The "Green Labeling" of video games, announced last week, uncovered contradictions between the existing young gaming associations in Russia. This has escalated into an open conflict and accusations.

The formal reason for the confrontation was the announcement of the so-called "Green Labeling of Video Games." It was presented last Thursday, May 30, by the organization for the development of the video game industry (RVI), headed by Vasily Ovchinnikov.

The initiative aims to introduce voluntary labeling of video games to "eliminate the negative context about video games for the general audience and help focus on the positive impact of video games on individuals and society."

The announcement provoked indignation from another association—the Association of Professionals in the Industry of Game Operation and Development (APRIORI), as well as the company Lesta Games, which is now responsible for the development and operation of "World of Tanks" and "World of Warships" in Russia.

The fact is that APRIORI (at least, VK Play, which is one of its founders) and Lesta have been working jointly with the Ministry of Economy for the second year on an "act on an experiment to regulate the video game industry, which will address issues of labeling."

"Lesta, like all responsible actors in the industry, has been working with the Ministry of Economy on labeling for two years. Since last November, we have been meeting weekly in a working group where we discussed labeling," stated Gauhar Aldiyarova, head of Lesta Games' Moscow division, in the "Igrotochka" chat (all quotes are taken from there).

"In essence, we discussed a version of our PEGI with its own specifics. We believe that the initiative from the Ministry of Economy will help protect the industry from other, more severe control options for game content. And then RVI appears with its new green label—why?" wondered Aldiyarova.

Alexander Mikheev, head of APRIORI, believes that RVI's initiative is "an unreasonable and pointless hype over a real problem." Moreover, he stated that the announcement of the "Green Labeling of Video Games" harms the modern Russian gaming industry.

"There is a track for government regulation of the gaming industry. The scales constantly balance between 'ban everything', include pre-moderation, and do it 'like in China' to the position 'let everything be as it is without any regulation'. Both extremes are destructive. The dialogue with the Ministry of Economy on the additional labeling initiative is precisely aimed at finding a balance between 'forbid' and 'leave it alone'", explained Mikheev.

According to him, industry representatives, during meetings with the Ministry of Economy, agreed to introduce seven new "descriptors," which, after being announced, should voluntarily be applied by developers to their products.

"The purpose of this process is to prove that we are mature enough for self-regulation and that additional government control is not needed," revealed Mikheev. In light of this experiment, he believes that RVI's initiative "does not protect the industry in any way, does not help it, but on the contrary, creates confusion."

Due to the announcement of the new labeling, the previous track, as Aldiyarova wrote, is "now at risk, and there are hours, days, months of our work there."

Malik Khatajaev, owner of Lesta Games, expressed an even more categorical opinion on the green label: "I officially declare on behalf of Lesta Games: we do not support this initiative, we consider it extremely harmful to the industry and contrary to the long-term joint work of all industry representatives with the Government Commission. This is a direct torpedoing of the achieved agreement, in which RVI participated, but then 'as always'."

What is meant by "as always" is clarified by Mikheev. According to him, RVI has behaved in a similar manner before: "History repeats itself with persistent regularity. During discussions, all participants from different associations and large businesses nod their heads, seemingly in agreement, and then Vasily from RVI releases another initiative that contradicts it."

According to Mikheev, over the past year, there have been about five cases when "the entire industry had to extinguish the uproar," caused, as can be understood from the context of the comment, by the actions of Ovchinnikov and RVI.

"It's not even bad, the bad thing is that in the eyes of the counterpart—the state—we look like children in a sandbox. The reaction to the sandbox is—regulate the children. Everyone understands this, we, Lesta, and others, but Vasya has his own personal life and personal brand development," lamented Mikheev.

"That’s why personally, for me, Vasily is now the most destructive element. I told him this personally, I told all the founders of RVI, now I'm saying it publicly, because I'm tired of putting out fires," stressed Mikheev.

Khatajaev, in turn, sees not only PR in RVI's actions and leadership. According to him, if Lesta Games is trying to make a difference "for the benefit of the industry," then the long-term goal of RVI could be to create a controller with "hostile third-party people to the industry," who will "collect rent" and "sit on the red button."

For this reason, he believes that the current situation with labeling concerns all participants in the Russian gaming market, including small indie studios, not just the companies working on it.

"There are those who are ready and moving the industry forward, and there are those who want to be near it and preferably on top," wrote Khatajaev, also calling RVI's labeling initiative "anti-government activity."

Lesta Games sees its role within the work with the Ministry of Economy as "regulating self-regulation": "we participate in the working group to avoid heavy-handed regulation in favor of normal self-regulation."

This position is further explained by Mikheev, according to whom there are two possible development paths for the future of the Russian gaming industry: either "pre-moderation and obtaining a license to publish games, or voluntary labeling by the developer himself without commissions and other bureaucracy."

