Russian professional esports players Daniil ‘Putrick’ Abdrakhmanov and Egor ‘Swizzy’ Licko have accused Epic Games of discrimination after they were denied the prize money for winning a Fortnite championship last month because of their nationality.
The two Russian nationals won the Fortnite Champion Series (FNCS) Major 3: Chapter 4 Season 3, and were supposed to receive a $200,000 cash prize. However, Epic Games – the creators of the game and organizers of the championship – refused to pay up and even disqualified Putrick from an upcoming FNCS Copenhagen event.
The gamer has since shared his email exchanges with Epic Games, in which he was told by company representatives that the money was withheld because he and Swizzy hailed from a ‘Prize Restricted Region’ – a designation given to Russia after it launched its military operation in Ukraine last year.
According to FNCS rules, cited by Epic Games, players who reside in such countries are ineligible to receive prizes from events, and are effectively disqualified. Notably, the rules make no mention of a participant’s citizenship, only his “residence.”
Putrick has stressed that he was not playing from Russia or any other ‘Prize Restricted Region’ during the championship. Both he and Swizzy live and play from Belarus, where Epic Games has not officially introduced restrictions.
Additionally, Putrick revealed in an interview that his bank account is based in Kazakhstan, which is also not listed as a restricted region, meaning that transferring the $200,000 prize money should not have been an issue.
Nevertheless, Epic Games has refused to reverse its decision and has continued to send identical responses to the pro gamer, insisting that Russian residents are not entitled to payments.
While some have noted that Putrick and Swizzy may have yet to obtain residency status in Belarus, explaining Epic Games’ decision, others have argued that the company should have warned the gamers and not allowed them to enter the championship in the first place.
Last year, 18-year-old Russian professional gamer Ivan ‘Pure’ Moskalenko was denied a US visa to take part in a major Dota 2 tournament after he was caught up in a scandal for drawing a ‘Z’ symbol during a competition. Moskalenko said he had “accidentally” drawn the letter used by the Russian military on an in-game minimap, after which he and his team were booted from the competition.