2019 was a great year for counter-strike witnessing the rise of North American CS thanks to Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses, followed by Astralis marking their return to the top, and finally teams like Mousesports and Fnatic showing a glimpse of their former selves towards the end of the year.
But along with all this excitement, the year also had its fair share of undesirable disputes. Taking upon the duty of informing you guys about some of the biggest controversies that took place this year, let’s take a look at the “Top 10 Controversial CS:GO Moments of 2019”.
[Also Read: 6 Teams that Stepped into Counter-Strike in 2019]
10. S1mple Getting Banned From Twitch
Just before the Berlin Major 2019, Oleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev’s Twitch account was banned because of him tossing a homophobic slur in Russian, during a live stream. S1mple while streaming an FPL game with his teammate Kirill ‘Boombl4’ Mikhailov had used the word ‘pidor’ as a joke, aimed towards his teammate. This acted against him as Twitch imposed a week-long ban against his channel.
A few months down the line, s1mple’s channel was once again banned on similar grounds as last time, as he was caught tossing a word which might have been outside of Twitch’s guidelines.
But unlike last time, s1mple was vocal about the ban saying that,
“Stupid twitch doesn’t understand the different meanings of the same word in different contexts. I’m tired of streaming on a terrible platform, always choosing the right words.”
This was followed by an appeal by the ace rifler, requesting Twitch to remove his ‘Twitch Partnership’ as he could not do the same on his own due to the ban.
9. Jacky "Stewie2K" Yip’s Account Getting Hacked
North American star player Stewie2k had his account hacked just before the start of his StarLadder Berlin Major 2019 playoff series, which resulted in the loss of thousands of dollars worth of weapon skins.
The player was locked out of his steam account, unable to access it as the hacker somehow managed to bypass the trade ban, managing to get his hands on multiple expensive weapon skins. Fortunately, steam support was able to act quickly on the situation and recovered the player’s account before his match.
8. Valve Says 'No' To Exclusivity
Valve who typically don’t weigh in on such conversations spoke up in September when it came to the topic of ‘Exclusivity’, stating that locking down teams exclusively for a tournament which restricts them from participating in any other event is a big no.
“This form of team exclusivity is an experiment that could cause long-term damage. In addition to preventing other operators from competing, exclusivity prevents other events from keeping the CSGO ecosystem functioning if an individual event fails.”
Valve specifically pointed out that they are not interested in providing licenses for tournaments that restricts teams from participating in other tournaments. This call was made well in time, before the release of ESL Pro Tour and BLAST Premier who in no way restrict any team from playing in other tournaments. As for any upcoming scheduling conflicts, the teams would have to take care of that on their own.
7. Terminating The Trade Of CS:GO Keys
In October, Valve decided to ban the trading of CS keys in a bid to curb worldwide fraud networks, that recently shifted to using CS:GO keys to liquidate their gains. It was crucial to administer this ban as Valve believed that, at this point, nearly all key purchases that end up being traded or sold on the marketplace are believed to be fraud-sourced.
They stated that “CS:GO container keys purchased in-game can no longer be sold on the Steam Community Market or traded. Pre-existing CS:GO container keys are unaffected and those keys can still be sold on the Steam Community Market and traded.”
Valve acknowledged the fact that some legitimate users will be affected by this change, but combating fraud is something that they are prioritizing at the moment.
6. Astralis Parting Ways With RFRSH Entertainment
Astralis playing in a BLAST tournament was just not appreciated by the CS:GO community as both the team and the tournament organizer belonged to the same company called RFRSH Entertainment.
An incident took place where Astralis was forced to give preference to a BLAST tournament over IEM Sydney 2019, which had a spiralling effect on them, as they were dethroned from their number one spot by Team Liquid.
Facing a lot of public criticism following the incident, Astralis and BLAST decided to part ways with each other, who are now operated by a newly formed company called Astralis Group ApS. In fact, ex-CEO of RFRSH - Nikolaj Nyholm himself accepted that the pressure faced by Astralis due to the public uproar was responsible for the drop in their performance.
5. Australian Esports Betting Scandal
Back in August the Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit along with the Organized Crime Unit arrested six individuals for engaging in suspicious betting activity linked to a particular CS:GO tournament.
The two agencies had commenced their investigation in March 2019 getting a tip-off from a betting agency, which led to the six arrests. All the arrested individuals were between the age of 20 - 22 years and were charged for “engaging in conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome of event or event contingency, or use of corrupt conduct information for betting purposes.”
