Gaming industry in CIS and other world
History of CIS gaming and e-sports
While in the West the culture of video games has existed ever since first games appeared, CIS countries were not ready yet meeting obstacles in the form of a different mentality and a banal lack of money among the population. Even nowadays, most of post-soviet people do not recognize computer gaming and, especially, cyber sports as something worth thinking of.
LAN Gaming Centers. Quake and Starcraft.
Unlike in other countries, CIS people rarely had money to buy a personal computer. The whole post-soviet union had much more important problems than video-gaming industry, so for a long time CIS gaming league was entirely driven by enthusiasm.
At that time, there were no home systems even in large cities, and the people went out of their way: they brought computers to each other's homes and connected them with a twisted pair; found primitive modems and overloaded already frail telephone lines; risking their lives and health, they climbed the gas pipes of houses, stretching the network cable from window to window.
Presidential elections are held in Russia, in which Boris Yeltsin is chosen. Large-scale political and military actions are taking place in different parts of the world. But in Moscow, most of pupils and students were talking about the first computer club in the whole CIS - “Orcs”. “There were several friends of us who got together in someone's apartment, connected the LAN and played with each other. And then the idea arose to open a club and give everyone the opportunity to play.” - says the Mikhail Lomidze, founder of the club “Orcs”. The opening of this club could be called as a starting point of cyber sports in CIS.
At that time, abroad, where computers ceased to be something incomprehensible and scary, tournaments were held on an ongoing basis. There were some tournaments with small prize funds. The most popular eSports disciplines starting from 1995 were DOOM II and Warcraft II. However, everything has changed since the Quake came out. The game made an incredible sensation and flew off the shelves in millions of copies. Not like other games, the Quake was right away developed as a competitive game. The developer company id Software started holding tournaments on their own game with prize funds, sponsors and large-scale advertising campaigns in the media. Particularly Quake became the first popular cyber sports discipline in the CIS. News about Quake tournaments albeit belatedly, came to post-soviet community, so the community hoped to have something similar. In the same year, in the earlier mentioned computer club “Orcs” the first official competition in the Quake was held. There was no prize fund nor list of participants, only a typical basement with ten united by LAN computers.
In 1997 Quake was still the most famous eSports game. Id Software struck the whole world with their new tournament where the main price was not only money, but the CEO John D. Carmack’s Ferrari 328. Unfortunately, there were no representatives from CIS league yet, but more and more people became interested in eSports, so clubs all over the Russia appeared. At the next tournament QuakeCon 97 first post-soviet representatives appeared. Even though they did not win anything, but the fact, that someone from Russia or Ukraine had a chance to visit such tournament, enlarged the CIS eSports league once again.
In 1998, there were enough LAN gaming centers in most of big cities across Russia and Ukraine. Number of people playing in such centers grew rapidly and the whole gaming community appeared. Even though Quake II came out in 1997 and brought new level of graphics, another game became the hit of the year. Starcraft was announced back in 1996 at E3 event (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E3#Event_history), but first released on March 31, 1998. Balance and gameplay of Starcraft has changed the whole gaming industry. The game became one of the most played in the CIS computer clubs and due to battle.net service to play over the internet (which was taken from Diablo), the Starcraft immediately became a new competitive discipline.
At this year, several competitive disciplines stood out: Starcraft, Quake II and Team Fortress. The main difference of gaming industry in the West and CIS leagues became noticeable. The west gaming was closely tied up to advertising and official tournaments, whereas CIS league was still held only by enthusiasts and no finance support. First half-professional cybersport organisations started appearing over the post-soviet countries. These organisations usually were assembled from a group of friends or the best players of one club. The most noticeable of such organisations were: DDT (Devils Dream Team) and NiP (Nobody is Perfect)*. Their representatives were the first to win on a world-wide level championship, which was hosted in Russia by Formoza. This company also became the title sponsor of NiP afterwards. The start of CIS eSports begun.
CS 1.6 and DotA.
Big tournaments were no longer something sensational and everyone was waiting for the new Quake III game which was thought to become the new era of eSports.
In 1998 a company named Valve developed a first-person shooter video game called Half-Life. It was far from eSports with only a single player story mode. Nonetheless a matter of chance happened, when developers of several maps in Quake II decided to make a free mod for a Half-Life. The mod called “Counter-Strike” became viral, so Valve bought rights for the mod and made a decision to subsequently promote the Counter-Strike as its own franchise. Additionally, it became their own eSports discipline. In 1999, both Quake III and Counter-Strike 1.6 were released. The new CS 1.6 did not only compete with Quake III, but overtook it and became the new competitive discipline.
