Some ESL Road to Rio teams are choosing to play without agent skins

Nick J. May 1, 2020

In ESL's Road to Rio matchup between FURIA and Team Envy, both teams came to an agreement not to use Valve's recently introduced agent skins, but an admin's comments might have previewed Valve's desire to have them used anyway.

When FURIA and Team Envy paused their Road to Rio qualification match so members of the teams could turn off their agent skins, an admin was quick to tell them that they were allowed at Valve events. What on the surface looks like a friendly reminder, however, could be seen as a desire from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive's developer as a push for teams to use the skins.

Earlier this year, a WIN.gg report stated that FACEIT had suddenly reenabled the controversial Shattered Web agent models on their servers just days after banning them to preserve competitive integrity. Soon after, someone anonymously leaked chat logs between themselves and an admin of a FACEIT hub in which the admin claimed that he thought Valve had pushed FACEIT into enabling the skins on the platform. At the time, FACEIT did not respond to our requests for comment.

The skins were initially banned after pro players and fans complained that they made the models particularly hard to see on some maps, giving those who used them a competitive advantage. FACEIT Partnerships Manager Cem Mollaoğlu originally announced the ban around fifteen days after the skins were released.

A similar situation played out with tournament organizer ESL, who, after banning the custom agent skins from their servers in ESEA, suddenly stopped enforcing the ban. Neither ESEA nor ESL ever commented on the sudden change of heart regarding the skin's effect on the competitive integrity of a live match, or their sudden reappearance on the platform.

While most likely just a friendly reminder, the admin's comments could signal that Valve may be involved in asking tournament organizers to have teams use agent skins in an effort to better showcase the monetizable items. Since the end of Counter-Strik's Operation Shattered Web, the skins are only available on the Steam Marketplace. Valve takes a 15% cut of each item sold there.

Interested in Valve's expanded push to monetize the Steam player base? Click the picture below to read more.