Ukrainian Esports Disciplines: How the National Industry Develops. Experts’ Opinions24 December 2019
Analysts of NewZoo forecast that volumes of the global esports market will have grown to $1.5 billion by 2022. Esports has not been recognized officially in Ukraine yet, but it does not prevent Ukrainian teams from winning world championships and the industry from developing in the country.
How the Ukrainian esports evolves
Ukrainian esports teams have been participating in global championships, winning, and showing good results for several years. The first competitions were local. Everything started from video games in computer clubs and there was no division into professionals and amateurs. Gradually, the first platforms were appearing in Ukraine, intended for big tournaments.
Back in 2001, the World Cyber Games qualifier took place in Ukraine. Supported by Samsung, tournaments were held throughout Ukraine, and winners played international games. Later, other major tournaments appeared, for example, ASUS Open. In 2012, StarLadder was opened in Ukraine and hosted CS: GO, Point Blank, Dota 2, League of Legends, World of Tanks tournaments several times per year.
In 2010, Kyiv Cybersport Arena was opened in the capital with an area of 1,500 square meters. The facility is outfitted with everything needed to organize LAN tournaments. Before the official opening, it hosted the Arbalet Cup Best of Four featuring the world’s best Counter-Strike teams, where Natus Vincere won. Besides, Kyiv Cybersport Arena hosted ASUS Open championships, Counter-Strike IEM European Finals 2011, and StarCraft II championships.
However, not only the capital can boast achievements in esports. In 2018, Dnipro opened its own esports platform called Windigo Arena. The facility has an area of 1100 square meters and is technically furnished for large-scale cyber tournaments.
Ukrainian esports players and teams
Ukrainian esports players show good results in tournaments of different games, and some of them hold positions in the global rankings of income. Most popular cyber athletes have made a fortune and built a career in Dota 2. Some of them are Roman “Resolut1on” Fominok, Volodymyr “No[o]ne” Minenko, Danylo “Dendi” Ishutin, Oleksandr “ХВОСТ” Dashkevich, and others.
The most famous Ukrainian esports players are or previously were members of Na’Vi (Natus Vincere). This team has become truly iconic: founded in 2010, it won The International the following year, the biggest global Dota 2 tournament. The team received a reward of $1 million.
Besides, Ukrainian esports players show good results in FIFA, PUBG, and CS: GO.
Ukrainian esports federations
Specialized organizations that support players, host tournaments, and organize training courses, have a great impact on the development of the esports industry in the country. There are three of them in Ukraine and each performs an intense activity.
Ukrainian Esport Federation (UESF) was founded in Dnipro in 2018. It is officially registered as an all-Ukrainian non-governmental organization with local offices in every region. Ukrainian Esport Federation promotes and mainstreams esports, hosts tournaments, and supports talented players.
The Federation collaborates with Windigo Gaming (in particular, supports its educational program), XSPORT, NCL. UESF has organized Ukraine’s first esports championship with the prize fund of 1 million hryvnias (Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive). The grand final was taking place in Dnipro from November 28 to December 1.
“Ukrainian Esport Federation has hosted over 90 tournaments this year, all of which were held offline. We traveled 33,000 kilometers when we were organizing qualifiers of the first esports championship in Ukraine in every region. We visited even those parts of our country that do not have facilities intended for hosting championships,” the president of UESF Artur Yermolayev commented.
Esports Ukraine federation is involved in the development of esports, hosts championships and tournaments in different disciplines, and implements specialized training programs. Besides, with the support of Kyivstar, the federation hosted the all-Ukrainian online Dota 2 tournament with 100,000 UAH prize fund in 2017. It also founded a streaming platform called CyberStar Academy and organized over 1,500 online tournaments on its own platform GG.ua.
Some of its biggest events are Dota 2 TURBO tournament, three biggest all-Ukrainian student tournaments supported by the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine – UUOpen 2018, University Master Cup 2019, and UUOpen 2019 Winter Cup, featuring over 150 higher education institutions of the country and over 300 teams.
