Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, has commissioned the creation of an all-Russian video game tournament that would include multiple different esports this week, and while League of Legends and World of Tanks were highlighted as possible included titles, CS:GO was ruled out after the government deemed it too politically bias.
As reported by Russian news site Kommersant on May 30, the event will be run by Lesta Games, the company that took over the World of Tanks franchise after Wargaming.net’s exit from Russia and Belarus following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The event was announced to include competitions in Lesta’s catalog of titles, including World of Tanks, World of Ships, and Tanks Blitz, as well as other games from “domestic developers and developers from friendly countries.” League was highlighted as another possibility to be included in the festival of gaming because its developer, Riot Games, is owned by the China-based entertainment conglomerate Tencent.
While Counter-Strike’s American developers, Valve, should automatically rule the game out of contention, the head of the Moscow division of Lesta, Gaukhar Aldiyarova, told Kommersant the game is not in contention despite its very large Russian player base due to its “one-sided coverage of political events within the game universe.”
What’s notable about Counter-Strike is the title completely lacks any narrative or coverage of political events, leaving the justification for its exclusion somewhat unclear.
One explanation could be due to the actions of Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat which, as a part of World Press Freedom Day, created a map in CS:GO of a war-torn eastern European city that included images and text otherwise unavailable in Russia. Their aim was to give Russians “uncensored access to the horrors of the war in Ukraine in their native language.”
While this wasn’t added by or in any way promoted by CS:GO’s developers, this does still mean CS:GO includes information the Russian government disapproves.
This comes just seven months after Russia seemingly banned a number of games including Apex Legends and Overwatch under new laws against LGBT propaganda. Chess.com was also banned in Russia over blog posts condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Notably, VALORANT, a game that includes multiple LGBT characters, was not highlighted as a banned title. With it also being developed by Tencent-owned Riot, this means it also could be included in any future all-Russian tournaments.
Related: Ukrainian Sports Ministry names multiple CS:GO players who broke wartime travel policy
This all-Russian esports tournament is the latest in a series of announcements surrounding the Russian video game market following the exodus of most major Western companies at the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
As a way to stabilize the collapsing video game sector, the Russian government has looked set to fund its own “national game engine” to produce an alternative to game engines like Unity and Unreal Engine and a “Russian Electronic Arts” to produce the new games. The government estimated this would cost over $20bn in government investment.
As well as this, Putin also announced in the same May 30 statement that the Russian Federation will soon be discussing the promotion of Russian video games in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) countries while helping domestic video game manufacturers enter the Chinese market.
Finally, the Russian city of Kazan will be hosting a Games of the Future esports event next year which would include 16 hybrid disciplines with a total prize pool of $25m.