At the end of March 2024, the Natus Vincere team, better known as NAVI, won the first large-scale Counter-Strike 2 tournament 2024 PGL Major Copenhagen. In fact, the team became the first world champion in Counter-Strike 2, which is an impressive achievement in itself. NAVI’s history is full of similar triumphs, interesting situations, and just plain funny moments. On the occasion of the team’s victory, it’s time to recall how it came to be and what it is known for.


The birth of NAVI

At the end of the noughties, esports was experiencing a period of active growth. The prize pools of tournaments in certain disciplines amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and almost every developer wanted to grab a piece of this relatively new market. We talked about the topic of money in esports in more detail in a separate article.

It is important to understand that at that time, there were no frankly large companies that controlled tournaments on the global level that we are used to today. Riot Games and Valve, the developers of League of Legends and Dota 2, respectively, were just starting their journey to become the leaders in the field of esports as modern video game fans know them. However, there were a large number of smaller tournaments in the world, such as the Arbalet Cup, ASUS Open, or World Cyber Games.

Who are NAVI (Natus Vincere). We tell you about the most famous esports team in Ukraine
Malaysia Cyber Game 2015

So, yes, esports was actively developing, but it hadn’t yet acquired the current scale, media coverage, and clear internal rules. This allowed both organizers and players to be more flexible. Also, the state of the “wild frontier” in esports helped the emergence of new teams and tournaments, as anyone with enough money and desire could enter this territory.

One such person was Kazakh businessman Murat Arbalet Zhumashevich Tulemaganbetov. By the way, esports constantly uses nicknames of players rather than their real names, so they are always mentioned in the media with nicknames between their first and last names. Arbalet’s main occupation was selling household goods, but he invested a significant portion of the money he earned in esports.

Actually, the aforementioned Arbalet Cup is a tournament fully organized with the help of Zhumashevich. Initially, it was held in Kazakhstan, but it quickly expanded to other CIS countries, including Ukraine. Arbalet poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into esports in Eastern Europe. The businessman did not pursue any profit here, as he was simply interested in this area. He became especially interested in esports when his children appeared, and later they even took over the baton from him and started helping to organize tournaments on their own.

Who are NAVI (Natus Vincere). We tell you about the most famous esports team in Ukraine
Murat Zhumashevych (left) with his family

Arbalet was not just organizing, but also helping individual players. For example, he paid for a trip to China for a Ukrainian WarCraft player with the nickname sTa.KNet.Majestic. In this context, it was only a matter of time before Murat started his own esports team.

Arbalet announced his plans to assemble his team in October 2009, during the Intel Extreme Masters championship in Dubai. Zhumashevich wanted to create the most professional and serious organization possible, so he planned to take control of the management and all technical nuances. The players, meanwhile, could fully focus on preparing for esports tournaments.

The first to respond to the offer was Serhiy starix Ishchuk from Kyiv, who specialized in playing Counter-Strike. And this is a very important point, because it is not known how events would have developed further if a player from another country had responded to the offer. But in the end, everything turned out so that the team got its roots in Ukraine.

Who are NAVI (Natus Vincere). We tell you about the most famous esports team in Ukraine
First lineup of the upcoming Counter-Strike NAVI

Serhiy invited other Ukrainians to join the team: Danylo Zeus Teslenko (Kharkiv), Ioann Edward Sukharev (Kharkiv), Arseniy Ceh9 Trynozhenko (Lviv), and Yegor markeloff Markelov (Dnipro).

The team’s direct manager was Oleksandr ZeroGravity Kokhanovskyi, a Kyiv-based resident, a former well-known Ukrainian Counter Strike player, then S.T.A.L.K.E.R. tester and team leader of the GSC Pro-Team, which was created directly at the GSC Game World game studio under the wing of Sergiy Grigorievich.


The question of the name

This is how what Ukrainian fans will know as Natus Vincere began. However, the team originally had a different name – Arbalet.UA. The origin of the name does not raise any special questions: Arbalet in honor of the team’s organizer, UA because of the country of base.

When it came to forming a full-fledged esports organization, the team members raised the question of a different name. Zeus and Edward suggested Na’Vi. It is related to James Cameron’s Avatar movie, but it could potentially cause problems due to copyright issues.

