India, Counter Strike and a scammy Tournament organiser. Sound familiar? It’s probably because this scenario has become common for the Indian region. So much so that people that are not stakeholders in the sham we are about to talk of have not bothered to raise an eye over it.
For people who have guessed it and those who haven’t, we are talking about Phoenixverse – a Tournament organiser so premium they proceeded to have an invite-only players’ exhibition event before their actual event; one with ludicrous amounts of money on offer for a day’s performance, with the cream of the crop on display. One of the players that partook in the event was none other than Debanjan ‘DeathMaker’ Das, widely regarded as the best Indian csgo player prior to his switch to Valorant.
As one would have expected, DeathMaker or DMKing, won the MVP award and with it, a lucrative 33,000 INR purse. Sadly, that is yet to be credited into his Bank Account as we write this. DeathMaker has made numerous attempts to contact and communicate with the Phoenixverse team, in particular, Neha Navindra, who is the Managing Director of Transformation Studios. For people unaware of Transformation Studios, Phoenixverse is affiliated to the same and is owned and managed by nearly the same core team.
The buck does not stop here, though. Phoenixverse has laid bare a trail of lies, deception and manipulation of their staff and freelancers to the degree of even forcing one or more of them to reconsider their future in the esports industry itself.
We were taken aback by how brazen the Phoenixverse team was despite their actions and their behaviour towards their unpaid staff spoke volumes, what with zero successful events conducted in the esports sphere and several thousands in unpaid remuneration/compensation. Let us go through the experiences of the aggrieved parties, one by one.
Enter: Mayank ‘Moon’ Dutt, someone we had indirect contact with previously while drafting the eSamurai report. Moon was hired as an intern on a remuneration of 15,000 INR, which was supposed to double after the first month as the internship culminated into employment.
Moon worked for 3 months and has still not been paid. The former eSamurai staff, by semantics, is due 75,000 INR in total but is hopeful that he can atleast recover 45,000 INR (even if they assume the three months as internship although he had been intimated of his employment thereafter). Moon is currently working as a Video Editor and still looking for a way back into Esports event and/or team management.
Uphar Dutta was employed as a caster, with an advance pay of 4,000 INR and promise of the remaining 14,000 INR to be paid. Uphar is yet to receive the remaining amount. He is currently a Streamer and Game Reviewer for Gameffine.
Moon was accompanied by fellow unpaid worker, Sai Kuntia. Sai is due 32,000 for the work done for Phoenixverse as social media manager. Sai is no longer employed in nor is he searching for opportunities in the esports industry right now.
The other caster in question, Shivendu ‘Sh1bZ’ Mishra, was asked to perform the casting duties for the online and a potential offline phase, depending on the restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic.
Sh1bZ had quoted ‘a five-figure sum’, despite discounting his normal quote for travel and stay, which is usually an obligation fulfilled by the Tournament Organiser separately. Sh1bZ is yet to receive more than 2/3rd of the total quoted sum along with other future promises that are yet to come to fruition.
To the main event itself, the tournament format and schedule went through several mutations and even the modified version of the Main event left a lot to be desired.
That Phoenixverse stopped all forms of communication with staff and teams after the semi-finals is damning in itself. However, the treatment that the staff had to experience thereafter in an attempt to recover their money was disheartening.
Teams were still under the illusion that staff like Moon and Charnjit ‘s3rius’ Singh Mudhar were still connected to the organisation and continued to contact them up until February in attempts to ask for clarity about the Final between Bl4ZE Esports and 2ez gaming that are yet to be played.
The delays in the event, according to rumours, were due to Phoenixverse’s efforts to have the Finals on LAN. But, there was no form of communication made to the teams, staff and the fans, with everyone left in the dark over the true intentions of the Phoenixverse team.
As we were building this report, Phoenixverse owner Nithin N Nayak iterated in a Whatsapp Group Chat that included representatives of the two teams that the scheduled Finals will be held soon before he proceeded to remove Moon and others from the group. Moon has since been blocked without any communication about the payment due to him.
Subrajit Guha, who is another party left unpaid by Phoenixverse, told us he is due nearly 14,000 INR and that he has been trying to recover the sum.
Apart from this, their continued barrage of lofty promises of better pay and a long-term vision built a sense of grandeur that when examined closely, was found to be merely a series of fallacious arguments.
While defaults and delays have become a rare commodity in the Indian esports industry by now, the brazen responses the staff received while attempting to recover their dues was disappointing. They were told they were out of line and that the owner(s) don’t want such quarrels or headaches over such small sums – small sums that remain unpaid.
Phoenixverse was a Colossus built of feathers, not steel. It stayed true to the name somewhat – hyped to be in existence for as short as a verse and being the absolute inverse of what a phoenix resembles.
A phoenix rises from the ashes into the void. Phoenixverse rose from the void and buried themselves into ashes quicker than anyone could say their name.
P.S. We tried to establish contact with Neha Navindra and Nithin N Nayak to ask some clarifications on this matter but our message was left on read/seen. There are audio clippings that we unfortunately could not include in this report due to obvious reasons.