaming and also to create awareness for Lenovo’s gaming products. We as Lenovo, just sponsored the program and played no part in the event’s organization. Lenovo has no role in its execution (format, terms & conditions or selection of winners) and people named in discussion threads are not Lenovo employees.

We remain steadfast in our support of e-sports in the country and we shall endeavor to provide gamers with better brand experience in the future.”

‘Promoting e-sports in India’ is the most abused cliches since the 90s. Back then, ‘pro gaming’ was the word. The only difference is that at that time, gaming was more versatile because it involved 1 vs 1 gaming tournaments in racing and first person shooting genre along with team-based gameplay like Counter-Strike and The Frozen Throne. Even sports based games like FIFA. Gamers still had to put up with sillies back then, but it was a lot better than what happens now, a community that doesn’t to look beyond MOBA titles and CS: GO in India. This is because World Cyber Games and ESWC national qualifiers used these games- and eventually picked up by SKOAR and tech tree. In fact, Halo: Combat Evolved was done with Reliance web world and televised in Ten Sports. Eventually, Microsoft Games’ RTS titles got the same treatment. It brought versatility. It brought people with different skill sets with different games. Those were the perfect times because it reflected the versatile ability of a gaming PC. It was a perfect foundation, but it started to break apart eventually.

Whenever the newer variants of these games came out, it required a specific hardware to perform. But that’s when PC gamers got more involved with their system, learned how to optimize and even overclock. Back then, PC gamers who attend tournaments and PC enthusiasts was almost the same thing. There were people who said things they didn’t know- but that had a charm in its own way. We all hate to love noobs.

Now, it’s not really the same. The number of people who buy an updated hardware just to play a single game such as DOTA2 or CS: GO is significantly smaller than it is. Some of the top tier brands even in India don’t bother to sponsor events or gamers because while they are large in numbers, the buyers aren’t just as big. They learned this the hard way. Some were wise to learn from them. Some…well…

Anyone will say that this isn’t the way the situation should have been handled, gamers or non-gamers. I sent a set of questions via their PR which didn’t get answered and doesn’t look good at all. Anyone with the real intention of promoting e-sports in India wouldn’t just run away. They would take ownership of the problem and get matters settled as much as possible for that time.

The event is in your name. Your brand name is involved. People played on your systems. You gave your money to the organizers for the tournament in the hopes that it will be done to provide the best experience and make your brand look good. People trusted the brand name despite the inconsistencies of information about the tournament. You can’t just say you’re supporting the e-sports community and then raise your hands because the organizer you hired made epic screw ups one after the other.

I hope Lenovo India didn’t give the combined prize amount of Rs. 10 lakhs/1 Million to the organizers, and I hope the prize distribution is honoured exactly the way it was originally promised.

But what is the original promise???

The actual prize distribution that contradicted earlier statements. This was what the gamers said:

Until the event ended nobody really knew for sure how much the actual prize pool split between the 3 games was because the organizers never bothered to announce it. That being said, everyone believed it was 100k, 50k and 10k each for 3rd and 4th.

It wasn’t clear from the beginning. Only the total prize pool per games was shown:

According to Derailed Gaming, there was a third prize slot. But the entire prize distribution didn’t add up to Rs. 2,50,000 at all.

Information from Derailed Gaming:

The real show was yet to start, when they actually informed teams of the prizes, which had some catches and was way off the mark of a million rupee marketing gimmick. Edit : Forgot to add that the 3rd place prize turned out to be 10k, while 2nd place was very disappointingly just 25k (believed to be 50k by most). Not very sure on the scene with the 1st place prize, but it seems to be a 50k one time payment (instead of 100k), or 100k spread over a few months.

Information from NeckBreak:

  • The great Indian prize pool drama. Until the event ended nobody really knew for sure how much the actual prize pool split between the 3 games was because the organizers never bothered to announce it. That being said, everyone believed it was 100k,50k and 10k each for 3rd and 4th.

Turns out there is a big catch for the first place prize. Basically they gave the winners 2 options:

  • Take 50k now and be done with it.
  • Sign a contract with their company and get that 1 lakh split over a course of 12 months which is about 2k per player per month. It does not end here though. If he choose this option then he gets to be in some mentorship program where he will have to attend various seminars and might have to travel to other cities bearing the cost of travel HIMSELF. Apparently this program will help these players become better players over a course of 12 months. Bear in mind this program was designed by the guy who went on record to say ‘At some point in time you guys are going to have to realize that you will earn more money making games and not playing them’.

So you either let go off half your prize money (Which might go into someone’s pockets? Im not sure) OR you drag it for 12 months and do everything Lenovo India tells you to do.

Probably not going to get my 3rd place prize money for posting this but oh well. People needed to know about this shitfest.”