Throughout 1999-2000, the CPL (Cyberathlete Professional League) franchise remained the leader in the cyber sports tournament market. CPL was a professional sports tournament organization specializing in computer and console video game competitions, which was founded on June 27, 1997 and most popular in the middle 2000s. In addition to it, there was a QuakeCon, which in 1999 switched to the not yet officially published Quake 3 arena, but QuakeCon was held once a year when the CPL was an ongoing tournament. For some time CPL had no competitors. However, in 2001 WCG appeared. The World Cyber Games was considered to be the eSports Olympics. The same as in Olympics, the WCG offered several different games such as: Age of Empires II, Counter-Strike, FIFA 2001, Quake III Arena, StarCraft: Brood War, Unreal Tournament.
The dawn of the Counter-Strike also hit in 2001. It was at this time when cyber sports in the Commonwealth of Independent States received another impetus in the development of sports. The organizers of the legendary CPL hold not only Quake tournaments, but also CS tournaments. And finally, they announce the qualifiers for their tour in Russia. In fierce battles for the only slot in the competition, the victory went to the M19 team. This team had to headline the CIS for the next couple of years at all international tournaments. Unfortunately, at the tournament itself, M19 did not show outstanding game and took only 9-16 places. But apart from CPL, WCG also held qualifiers for their tournaments. As a result, another international tournament appeared, in which anyone could become a participant.
As it was earlier mentioned, WCG positioned itself as an eSports Olympiad and held competitions in several games at once. A new era has begun in the CIS cybersport. Qualifiers in many cities of Russia and Ukraine, hundreds of players at registration in Kiev and Moscow, dozens of teams, a large prize pool and paid travel to the final abroad. At the World Cyber Games 2001 Russian gamers managed to get 2 silver medals.
In July 2001, Russia became the first country to recognize eSports as an official type of sports. However, in 2006, cybersports was excluded from the All-Russian register of sports because it did not meet the criteria. It was added back only in 2016.
On the 18th of August 2002 Alexey Nesterov, also known as “LeXeR”, won the QuakeCon 2002. That was the first time in history when someone from the CIS league won an international tournament.
Starting from the 2002 there were a number of different tournaments across the CIS countries, some of which had world-wide famous sponsors, for example: ASUS Open (by ASUS).
On the WCG 2002, Russia took 2 gold medals, Ukraine got 1 bronze medal.
2003 - 2007
Starting from 2003 the whole CIS league started evolving to a professional industry, it is sometimes called a “growing up period” and “the golder period” in Russian community. At this time, the whole industry of eSports started developing. Both prize funds and tournament count rapidly rose. It was also the time, when professional CIS league reached the point of crisis, Kazakhstan won the first silver medal, Russian team was able to come back with only one bronze medal.
In 2003, Electronic Sports World Convention (ESWC) appeared. ESWC is an international professional gaming championship. Every year, winners of national qualifier events around the world earn the right to represent their country in the ESWC Finals.
On the 1st November 2003 the first professional club in Russia Virtus.Pro was formed. At the same year, National Professional Esports League (НПКЛ) appeared.
In 2004, the first Russian Cup from the Russian Computer Sports Federation. Disciplines were Counter-Strike 5x5, Quake 3 1x1, Warcraft 3 1x1 and others. Another tournament by National Professional Esports League - NPCL Grand Cup 2004 was held. The discipline Counter-Strike 1.6 was played with a prize fund of 20 000$.
In 2004, the list of WCG participant countries was replenished with Uzbekistan. Starting from 2005, qualifiers also appeared in Turkmenia and Belarus.
In 2006, Russian professionals played well on WCG bringing home a gold and silver medals in NFS: Most Wanted and a bronze medal in FIFA 2006. Additionally, Ukraine got 1 bronze medal in Warcraft III. CIS players started to join different international teams, such as: SK Gaming, Fnatic and MYM (MeetYourMakers).
In 2007, another series of international eSports tournaments held in countries around the world was founded - Intel Extreme Masters. However, CIS league was better at ESWC tournaments, where on nearly each tournament, CIS players left with top places.
Unfortunately, starting from 2008, the whole gaming industry experienced stagnation. There were no new disciplines added. On the tournaments, the most played games were Starcraft and World of Warcraft 3. The second version of Counter-Strike - Counter-Strike Source did not succeed.
