Following the recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia, World of Tanks and World of Warships developer Wargaming has paused all of its Tanks ads and some of its Warships spots worldwide. The studio intends to replace them with new ads "in the near future".
Why has Wargaming paused its ads?
In a press release announcing the pause, Wargaming doesn't give an explicit reason for pausing its ads. The developer simply points to "the situation in the world", which is definitely a veiled reference to the recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia. In response to this situation, Wargaming says it's "decided to pause" all World of Tanks advertising and "partially" World of Warships advertising as well. The studio also exhorts its ad partners to remove banners, push ads, and videos from their sites, although any text ads and spots "without images of military equipment" are OK. Both games remain playable, of course, and Wargaming says it will send out "new WoT and WoW creatives" in the near future.
Wargaming is no stranger to controversy itself, of course. In August last year, World of Warships faced a mass exodus of content creators over what some perceived to be aggressive monetization and gambling mechanics. Later in 2021, internal issues with Wargaming led an employee to be let go and a member of management staff to quit, citing the "contemptible" way in which the company had treated him. In this light, it's likely the Belarusian studio wants to limit potential damage from its ads possibly being construed as pro-war or pro-Russia, especially given Belarus' political (and geographical) proximity to Russia.
There's also the fact that military sims have gotten themselves in trouble with the Russia-Ukraine conflict before. Back in early 2021, Gaijin Entertainment's War Thunder found itself at the center of a controversy surrounding one of its advertisers. In essence, advertising for War Thunder and another Gaijin title, Crossout, appeared in videos created by pro-Russian militants in Ukraine on YouTube. Although World of Tanks and World of Warships don't contain anything quite so explicitly propagandistic, it's probable that Wargaming wants to head even the slightest whiff of controversy off at the pass.
Gaming and politics are no strangers
The gaming industry has often found itself at the center of political controversies. In May 2020, the Russian media launched an attack on the alternate history strategy game Strategic Mind: Blitzkrieg for allegedly promoting Nazi propaganda. The developer of that game, Starni Games, is Ukrainian, and the studio found itself the subject of angry comments by Russian gamers, as well as being hit by a review bomb on Metacritic for Strategic Mind. That was because Starni's game depicts an alternate history in which the USSR lost the Battle of Moscow, leading to depictions of Adolf Hitler overseeing a parade in Moscow's Red Square.
The situation in Ukraine is likely to have repercussions around the industry. Ukrainian developers and industry professionals are asking the gaming world for help; Stalker creator GSC Game World says it is asking the industry to "help those in need" and not to stand aside in response to the invasion of Russia. It's likely more industry reactions will emerge as the conflict goes on, so naturally, we'll bring you more on this situation as soon as we get it.