India, as a region, is widely dominated by mobile gaming. Games such as BGMI (PUBG Mobile) and Free Fire have taken the nation by storm. Before these games came out, one game was the initial introduction for most esports. That game was CS:GO. Since then, the esports ecosystem for the game has been in ruins ever since the cheating scandal by Optic’s Nikhil “forsaken” Kumawat. With Valorant not putting the needed exposure of the tier 2 scene in India, Skyesports came up with an idea to bring CS:GO back into the limelight. Was the risk worth it? Let's find out.
Skyesports Masters 2023 was launched just to put eyes back on the game of Counter-Strike in India during the post-Covid era. The tournament had one of the highest prize pools for any event hosted in India, with an overall prize pool of ₹2 Crore ($240,673). This added bonus was much needed for the scene, as CS:GO has been left in the dust as the hype for Valorant has grown massively.
The group stages spanned seven weeks, with the eight teams in attendance facing each other team twice. It resulted in a total of fourteen matches to be played by all teams, each being a Best Of Three. The playoffs of this tournament was held in a LAN environment in Bangalore. The semifinals and finals would take place in a 2-day event. The results for the group stages are as follows, and the top four teams qualified for the semi-finals.
- Marcos Gaming (11W - 3L)
- Revenant Esports (10W - 4L)
- 7Sea Esports (9W - 5L)
- Gods Reign (9W - 5L)
- Enigma Gaming (8W - 6L)
- Reckoning Esports (6W - 8L)
- Medal Esports (2W - 12L)
- Velocity Gaming (1W - 13L)
Experience At the Skyesports Masters LAN Event
As it was one of the biggest Esports events in the country, we decided to fly down to Bangalore to experience the event firsthand. As soon as we entered the Koramangala Indoor Stadium, one could sense the excitement in the arena. The stadium was packed with fans sitting in the front rows to get the best look at the players during their matches. It must be stated that the tournament organizers stepped forward in their production. The players were playing on the main stage of the stadium, whereas the casters and analysts for the event were present in their booths. The arena had a simplistic vibe to it, and it wasn’t fully packed at a given point in time, unlike the CS:GO Blast Major. There was a similar seating arrangement, but the fans barely had to use the upper levels.
Due to the game not having a huge fan base, as the first event in the region, seeing an average of 200-300 people was fair. In the middle of the semifinals, there were showdown matches between teams. These teams consisted of various content creators and ex-professional players from the Indian region. For many fans, it was a blast from the past to see their favorite players play CS:GO. The event had an average viewer count of 158, with a peak of 1878, according to Esports Charts. It does seem that Skyesports, in the first edition of their CS:GO league, wanted to focus on exposure. Gods Reign won the grand final against Revenant Esports in a thrilling 2-0 fashion.
What Is Next For Counter Strike In India?
CS2 is now available to everyone in the region, and we’ll have to see if the region adopts the game or not. Many within the region of India believe that due to the changes in the competitive ranked system in the game, there is a higher longevity to the game. Players in the game will now have different ranks on each map. It has been seen in the past that for a game to have an ecosystem within India, there needs to be a healthy Tier 2 and 3 ecosystem. Counter-Strike stated that from 2025, each tournament will have open qualifiers; this will result in there being an open ground for everyone to try their luck to reach the top. This was one of the main reasons Valorant got such a stranglehold on the PC gaming community. Also, Skyesports, during the LAN Final, announced their next tournament called Skyesports Souvenir. This tournament is said to consist of teams from over eight nations, including India, to compete against each other in Sri Lanka.
Other organizations, such as TEC, also known as TheEsportsClub, have announced weekly online CS:GO tournaments within the region. With certain Valorant Offseason events either being canceled or being shifted online, we could see more tournament organizers announce CS tournaments in the next few months. Did Skyesports go forward and accomplish their goal with this LAN Event? With hindsight, yes, they have, as more Counter-Strike events have been announced across the country. Another point to note is that professional players like Marzil and Rite2ace have announced their transition back to Counter-Strike in 2024. This could be due to CS2, but things might finally be heading in the right direction for CS in India. Announcements like these show us that professional players are ready to make the jump, the same jump they did from Counter-Strike to Valorant when the game was dying in 2019.