The federation hosted the world’s first International tournament for pupils, the grand finale of which took place at NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kyiv with the participation of teams from five countries: Germany, Poland, Georgia, Taiwan, and Ukraine. Moreover, the federation has announced the start of the country’s first official esports master’s degree program at the National University of Ukraine on Physical Education and Sport this year. Esports Ukraine is the partner of this educational direction and actively participates in its realization and development.
“This year has been very productive for our organization and we have already planned a number of events for the next year. In 2020, Esports Ukraine is going to hold a number of national events, in particular, to develop a system of ranks to replace the traditional master of sports,” reports the president of the organization Ivan Danishevsky.
Esports Soccer Federation of Ukraine, ESFU. The organization that has been involved in the development of esports soccer in Ukraine since 2016. It trains, hires, and supports talented cyber football players and regularly hosts FIFA Kyiv Cup. It has organized the Ukrainian FIFA 16 League, as well as tens of small amateur tournaments.
Last year, the organization has founded FINT Esports Academy, where lecturers are well-known esports players. ESFU supports the development of the official esports master’s degree program at the National University of Ukraine on Physical Education and Sport.
"At the end of 2019, we are hosting several large all-Ukrainian events. We thank the Ukrainian Association of Football and Ukrainian Premier League for the support and readiness to develop the esports field,” notes the president of the ESFU Arseniy Salay. “Thanks to this collaboration, we have managed to bring this discipline to the global arena for the first time ever in the history of the national cyber football by hosting tournaments under the aegis of simulator developers and global football associations”.
This August, the federation has announced the participation in the European Esports Soccer Championship qualifier, implying the formation of a national team. Basing on the results of the qualifier, the best Ukrainian cyber-football players will take part in the European competitions in the spring of 2020. On November 30 and December 7, 2019, all fans of esports and cyber-football could watch the grand finals of the All-Ukrainian PES and FIFA championships.
Esports championships and festivals in 2019
Tournaments in different esports disciplines are regularly hosted in Ukraine, including events of the international level. StarCraft II World Championship Series (in WCS Korea and WCS Circuit ecosystems) took place in Kyiv in 2019. The organizer of WCS Spring and WCS Summer was StarLadder. Besides, the third minor of Dota 2 2018/2019 took place at Kyiv Cybersport Arena.
Furthermore, a growing number of local and amateur competitions take place in the country. For example, the fifth WEGAME festival hosted WEGAME CyberZone Cup, involving Dota 2, CS: GO, and PUBG tournaments. FIFA tournament was organized at the festival with the support of FINT Esports Academy.
On June 13, the capital of Ukraine hosted the second conference dedicated to esports issues eSPORTconf Ukraine, where experts discussed prospects of the industry development and possibilities for making a profit in the industry. Speakers were representatives of Ukrainian esports organizations, marketing agencies, and esports platforms.
Expert opinion: how esports will develop in 2020
In 2019, many significant events of both local and global scale took place in the esports field of Ukraine: tournaments and competitions, themed events, events organized by esports organizations. Specialists believe that the next year will be no less eventful.
“This year, we had a series of cool events such as WePlay, StarLadder, large championships from UESF and Esports Ukraine. Basing on the existing state of affairs, I can conclude that the next year will be more than successful,” Arseniy Salay (ESFU) says. “I am very glad to watch powerful tournaments of esports clubs. For example, the Odesa-based Skill club hosts events with the official support of the city administration; esports clubs organize regular tournaments in Kyiv and other cities”.
Other industry experts also note the growth of interest in esports. For example, after the Ukrainian esports championship with tournaments in regions, many entrepreneurs saw huge industry opportunities and started opening computer clubs in their towns: five new clubs were opened with the support of the UESF this year.
"We are not going to lose momentum in 2020. Currently, we are negotiating with potential partners for the next season,” Artur Yermolayev (UESF) reports. "We are planning to host even more tournaments. Now UESF is working hard to make esports officially recognized as sports in Ukraine in 2020”.
For the industry to develop faster, it is important to get the support of authorities at both local and all-Ukrainian levels.
“Currently, the industry itself and Ukrainian esports brands provoke a growing interest, in particular from the new administration of the country. I think that the support of the government will give the possibility to develop esports at a new level,” Ivan Danishevsky (Esports Ukraine) thinks. “There are prerequisites for this, but nobody knows how things will actually develop”.
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