World of Tanks studio Wargaming has announced it is to depart Russia and Belarus. The studio says it's already transferred its live services to an unaffiliated company in both countries, and that it's currently in the process of dismantling its Minsk location.
Why is Wargaming departing Russia and Belarus?
While no explicit reason is given for Wargaming's departure, it's almost certainly due to Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. The studio has already halted advertising it deemed inappropriate following the invasion, as well as firing former creative director Sergey Burkatovsky after he expressed support for Putin's war in Ukraine. Now, after a "strategic review" of its global operations, Wargaming has made the decision to completely exit Belarus and Russia. It's doing so in "full compliance" with relevant laws.
According to Wargaming, it handed over operations of its live service games to Lesta Studio (which it says is "no longer affiliated" with Wargaming) in Russia and Belarus on March 31st. Wargaming says it expects to incur "substantial losses" as a result of doing so. Its games will remain available in both Russia and Belarus and will be handled by Lesta. It's not clear whether Wargaming intends to open a new studio as a result of these closures, but the studio does say it's looking to provide "as much severance and support as possible" to any employees affected by this change.
This is a significant decision for Wargaming. The studio was originally founded in Belarus back in 1998, so it's got strong ties with the region. Right now, its headquarters are in Cyprus, so it won't need to relocate head office. The studio says it's "confident" in its future despite the gravity of its decision, and says it's still committed to delivering quality gaming experiences for its players. We've reached out to Wargaming for comment on various aspects of this story.
The gaming industry's response to the Russia-Ukraine war
The gaming industry has been near-unanimous in its condemnation of Putin's war in Ukraine. Large-scale fundraising efforts have resulted in millions of dollars being raised for Ukrainian relief; Epic alone managed to raise $36 million for Ukraine via Fortnite revenue in a single day, with much more than that being amassed over the subsequent days. Wargaming itself has donated $1 million to Ukrainian humanitarian aid, with other donations and financial pledges coming from The Pokemon Company and work-for-hire studio Room 8 Group, among others.
As well as direct donations, there have also been other efforts on the part of developers and the wider industry to help Ukraine. The Humble Stand With Ukraine Bundle managed to raise $20.7 million dollars, while Itch.io's own Ukraine bundle collected $6.3 million. In both cases, all proceeds went to Ukrainian relief efforts. Other developers are implementing price hikes or other measures to support Ukraine (and getting review bombed for it in some cases), and major gaming companies like Microsoft, Sony, and CD Projekt are pulling their businesses out of Russia as well. We'll bring you more on this situation as soon as we get it.