Yaroslav Kuznetsov is a former Dota 2 pro player who now makes a living as a caster, event host and media commentator in the scene.
He does this as a member of the RuHub Studio – an esports streaming and content creation studio in the CIS. Kuznetsov is working as an analyst for the Russian speaking audience of the Dota 2 tournament – the Kiev Major. With a prize pool of $3 million (£2.3m) there’s a lot on the line for the world’s best Dota 2 players.
Yaroslav discussed his predictions for the Kiev Major, whether esports can hope to compete with their traditional counterparts and gave some insight into his own role and RuHub Studio.
This is a guest post by freelance writer Iain Fenton. You can follow him on Twitter here.
Esports Insider: Hi Yaroslav. In regards to the Kiev Major, who do you see as the main frontrunners?
Yaroslav: It’s particularly hard to predict at this time! There are so many dark horses. But in my honest opinion IG, [iG Vitality] OG, VP, [Virtus.Pro] and Team Secret stand a good chance.
ESI: What is your main role in the esports world? You mainly commentate and critique on Dota 2 tournaments?
Yaroslav: I actually have two jobs. The first is the commentating and analysis of big Dota 2 tournaments. The second is the creation of Dota 2’s educational content for Russian-speaking users.
“Russia is generally strong in esports; we have a very good team in Dota 2 and CS:GO and have a lot of good players in Hearthstone too”
At the moment, my channel on YouTube has already grown to more than 550,000 subscribers. But I perform both of these jobs as a member of the RuHub studio – the biggest CIS streaming , coverage and content creation esports studio.
ESI: In general what is the perception of esports in Russia? Esports are classified as a ‘real sport’ in Russia so are the top gamers seen as athletes?
Yaroslav: ‘Cybersport’ in Russia is very popular, especially Dota 2 and CS: GO. Ever since the Epicenter series began to be held here, the opinion of the public and media has also improved and is no longer so negative.
“There are so many dark horses. But in my honest opinion IG, [iG Vitality] OG, VP, [Virtus.Pro] and Team Secret stand a good chance (in the Kiev Major)”
Despite the fact that esports is officially recognised as a sport, this does not particularly affect the life of cyber sportsmen. These changes were not so long ago, so they have not yet had much power to influence this situation. That said since 2016 in Russia we have an official national (and annual) esports cup. This is an esports alternative to something like a nationwide championship in football or hockey.
ESI: Compared to other nations, how successful are Russians in esports? You mentioned Dota and CS:GO are the most popular…how would the nation fare in a World Cup situation?
Yaroslav: Russia is generally strong in esports; we have a very good team in Dota 2 and CS:GO and have a lot of good players in Hearthstone too.
It depends, of course, on what games would be played on this World Cup. Because, for example, Russia doesn’t have a world-class team in LoL, HotS or Overwatch, but I think Russia, one way or another would deliver a decent result at such an event!
ESI: How are Russian organisational bodies and the Russian government helping with esports in the country? One oligarch recently invested a lot of money..
Yaroslav: The government does not yet take an active role, but business has become interested in esports quite seriously. The esports sphere is young, but it has a solid growth potential and this always attracts investors.
Relatively recently, Alisher Usmanov, one of Russia’s wealthiest businessmen, invested $100m into Virtus.pro.
ESI: How popular are esports with Russians? More popular than football or hockey?
Yaroslav: This question is really complicated. It is probably unlikely that anyone will be able to answer it unambiguously at the moment. The popularity of football or hockey is traditionally determined by television ratings. And esports, almost completely, is based on the internet. This means that in the end, it’s hard to put them side by side.
I think, so far, esports has not yet reached the same popularity as football or hockey, but it seems to me that in the next five to ten years the situation will change and esports could be legitimately compared with them.
ESI: Will esports ever compete against traditional sports or do you think esports can work with traditional sports in order for them both to increase in popularity? Are Russian businesses doing all they can to grow esports in both Russia and the world?
Yaroslav: It seems to me that esports will simply become a common and everyday thing. Maybe it will eventually be included in the Olympic Games, why not?
So I do not think these two need to be competitors. At the moment, traditional sports look at esports with caution, but that is simply because not everyone has yet understood what it is. New things are often perceived with hostility.
“I see regulated gambling as having a very positive effect on the development of the sphere”
That part of Russian business that has already come to esports is very interested in its popularisation both in Russia and the wider world. But we are only at the beginning of the road. I think in the coming years we will see many new investments and joint esports with sport and esports business projects.
ESI: What age of people are esports advertisers aiming their advertisements towards? I guess the younger generation?
Yaroslav: Yes, it is considered that the average age is about 20. But it is constantly growing, many older people are starting to learn about esports right now. In addition, the entire audience is growing along with esports. Thus, the average age of the audience every year increases a little.
ESI: Do you see gambling as a problem in esport competitions?
Yaroslav: No. On the contrary, I see regulated gambling as having a very positive effect on the development of the sphere.
If a person makes a bet, then the game becomes much more interesting to them. Remove gambling from a big sport and it will also lose a huge part of its audience. Of course, gambling must be regulated by laws, I only support above board, legal and certified gambling.
You can follow Yaroslav on Twitter here.
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