Vladimir Varenik, the founder of the Indie GO community of independent game developers, who works closely with RVI, expressed his understanding of the criticism of the initiative: "I don't understand why a tragedy was made out of a simple proposal to voluntarily make labels. So that there are not only red ones but also green ones."

According to his comment, he proposed the green labeling at a meeting in the Ministry of Economy when representatives of Lesta Games were also present, as he claims. The label would reflect the positive aspects of the projects it is applied to.

According to APRIORI head Mikheev, there's nothing wrong with green labeling itself. The problem is that in joint meetings, a decision was made to postpone it until the experiment with labeling, which is laid out in the Ministry of Economy's bill, is conducted.

"Everyone agreed that it would be later. But then Vasya goes to the media and says, no, I will do as I want," said Mikheev.

Aldiyarova recalls the situation with the positive labeling proposal at the Ministry of Economy differently: "This was discussed within the framework of the general experiment. And we agreed that the labels could be both positive and negative."

According to her, there was no talk specifically about two labels. Such an initiative would hardly please the Ministry of Economy.

In addition, she expressed surprise that a proposal, which all parties managed to discuss at a meeting with the state regulator, turned into a private initiative specifically by the RVI.

Varenik responded that the association proceeded to create and announce its own labeling because, according to the Ministry of Economy, positive labeling cannot be introduced under federal law, but can be within the framework of an initiative.

Varenik also accused his interlocutors of remaining silent when the proposal for positive labeling was introduced. Nobody criticized this proposal.

“Vladimir, who stayed silent? Were you even at the last meetings? It was decided that everyone agrees and is ready to start the experiment. Why didn't you or Vasily stand up and say: no, we will start our own green experiment and announce it to the media first?”, Aldiyarova retorted.

Further in the discussion, which was disjointed and not always consistent due to the format, an interesting detail emerged that requires a small remark.

In December 2023, the Unified Regulator of Gambling (ERAI), together with the Russian Boxing Federation, prepared a project concept regulating the Russian video game market. According to it, all gamer payments would have to go through a unified betting transaction center rather than through platforms like Steam, Epic Games Store, VK Play, Lesta Game Center, and others. This center would take deductions from each transaction, which would then be directed to support Russian developers. It would also transfer commissions to game stores. Selling games bypassing ERAI systems would be prohibited.

According to Khatazhayev, ERAI and the Boxing Federation could have received 2% from each transaction in the market.

The proposal was criticized not only by Russian gaming companies. As Kommersant wrote: the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Finance, Roskomnadzor, and other departments were “concerned that ERAI is trying to concentrate all powers in its hands and conduct not only monitoring but full administration of financial flows.”

At the same time, according to Ovechinnikov, owner of Lesta Games, the boxers' proposal to allocate a portion of the proceeds from Russian game sales to RVI activities "seemed interesting."

Following this, Aldiyarova states, the company began to say that it now "does not trust Vasily."

“We tried to build a dialogue with Vasily, he preferred ERAI. He later expressed regret, saying he was misunderstood, but for us, this was a serious step against the industry,” Aldiyarova emphasized.

Varenik disagreed with this accusation. “You have incorrect information, Vasily defended the industry along with all of us,” he said, adding that the Russian Boxing Federation is no longer interested in the video game industry because “they are occupied with 'Rolf,' which is larger than the entire industry. This issue is closed. Yes, and we have a joint document in which RVI, represented by Vasily, along with Lesta and VK, criticize his initiative.”

However, Khatazhayev insists that the issue is not closed, and Aldiyarova asserts that Ovechinnikov told her personally that "he decided to talk to ERAI because it would be advantageous, in his opinion."

Another small remark. "Rolf" refers to one of Russia's largest car dealers, which in December 2023 was initially transferred to temporary management by Rosimushchestvo by presidential decree and then nationalized in February 2024. In March of this year, the general director of the business became Roman Antonov, a business partner of Umar Kremlev, a current executive committee member and former general secretary of the Russian Boxing Federation. He also engages in the betting business.

Interestingly, from Varenik's comments, it is clear that the debate with gaming company representatives on ERAI's proposal was conducted with Kremlev: “We argued collectively with Umar. If Gaukhar recalls, I personally explained to him that their initiatives would lead to Steam blockades and the closing of many indie developers.”

In addition to Varenik, Gadji Makhtiev, the owner of gaming media outlets "Kanobu," "iGROMANIA," and the gaming platform, as well as one of RVI's founders, defended Ovechinnikov and the RVI during the discussion.

He stated that the discussion was necessary and that RVI had its share of mistakes. However, he immediately attacked Mikheev, calling his words a "personal attack," aimed at "moving Vasya aside." Nonetheless, Makhtiev emphasizes that RVI is far more than just Ovechinnikov, having founders and a team in addition to him.

If Ovechinnikov's actions are sanctioned unanimously—with the participation of all founders and the team—this means RVI is entirely laying the groundwork for dividing the industry, Khatazhayev responds.

