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U Cypher begins new innings for e-sports in India

MUMBAI: The Indian e-sports scene is all set for a major revamp as U Sports, one of the newly formed sports business companies in India, launched U Cypher, the country’s first multi-platform, multi-game e-sports championship that started airing on MTV 19 January onwards.

“U Cypher took around two years to plan, which includes thinking about a nice game, searching and auditioning the right team, spreading the right word and also licence tie-ups,” said U Sports CEO and co-founder Supratik Sen. The execution took another six months.

U Sports focuses on some main sporting disciplines: kabaddi, football, e-sports and motorsports. The company also owns the UMumba team in the Pro Kabbadi League.

“Motorsports is in the planning stage and a lot of infrastructure needs to be created on the racing track. We want to make it like a tourist destination sport, we don’t want to stick to a place and make racing tracks,” said U Sports founder Ronnie Screwvala. “The planning is in two stages, starting with global and local experts and bike riders to talking to three or four top bike companies in the world in their interest, and support from the state government for the infrastructure,” he added. 

U Cypher’s ambition is to present a platform to talented gamers that helps them achieve their maximum potential as well as shape their career in e-sports leagues.

“The first season is not live but recorded because we wanted the non-gamers to understand it well,” said Screwvala. “On the digital front, our deal is revenue sharing and with MTV it is content exchange and airtime sales. On the print side, we will have some ads on The Times of India and Hindustan Times.” 

The first season of U Cypher has six teams, with 14 members in each team, competing for a total prize money of Rs 51 lakh. The combat zone orbits around four games, namely Counter Strike: GO and DOTA 2 on PC and Tekken 7 on PS4 and Real Cricket 2017 on mobile. The championship is available digitally on U, YouTube, Twitch, and Voot. Season one consists of 35 episodes.

Sen said that the company has tracked closed to 200 tournaments pan India, in various colleges fest, cafes and small areas. U Cypher will be a bi-annual tournament with total investment of Rs 20-25 crore.

The combined e-sports and gaming market is estimated to be Rs 3900 crore with more than 2000 teams consistently participating in tournaments across India and abroad with over 50 crore players worldwide.

“The difference between U Sports and other sports companies in India today is that some of them are into a single sport, some are the team owners in a league and some of them own a league but we are a combination of all these elements,” Screwvala added.

The gamers have been divided into six teams for the league—Yakshas, Yodhas, Sherdils, Crusaders, Marksmen and Akramaks. Most of the gamers for the first season are from Mumbai.

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