Major Championships. CS:GO, Dota 2
2008 - 2009
In 2008, MOBA games started to gain fame. From a well-known World of Warcraft 3 appeared a new game named Defense of the Ancients, which soon gave a new round of development in eSports industry. The modification was actively developing and updating thanks to the cooperation of developers and community. However, unlike Counter-Strike, developers of the original game were not interested in developing the modification and claimed that there are no plans to create a separate DotA game. Because of this, most of the organizers of big tournaments did not want to include DotA in their list of disciplines. Also, the two main designers of the game map quarreled among themselves and one of them, Steve Feak, together with the Base Support Administrator of DotA, joined small at that time game developer company named Riot Games. Thanks to their enormous contribution, a new game called League of Legends was released on October 27, 2009. The game quickly became extremely popular and still remains one of the most profitable games.
At first LoL was published and supported only in the USA, as it was there that the office and the game server of the company was located. In 2011, the success of LoL allowed Riot Games to grow and create a new office in Europe and other parts of the world. The game had an excellent competitive component, which was the reason for the active emergence of tournaments for the game. Additionally, starting from 2012, Riot Games threw all the resources into making a new cyber discipline out of their game.
Though DotA did not became as popular as League of Legends, it was in demand in the CIS and China. A DotA CIS gaming organization that is worth mentioning is DTS Gaming that won 6 gold medals during its existence. The organization itself kept itself not on the salary, but on the enthusiasm of the players. There were no large DotA tournaments, so the only opportunity for the players was to participate in the ASUS Open seasonal events. For that reason, CIS experienced a stagnation of esports in 2009 and no serious results were achieved.
In 2010, a team Natus Vincere that has become famous all over the world since its inception was formed. It consisted of the best Counter-Strike players in Ukraine. Also, they had a DotA roster,but at first it didn't show good enough results and was completely disbanded a year later. Despite the existence of Counter-Strike: Source, almost all tournaments were held at Counter-Strike 1.6.
In their first big tournament, Na’Vi won Arbalet Cup Asia in 2010. In the same year, the team won all other 3 big tournaments: Intel Extreme Masters, ESWC and WCG and becomes the best Counter-Strike team. Moreover, with its victories, the Ukrainian organization develops e-sports in the CIS so much that new teams and sponsors start emerging in big quantities.
In 2011, Na’Vi could again show their power in a newly developed game Dota 2. The year itself became a breakthrough year for esports in general. Esports begins to compete with popular sports. One of the reasons is the creation of Twitch video streaming platform. Twitch became a common place where broadcasts from eSports events were conducted. As anyone could stream on Twitch, it also helped the growth of the gaming industry as a whole, since it turned out that there are a lot of people who are interested in chatting with and watching streamers. With Twitch, eSports tournaments organizers could attract new sponsors, prizes became higher. Despite Twitch development, another important eSports event took place in 2011. In august, a tournament “The International” was organized by Valve to unveil their new game Dota 2 to the worldwide audience. Prize pool offered 1.6 million dollars, which was hundred times more than prize pools for earlier significant tournaments. 16 best teams from DotA were invited and should have received beta keys for the new game weeks before the tournament, though it didn’t go as planned and tournament participant could only launch Dota 2 for a first time on the tournament. Therefore, some time by teams was spent just to learn game mechanics. In the Grand Finals, Na’Vi defeated EHOME and won 1 million dollars. This event became another impetus for the development of eSports in the CIS.
In 2012 Russian team Moscow Five won IEM Season VI - World Championship tournament in League of Legends and Na’Vi takes 2nd place on the The International 2012 tournament. World of Tanks became quite popular and CIS teams start winning major tournaments in this discipline. The development of the CIS scene of video game competitions was very much accompanied by the Kiev studio StarLadder that hosted regular tournaments in various disciplines, such as World of Tanks, Dota 2, Point Blank and Bloodline Champions. Soon, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive replaces Bloodline Champions and becomes the official Starladder discipline.
2013 - Today
Starting from 2013, no global changes were presented in eSports. Development went gradually and eSports becomes the same as we know it now: large tournaments, huge prize pools, enormous quantities of sponsors. A lot of online games were released during 2013-2021 period and almost all of them had some tournaments, though not necessarily big. Some popular examples could be: Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Overwatch. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive becomes extremely popular and Russian Virtus.pro and Gambit Esports, as well as the Ukranian Na’Vi show outstanding results in major tournaments. In 2016, eSports becomes official sports again in Russia and Russian eSports Federation is founded. Esports is now truly widescale with millions of investments and hundreds of millions of fans all over the world. As we remember, everything started from LAN gaming centers. And with the help of the players' faith and enthusiasm, esports in the CIS has become a separate industry.