Earlier this year, the Evetech Champions League raised the bar in many areas of eSports broadcasting in this country and left many of us wondering: What next? We were fortunate enough to sit down with the founder and owner of Evetech, Imran Sorathia, to find out.
Like all good stories, except for those arty films that people seem to love more the less they make sense, we will start at the beginning with how the Evetech Champion’s League came into being.
As with so many awesome people involved in the industry and trying to drive it forward, Imran is a gamer himself, but he prefers offline games because of a reason that many of us will be very familiar with.
“Believe me I tried [playing online], but the guys always killed me fast. I didn’t like it.”
We feel you. We’ve all been there, unfortunately we don’t all get to be pro-gamers. For some, that means starting a local eSports story-based website in order to be involved in the industry, for Imran, it led him to the ECL.
“I saw, internationally, that eSports was doing very well. I always thought, why doesn’t South Africa have something like this? When the idea came to me I thought, I have a space, I’m a big gaming portal, selling a lot of gaming PCs. how can we do something for the gaming community?
I shared the idea with Miles Regenass, from MSI’s Notebook division. We worked together and planned for six months, and then the ECL happened. A lot of sleepless nights, but it did well and I’m very happy. We’re planning for the next one very soon.”
Woah, that escalated quickly. We have a bit more article to fill out before we get to the next ECL.
The more we talk to people involved in this industry, the more apparent it becomes that people aren’t doing this for money. Well they are, obviously, peeps need papes to keep the train rolling, but it’s not their first consideration.
While sometimes it might feel like people are trying to pull in different directions, one constant thread seems to be that first and foremost everyone wants to make the local scene awesome, because viewers, players, professionalism and money will naturally flow from that. Imran is no different.
“I don’t see a quick return on investment. I am not doing this as a return on investment. It’s all passion. I’ve always wanted to do something in eSports.
The amount of people watching football now is in the millions, but they had to start somewhere. And eSports in South Africa has to start somewhere. We are in an incubation period right now and I think it’s still going to take 18 months to two years before international level events will happen in South Africa. Maybe sooner, we don’t know.”
That’s not to say that there aren’t benefits for Imran in the short term too, thankfully, because it means we’re definitely going to see a season two of the ECL.
”My brand value is a little bit higher now, more people know about it, which is good.”
Onto the ECL itself. All the talk before the event was about setting a new standard in local eSports broadcasting and I think we can all, largely, agree they succeeded in many areas and it took an awesome group of people with a passion for gaming to make it happen.
“I couldn’t do this alone. I had an idea, I can get the funding from the sponsors, because I sell their brands, but other than that I didn’t have the experience. So we partnered with nAvTV and those guys, Nathaniel ‘BurningRed’ Slabbert, did a brilliant job for us.
I was very, very happy. I wasn’t expecting that much was going to happen, but they did a great job. I’m very glad I partnered with them. And whenever ECL is going to happen, it’s their baby too. Whatever ups and downs there are, we’ll do it together.
So I’ve got a good team with me to be very honest. I’m blessed.”
Teamwork makes the dream work and they’re not resting on their laurels, Imran will be the first to admit the first edition was not perfect and he has some interesting ideas for season two.
“We want our production levels to be higher. I think that we didn’t have enough cameras. More cameras so we can switch around. Everything must be live so the production guys can switch around and see what is happening downstairs, upstairs, anywhere.
For the next one I have an idea to do it like a Big Brother house, with a 24 hour camera on type of thing. Or at least from the start of the day to the end, so people can tune into the stream and see what is happening. They can connect to this thing.”
One thing we can tell you for sure, Imran is a very ambitious man and he has some very lofty goals for the ECL, especially considering South Africa hosted its first ever R1million tournament only one month ago.
“My main target is still to have the biggest prize pool, so gamers can come and they benefit. And everybody gets a chunk of it. If they don’t feel motivated to come play and we spend a huge amount of money on the production, then they’re not getting anything out of it and we’re not getting anything out of it.
I want gamers to be there. So every kid and every parent thinks it’s a good profession and we can bring gamers in. That’s my goal.”
While those are admittedly some lofty ambitions, we’ve encountered nothing to suggest the ECL crowd won’t succeed. I’m sure Bravado Gaming are salivating at the prospect of the Telkom DGL and Evetech Champions League in a bidding war to claim the title of South Africa’s richest tournament.
Which brings us nicely on to the next edition of the ECL, that’s why you’re all here right? Well, building on the success of the first edition and expansion are the name of the game. There may even be a new title in the mix.
“There is a lot of hype around Overwatch at the moment and we don’t have a local server and no big teams, but I love that game. It’s for every age group, everyone can connect to that game. It’s got animation, it’s got gaming, it’s got shooting, it’s got characters, it’s got everything.
What CS:GO is missing, it’s got. It’s Dota plus CS:GO mixed. I think that game will hit big, and with the next season we want to do that.
If the time is right and everything is right, it will happen soon. nAvTV is very confident we can do the casting and production with no issues.”
Unfortunately, nothing is set in stone at this stage, not even the date for season two, but it’s all in the name of making sure that, when it is time for ECL again, they give us the most kickass tournament possible.
“It’s too early to talk about anything right now, because for the last six months I have been busy with the last ECL. So, soon we will be doing something, but I don’t know. You never know.
I can’t put a date on it. There is a proposal on the table right now for the end of the year, but I’m not ready. The problem with me is that whatever I want to do, I want to do properly. I don’t want to do it half-heartedly. And I don’t want to do it small, to be very honest.
As you could see from our rAge stand and the last ECL’s production value, I want to focus on all the little details, so when we come out we come out with a bang. If we can come out with a bang quickly, we’ll do it. But we will come back.”
While we’re obviously slightly disappointed we can’t mark any dates down in our bedazzled Tracer diaries just yet, we’re okay with it, because that is the exactly the kind of drive and passion we want taking our scene forward.