Russian President Vladimir Putin has unveiled plans for an exciting all-Russian video game tournament featuring various esports titles. The tournament, organized by Lesta Games, will showcase games from domestic and friendly countries’ developers. While popular games like League of Legends and World of Tanks are expected to be included, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) has been excluded due to its perceived political bias. Let’s delve into the details of this upcoming event and the reasoning behind CS:GO’s exclusion.
Lesta Games to Host the Tournament
Lesta Games, the company responsible for taking over the World of Tanks franchise, will oversee the all-Russian video game tournament. Following Wargaming.net’s exit from Russia and Belarus after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Lesta Games has successfully managed the World of Tanks series. The tournament will feature various games from Lesta’s catalog, such as World of Tanks, World of Ships, and Tanks Blitz, along with titles from domestic and friendly developers.
CS:GO’s Omission Sparks Debate
Although CS:GO boasts a substantial player base in Russia, Valve, the American developers behind the game, would seemingly disqualify it from contention. However, Gaukhar Aldiyarova, the head of Lesta’s Moscow division, revealed to Kommersant that CS:GO is not under consideration. The exclusion stems from the game’s alleged “one-sided coverage of political events within the game universe.”
Curiously, CS:GO lacks any significant narrative or direct portrayal of political events, making the rationale for its exclusion unclear. One possible explanation can be attributed to Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat’s controversial creation of a war-torn eastern European city map within CS:GO. The map contained images and text that Russia deemed inappropriate, as it aimed to provide Russians with “uncensored access to the horrors of the war in Ukraine.”
Despite this map not being endorsed by the CS:GO developers, it contributed to the perception that the game includes content disapproved by the Russian government.
Broader Context: Gaming and Politics
This recent exclusion of CS:GO follows Russia’s ban of several games, including Apex Legends and Overwatch, due to newly implemented laws against LGBT propaganda. Even Chess.com faced a ban in Russia for publishing blog posts condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Interestingly, VALORANT, a game featuring multiple LGBT characters, was not among the banned titles. As VALORANT is also developed by Riot Games, owned by Tencent, there is a possibility of its inclusion in future all-Russian tournaments.
Expanding the Russian Video Game Market
The all-Russian esports tournament is part of a series of initiatives aimed at revitalizing the Russian video game market after the departure of major Western companies during the Ukrainian conflict. To stabilize the industry, the Russian government plans to invest over $20 billion in the development of a “national game engine” as an alternative to engines like Unity and Unreal Engine. Additionally, the establishment of a “Russian Electronic Arts” is in progress to create new games catering to the domestic market.
In another move to promote the Russian gaming sector, President Putin announced discussions about advancing Russian video games in BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). Furthermore, efforts will be made to support domestic game manufacturers entering the Chinese market.
Upcoming Event: Games of the Future
Kazan, a Russian city, is set to host the Games of the Future esports event in the coming year. This exciting tournament will feature 16 hybrid disciplines and an impressive prize pool of $25 million. It aims to showcase the prowess of esports and further solidify Russia’s position in the global gaming landscape.
President Putin’s unveiling of an all-Russian video game tournament demonstrates Russia’s commitment to the gaming industry’s growth and development. While CS:GO’s exclusion due to perceived political bias has raised questions, the tournament promises to showcase a diverse range of games from both domestic and friendly countries’ developers. With ongoing efforts to revitalize the Russian gaming market and expand its influence, Russia is poised to make significant strides in the world of esports.