Based on the information posted by Derailed Gaming, the total was Rs. 80,000. Everybody knows nobody in their right mind will bother signing up for Rs. 1 lakh split for 12 months and going wherever someone tells you to go at their own expense. Remember, games like League of Legends, DOTA 2 and Counter-Strike is a team of 5 players. The organizers of India Gaming Week tried to clarify with the usual pseudo damage control PR script. They went SO far that they said the following to justify the ‘clause’:

The mentorship program focuses on bringing value to the individual players and not making them spend any money. Teams in India break up extremely frequently. This does not allow a consistent development program to be hinged to a team and hence the individual focus on developing the player. This is done with guidance and exposure to Team mentors based in the United States through Skype calls and in-venue sessions, Neurologists based in India and Sports Scientists experienced in bringing out the best performance possible from each individual. There is no obligation or contract of any sort expected to be signed by any of the winning participants. This is an integral part of the prize that they have won.

I kid you not- Those sentences reminded of the training montage between Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago:

Yes. Indian gamers can be strange. Many of them have these issues: Lack of discipline. An Abundant amount of bullshittery. Thinking that wearing a company logo on the t-shirts makes others go and buy hardware. Losing in the international qualifiers practically everytime I bothered to check. But that’s not what the poster said the prize will be, and it didn’t total up to Rs. 1 lakh- let alone Rs. 2,50,000.

It simply reflects that Lenovo sponsored the tournament, arranged the notebooks and also sent press releases. I am not saying that Lenovo should have micro-managed everything. But they should have checked up on organizers credibility and certain key factors such as the cash prize distribution and the match schedules. This shouldn’t take much effort at all. Furthermore, it’s just strange and sad that they passed the buck when the same organizer screwed it up at their expense.

This isn’t the first time where organizers take companies for a ride. Companies don’t care much unless somebody makes a noise. Why? Report making exercise. Click pictures of people making jokes about the tournament at some point, gather a crowd and take another photo. And then the usual poses with certificates, cheque boards. It’s a show that looks good on a report, but the reality is worse. This is also another factor why pro gaming scene in India looks more like a sham. Everyone is nothing more than a prop.

Derailed Gaming did point out these inconsistencies because they genuinely reflected their disappointment. Not because they didn’t win the tournament, but because it didn’t satisfy them despite traveling from another state. These are the same team who ended up spending money for the air tickets (and possible stay, food, etc.).

I have to give a credit to NeckBreak. Usually, nobody will say anything about it until they get the money, even if its insignificant amount after dividing it between 5 people even before recovering travel, stay and food expenses. They did. I remember another particular team got a mini PC system as a prize, but it turned out to be an abused-to-death review sample. They didn’t bother to talk about it, but I did come to know through the people well connected with the situation. Seeing how things turn out this way where most don’t say anything with a fear that they would not get their prizes as promised or worse be barred from future events or any opportunities, Sid did. I hope this becomes a trend but with a much lesser panache and more to the point like Derailed Gaming. But I hope other teams start pointing out as well.

All the people who participated should have been more cautious, especially the ones who know what happened at IGC and have experience in certain events. The signs of a potentially shady organizer are obvious. That means who participated it was for the money despite knowing at the back of the head it doesn’t seem right. It’s no different than what happened with Moscow 5 during IGC 2012, despite getting warnings from Fnatic and Natus Vincere. Start being smarter by learning from mistakes made by others and by yourselves.

While I can’t say much about gamers and organizers because most of the things will be repeated in some form, I can say something towards the brand. Not just Lenovo, but others who plan on falling into the rabbit hole- or those who are already in the rabbit hole. Understand the people who are purchasing your products rather than looking towards the larger crowd. Don’t be surprised if those who are buying your hardware and the ‘popular crowd’ are in the opposite direction, with the exception of some. It’s like extreme overclocking. While it looks impressive to see a processor and the motherboard or a graphic card being pushed to its limit by many people, at some point it looks pointless to a buyer because the key people get selected ‘cherry picked’ samples, get resources from brands and support. Very few people who buy their own hardware decide to step into extreme overclocking.

The modding community, on the other hand, looks a lot more promising for now. It attracts a lot of interested spectators because everyone loves to have a good looking setup with good enough hardware. That’s why setup shows on Youtube like Swashin’s Pimp My Setup and TechSource’s Setup Wars gained a lot of attention- both from the viewers and from those who show off. A lot of these guys are gamers and Youtube/Twitch game streamers (judging by the setups with microphones and scissor arms). Hardware BBQ has some of the sponsored builds posted in its community forum as well.

But will this be adopted by a large mass in India is a completely different story.

On another note, I don’t think Lenovo India would do anything serious about the organizers other than probably giving a verbal warning and maybe a strictly worded legal notice. But that’s what gives such promoters the confidence to do more with others, and think they can get away with it.

But in any case, if shit hits the fan- open the umbrella. For yourself and for others.

One comment

  1. parents will start filing criminal cases, FIRs and demand large compensations from the organizer, brand ambassador, sponsors and even the venue owner for luring in their children and distracting them from education for such scams. these tournaments are done at the time when people are supposed to be preparing for exams and entrance exams.

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