Varenik disagrees with this interpretation: "On the contrary, we are for unification. We were the first in 2022 to say we need to survive together. We are not competitors to Lesta, and we never tried to develop competing products, it doesn't interest us."

Soon after, Svetlana Karacharova, PR director of Lesta Games, accused Varenik of inconsistency: "How is this unification if first, we discuss one track for everyone, and then it turns out to be an RVI track and your personal initiative?"

Mikheev also disagrees with Varenik: "I have always called for the industry's unification. Even a year ago, in multiple meetings with Vasily at the start of the APRIORI association, I offered at least a consolidation of positions, at most unification in some format. In response, I was told that Vasily’s personal ambitions were paramount and he wasn't considering such a scenario (...) We shook hands on words, but in reality, Vasily then did what he thought was appropriate."

As an example, Mikheev refers to the announcement of RVI's own industry development roadmap: "After both parties agreed to jointly work on a list of development initiatives, which we, APRIORI, with Lesta, 1C, and other industry participants worked on for several months, we sent our ideas to Vasily. He did not respond, and a month later, news appeared in the media that RVI had developed an industry development roadmap. Our document was used as the basis. There were many such stories."

He also notes that because of such situations, he is no longer willing to work with Ovechinnikov in any capacity, and if RVI shares a position with him, then not with the association as a whole.

In a dialogue with Lesta's representatives, Varenik incidentally mentions that the reason for the current conflict is political or societal ambitions. According to him, it is because of these that Lesta "starts burning everything down."

It then emerges in the chat that at one point, RVI and APRIORI could have reached consolidation. According to Varenik, "the condition for unification was that we remove Vasily [from the leadership position] and appoint your director."

In response, RVI came up with a compromise—besides Ovechinnikov, they proposed several other candidates for consideration.

“But none of the proposed candidates suited you," writes Varenik, adding, "We are a collective organization and cannot turn into Lesta’s organization."

He believes that all attacks on RVI began after this.

From further correspondence, it becomes clear that Lesta could be satisfied with two other RVI co-founders—Slava Makarov, a game designer for World of Tanks, and Maxim Nikolaev, founder of the "Igroteka" group. However, for various reasons, full discussions of their candidacies did not happen (Makarov blames Lesta for communication failures).

At some point, Makhtiyev asked Aldiyarova to find more candidates. But they were not needed. "I listened, went looking for more. And you went and re-elected Vasya, and we were offered to chair the supervisory board to oversee," writes the head of Lesta's Moscow division.

Later in the same chat, Ovchinnikov responded to some of the accusations. He started by denying that he was the reason preventing the associations from merging into one organization. On the contrary, he wrote that he did a lot to avoid creating more associations and, instead, tried to bring them together.

Moreover, Ovchinnikov writes that he discussed with Mikheev the creation of a unified association led by him (Ovchinnikov): "You promised to go to the shareholders and discuss the structure and the unified association. You agreed in front of everyone and then disappeared. I clarified your position on this matter more than once, but you remained silent."

Among other things, Ovchinnikov explains the announcement of his own "road map" by saying, "We held off publishing it for a month or two, waiting for you to come back. We didn't wait and went ahead with our previously planned track."

Mikheev disagrees with this interpretation: "We agreed to work out the legal structure of the new venture. The matter was on you. I returned with the founders' position, who were waiting for specific proposals from you; none followed."

Regarding the road map, according to Mikheev, there was an agreement to develop a common road map. Mikheev presented it. However, instead of discussing it, Ovchinnikov released it under his name.

"This is the last contentious message from me. Because distortion of facts is, of course, sad and disappointing," Mikheev concluded the argument.

An interesting fact. In his response to APRIORI, Ovchinnikov notes that he previously gave Mikheev a positive recommendation to Vladimir Nikolsky, then COO of VK, to get him hired at VK. He also reveals that Mikheev had long been part of the RVI founders' chat group.

Regarding Lesta's accusations about labeling, Ovchinnikov counters that all initiatives "were recorded in RVI's road map last year and could not come as a surprise to many of those to whom I presented it well in advance, and now these same people are 'kicking up a fuss.'"

Ovchinnikov doesn't stop at the ERAI story, but his first message in the chat in connection with the accusations begins with the phrase, "I can't comment on conspiracy theories, fantasies, mysticism, slogans, etc., at most I can joke about them."

As for the overall discussion, one of the key outcomes can be considered Khatazhayev's final statement that Lesta officially ceases cooperation with RVI on all levels.

"Nothing fatal happened, everyone will choose their path and, as always, time will tell where those paths will lead. It's good that clarity has emerged," concludes the owner of Lesta Games.


On the issue of labeling. In 2012, a law came into effect in Russia called "On Protecting Children from Information Harmful to their Health and Development." It introduced mandatory labeling of digital products, including games, by age categories. There are five categories in total: 0+, 6+, 12+, 16+, and 18+.