Therefore, in February 2010, the esports team organized a contest for the best decoding of the word Na’Vi or a full-fledged new name. Anyone could propose their own version. The contest attracted over 2000 participants.

Who are NAVI (Natus Vincere). We tell you about the most famous esports team in Ukraine
Current NAVI logo

The winner was Bruno hArt1k Estevens from Portugal. He proposed Team Vincit, where the word “vincit” can be interpreted as “reward for worthy work, victory.” However, the esports team decided to slightly change this option to Natus Vincere, “born to win.” This allowed them to keep the original abbreviation, except that the spelling changed from Na’Vi to NAVI, but the recognition did not disappear.

Now the “born to win” had to live up to their loud name.


Famous victories

NAVI started as a Counter-Strike team. Back then, there was already a version of Counter-Strike: Source, but it didn’t really catch on in the esports environment. So everyone mostly played the classic Counter-Strike.

Already in January 2010, NAVI, or rather, still Arbalet.UA, took first place at the Arbalet Cup Asia 2010 tournament. Later, the team also showed itself to be very strong in Counter-Strike. For example, the Ukrainian team became the first in the CIS to become a world champion at the Electronic Sports World Cup tournament. NAVI actively attracted attention and formed a loyal fan base around it.

However, the team reached a fundamentally new level not through Counter-Strike, but through Dota 2. In October 2010, the organization decided to expand its activities to several disciplines, including, for example, FIFA and StarCraft II. But it was the Dota 2 team that would become one of the most important pillars of NAVI’s success.

It appeared in October 2010. Back then, everyone was still playing the original DotA (Defense of the Ancients), and NAVI was no exception. But in 2011, Valve revealed Dota 2, which marked the beginning of a new era in both esports and online gaming in general. To spur the interest of the esports community, the company also announced the global tournament The International. The International will eventually become one of the main annual events in the esports world.

Who are NAVI (Natus Vincere). We tell you about the most famous esports team in Ukraine
The most famous NAVI roster in Dota 2

NAVI had already managed to prove itself in standard DotA, so it received a direct invitation to The International without having to go through the qualifying stages. At the tournament, Natus Vincere managed to beat all the favorites and take first place, which brought the team $1 million.

The composition of the 2011 Dota 2 team was as follows:

  • Oleksandr XBOCT Dashkevich
  • Danylo Dendi Ishutin
  • Clement Puppey Ivanov
  • Ivan ArtStyle Antonov
  • Dmytro LighTofHeaveN Kupriyanov

All of them eventually became media faces both among Dota 2 fans and in the esports industry. And NAVI remained one of the leaders in Dota 2 for a long time. Unfortunately, the team failed to win The International for the second time. The closest it came to this title was at The International 2013, but then NAVI lost to the Swedish team The Alliance.

From about then on, the team’s performance deteriorated. The management regularly renewed the team and sought new approaches, wanting to repeat previous successes. But so far, NAVI’s results in Dota 2 leave much to be desired. However, this does not particularly prevent the “same” star cast from being active in a variety of areas.

Media has become a very important resource for Natus Vincere. After all, it is easier for people to cheer for specific people rather than a team. This is especially evident in the NAVI roster for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, whose main star is Alexander s1mple Kostylyov.

Prior to that, s1mple had already proved himself as a great player, in particular as a sniper, in other teams. He was a part of at least HellRaisers and FlipSid3 Tactics. But it was in NAVI that he proved himself at the peak of his abilities. As a result, the NAVI roster from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive squad won many prizes at various tournaments with him, and Alexander was named the best player in CS: GO in 2018, 2021, and 2022.

Currently, s1mple has taken a break from his esports career, but he is still a member of NAVI. He actively streams and supports initiatives related to Counter-Strike 2.

Counter-Strike 2 and Dota 2 continue to be the main disciplines for NAVI. However, the organization does not forget about other games either.

Right now, it has active units for PUBG Mobile, in which the team has won several tournaments, Valorant, Clash of Clans, and other games. In general, NAVI has tried its hand at even more disciplines over the course of its history, including Halo Infinite, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, and Fortnite.


