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The Year of Idra

By Patrick 'chobopeon' Howell O'Neill
Feb 28, 2011 16:15

ImageIn this, potentially the biggest year in Western e-sports history, Idra's move to the West could prove to be very, very lucrative indeed.

The game is getting bigger.

2011 has been talked up as the year of e-sports in the West, the year the pastime will establish itself in a permanent and serious way. The high expectations, the higher audience size and the highest dollar signs in memory help explain the influx of entrepreneurs onto the scene. Hundreds of men and women, big companies and small startups are attempting to establish or grow their own source of income from the scene.

The lines are shifting and blurring between players, coaches, commentators and plain old celebrities. Increasingly, it feels like everybody has a hand in everything. As more money flows in, the hustle grows more intense.

Greg “Idra” Fields doesn’t fit the mold of the e-sports entrepreneur that we’ve come to expect. He’s not iNcontroL, a familiar voice on numerous podcasts, the face of a coaching business and Starleague and a mainstay on the forums. He’s not Artosis, the very visible benefactor, godfather and commentator of choice for the Western world. He’s not Jinro, the simultaneously old-school and upstart young man from Sweden who has earned the most foreign success in Korea since the legendary Elky a decade ago.

”I am beyond their timid, lying morality. Therefore I'm beyond caring.”
Idra is not quite like anyone else. He is a unique phenomenon in the e-sports world.

For four years, Greg Fields has been one of the most talked about players in the StarCraft scene. There’s something magnetic about his personality and his actions. The infamous American Zerg can repel or attract you with his unapologetic demeanor both in and out of the game. Either way, you are sure to feel his presence.

Idra is well aware of the notoriety he holds, the divisiveness he inspires.

“I think it started mainly because I sucked in important games,” said Idra in early 2010. “Ever since I joined TmG, I’ve been capable of beating top foreigners in practice games but it took a really long time for that to show through in games that mattered. That meant my ego was kind of disproportionate to my results, which rubbed people the wrong way. Along with that I tend to be fairly blunt in terms of saying what I think and not sugar coating it.”

Idra’s anger has many signature moves. Over the course of his career, his penchant for leaving games quickly and without GG’s made the “rage quit” synonymous with him. When StarCraft 2 was a younger game, he made a habit of insulting opposing players, occasionally including their families in the fun. His posts on community forums have been a mixed bag: occasionally deeply insightful but more often incendiary and insulting, earning him too many bans from Team Liquid to count.

His fiery manners have given some teams and sponsors second thoughts about associating with him. However, his current deal with Evil Geniuses (EG) is one of the most significant and high profile deals in e-sports. Idra is not lacking for suitors.

EG sponsored the tail-end of Idra’s adventures in Korea. Now, the organization is looking to fund his invasion of the West.

Image2009 was the last year that Idra rampaged through the West. As a Korean b-team veteran by then, he convincingly won most of the major Brood War tournaments of the year. Although his defeat at the hands of Nony during the TSL2 is still the most remembered and revered moment of that year and era, it would be foolish to dismiss his numerous victories elsewhere.

WCG USA, The GomTV Valor Tournament, ESWC Asia Masters, ESL Majors IV, the SC2GG Starleague and more fell to Idra.

2010 saw the foreign StarCraft world explode in size. The player base and the number of tournaments went through the roof. The competitive scene caught fire early and Idra loomed large. His dominance of the West was not nearly as thorough as it was in 2009 but his victories were significant, culminating in a King of the Beta win and consistent GSL success.

2011 holds bigger possibilities. With his GSL results on the upswing (his January quarterfinal finish was his best yet), Idra has vacated his seat and is headed West.

Go West, young man
The GSL remains the most prestigious tournament in the world. The first place prize of almost $45,000 is second to none. However, there is a steep drop off which prevents many players from taking the leap to Korea. For a months work, a round of 8 finisher such as Idra will earn only $2,670.

While Idra is grinding for games against the best players in the world, more and more Western tournaments have been offering a far more lucrative competitive circuit. In three days work, Ret won Assembly and earned $4,100, almost doubling Idra’s earnings from the last GSL. Western tournaments such as MLG, IEM, NASL in addition to the steady and solid stream of online cash tournaments have tempted Westerners and Koreans alike for some time.

The IEM World Championships will be Idra’s first major competition since announcing his decision to leave Korea. In a year where Idra can potentionally make well into the six figure range, the Hanover tournament will be his first test.

Transferring from solidly in the GSL’s Code S, the top tier of competition in the world, to a third tier competition (below Code A), puts pressure and confidence in Idra’s corner, a duo that has smelled doom and triumph for him in competitions past.

In the IEM World Championships, Idra must be the favorite to take the $13,000 prize. He matches up well against every opponent involved. The top tier of foreigners has struggled in Code A while Idra has proven himself consistent in Code S. He is demonstrably ahead of every other player at the tournament.

Of course, this is no guarantee - there never are any of those with Idra - but if I was a betting man, you know where my money would be headed.

A money making move

The upcoming year can be Idra’s most lucrative yet.

Gone are the days of $1,000 paychecks for the marathon that is the GSL. The accomplished Zerg can look forward to numerous five figure pay days. MLG’s prize pool is reaching new heights this year (Idra and every other competitor can potentially win up to $75,000 from this organization alone), NASL is promising almost half a million dollars in prizes and the next season of the IEM is expected to keep pace in one way or another. Other major tournaments such as Dreamhack are increasing their prize pools regularly.

Idra is the most accomplished player making permanent residence in the West. He will be the most skilled, confident and prepared player at most of the tournaments he’ll attend for quite some time.

Make no mistake, Idra's Code S advantage will not be permanent. The level of play in the West is advancing daily and having Idra thrown into the mix will accelerate the improvement of the top tier. If his will to improve stagnates, he will be caught up to and overtaken in short order. However, with the reinvigoration that a move back to America can offer, what are the chances he will stop?

If Idra has the stamina, he will be ahead of the game for some time. In this, potentially the biggest year in Western e-sports history, that could prove to be very, very lucrative indeed.



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