At the time of their arrest, the six accused were interviewed and had been released, but if found guilty can be facing up to 10 years of imprisonment. A total of 5 matches were affected as a result of this betting scandal, but a proactive approach by the authorities helped in controlling the situation before it got out of hand.
4. The Rise in Crowd Cheating Incidents
Since after the semifinal match between Mousesports and Astralis at EPL Season 10 - Finals, crowd cheating has been a hot topic of discussion within the CS:GO community. Astralis who had condemned the crowd in New York for helping Team Liquid faced a similar situation in Odense, this time the crowd backing them to win a tight series which they eventually lost.
And though it has come to light that pro players do 'work the crowd' when it comes to determining certain information, it has been tough to come up with a viable solution, with the best of them being the introduction of ‘Player Booth’.
The solution is great but not ideal as it does do a fantastic job of cancelling the outside noise from the crowd but at the same time does disconnect the players from the fans to some extent. The audience and community are an integral part of esports, at the same time there is a rising concern of them jeopardising the integrity and spirit of the game. It will interesting to see what solution the tournament organizers implement in order to maintain this balance.
3. StarLadder Serving Multiple DMCA Notices
CS:GO Major is a huge tournament that takes place twice annually, same was the case when it came to StarLadder Berlin Major 2019. As usual, various streaming personalities and esport influencers got ready to stream the tournament live on their channels, along with their own commentary and original content around it.
But to everyone’s shock StarLadder, the Major organizers struck their channels with a DMCA notice, stating that they were the only ones with the broadcasting right which was against Valve’s policy at the time.
Though at a later date in a blog titled “Keeping Things Competitive”, Valve went on to mention that “the Major tournament operator has always been the only party that has had a license to broadcast the Major.”
Settling the drama, while also stating that “Major tournament operators are expected to work with streamers in order to provide viewers with access to valuable alternative content and underserved languages, whether through official streams or otherwise.”
2. StarLadder Not Paying Talents
One of the most recent controversies to have hit the counter-strike community is StarLadder not having paid multiple talents for their services since the Berlin Major 2019.
Soon after James Banks tweeted out a long thread about his problem concerning payment delays from various unnamed tournament organizers. Richard Lewis on his podcast “By The Numbers” called out StarLadder for not paying its talents on time, and having a huge backlog of unpaid dues.
Though StarLadder did release a public statement a couple of days later, responding to all the allegations while clarifying that no outstanding payments to any CS:GO talents were left from StarSeries and Berlin Major 2019.
1. Trials of Ninjas in Pyjamas
Probably the biggest drama that hit the counter-strike community this year was Robin “Fifflaren” Johansson accusing NiP of unpaid dues not only to him but other players as well, interfering with their personal life, prohibiting players from signing individual sponsorships, withholding charity money, and not paying them their share of sponsorship earnings.
Hicham Chahine, CEO of Ninjas in Pyjamas was quick to respond to these allegations against his organization. This was followed by a lot of former NiP employees coming out of the closet and raising their voice, which smacked the Swedish esport organizations reputation right out the park.
The back-and-forth toss between Fifflaren and NiP along with the entire community demanding an answer led to World Esports Association (WESA) stepping in and conducting an independent review of all the allegations against the organization.
Mr Ian Smith, Sports Lawyer and Commissioner of the Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) stepped in and conducted the review, which was submitted to WESA. As a final statement related to all the complaints, Ian Smith goes on to say that,
“It is clear that the period up to early 2014 under Oldco was shambolic for a number of reasons. Similarly, the period 2014/15 at Newco was poor. The tax decisions shed some light on this. It is altogether a good thing for NiP that the people central to that period are no longer involved with the company, except, Hicham Chahine.”
While WESA released a statement saying that,
"WESA Commissioner Pietro Fringuelli concluded that the activities of Ninjas in Pyjamas and Hicham Chahine do not merit any formal consequences. Therefore, NiP will remain a full member of WESA and Hicham Chahine will continue to sit on the WESA Executive Board."
The community were not at all in agreement with this investigation, with a serious lapse in integrity as NiP is a part of WESA and Hicham Chahine is a member of its executive board. This coupled with the investigation being wrapped up in six days had everyone scratching their heads in confusion.
These were the top 10 controversies to take place in 2019. It might seem that the esports part of the game is plagued with bitter disputes and sour moments, but it is great that such things are coming before us and that work is being done to improve the situation.
Do you think some other controversies could have made it onto the list? Feel free to express your opinion in the comment section below.