Other activities

Over the years, Natus Vincere has grown from an ordinary team to a world-renowned organization known to millions of people. Therefore, its activities also go beyond the scope of ordinary esports competitions.

For example, NAVI became a partner of the UNITED24 initiative aimed at supporting Ukraine during the Russian military invasion. The partnership was announced in 2022. At the same time, s1mple made a single donation of $100,000.

“This is definitely our most important partnership this year. I am sure our other partners will agree with that statement, support us, and join the initiative. UNITED24 is doing important things for Ukraine. We are glad we have the opportunities and resources to help them,” this is how Oleksandr Pavlenko, CMO of NAVI, commented on the partnership.

In 2022. Natus Vincere was generally very supportive of Ukraine during the beginning of the full-scale invasion. The organization donated hundreds of thousands of dollars and donated several hundred vehicles for the needs of the military.

The documentary Leaving Home by NAVI was particularly memorable. It tells the story of esports fans from Kharkiv, Melitopol, Mariupol, and other cities that have been severely affected by Russian aggression. The film crew met with them to share the details of their lives, which were changed by the war. With the help of the documentary, NAVI wanted to further draw attention to the problem of Russian aggression.

Of course, NAVI’s activities are not limited to war-related initiatives. After all, this is an esports organization that has existed for almost 15 years. Therefore, it has plenty of other areas of work.

Natus Vincere actively supports and develops esports in Ukraine. Back in 2010, the organization’s representatives met with the then Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. Back then, there were promises that esports would be supported at the government level. But, as we all know, trusting Azarov is a pretty stupid idea.

However, this did not stop NAVI. The company regularly sponsors local esports initiatives and supports young players. The current president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, paid attention to the organization’s efforts. For example, he publicly congratulated the team on his social media on winning the PGL Major Stockholm 2021.

All kinds of cosmetic items created in collaboration with NAVI can be found in Dota 2, Counter-Strike 2, and Valorant. This means that global development studios also recognize the team’s achievements.

Who are NAVI (Natus Vincere). We tell you about the most famous esports team in Ukraine
NAVI sticker in the game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Interestingly, even with the team’s star status, any player can join the organization. Thanks to the ROAD TO NAVI initiative, a player can fill out a questionnaire and get a chance to join NAVI Youth or NAVI Junior. And the NAVI Academy is engaged in the search and training of young talents.

You can also find NAVI branded merchandise for every taste. Once upon a time, there was even a bar in Kyiv under the patronage of NAVI. There you could watch broadcasts of championships and play popular eSports games, and the menu was themed with terms from Counter-Strike and Dota 2.


NAVI statistics

According to the Esports Earnings website, NAVI ranks fifth in the global ranking of esports teams by prize money.

The best esports teams by prize money
1. Team Liquid (Netherlands) – $48.6 million
2. OG (Denmark) – $38 million
3. Team Spirit (Russia) – $29.7 million
4. Evil Geniuses (USA) – $28.6 million
5. Natus Vincere (Ukraine) – $21.7 million

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, and in general, the team’s list of achievements includes 32 eSports disciplines, including FIFA 11, World of Tanks, and the classic Defense of the Ancients.

The best NAVI games in terms of prize money
1. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – $9.5 million
2. Dota 2 – $5.2 million
5. World of Tanks – $901 thousand
6. Counter-Strike 2 – $685 thousand
7. Rainbow Six Siege – $445 thousand
8. Counter-Strike – $368 thousand
9. Brawl Stars – $295 thousand
10. Paladins – $256 thousand


A little humor

The esports industry, like video games in general, is regularly associated with various forms of humor. And where there is modern humor, there are memes for every taste. NAVI is no exception.

For example, a meme about betting on NAVI has developed because of the ambiguous success rates of an organization, when teams can beat all the favorites but lose where no one expected them to.

“You should never bet on NAVI, you should never bet against NAVI.” Because in any case, there is a high probability that the bet will burn. Believe the author of this text, it has been tested on personal experience – and more than once.

Some memes are created by specific NAVI members. Here, too, s1mple is mentioned most often. YouTube covers with him have long since become public domain, and cuts with his phrases have been actively viral on TikTok recently.

However, be prepared that if you are not immersed in esports in general and the history of NAVI in particular, many of the jokes will seem completely strange and detached from reality.