Global gaming industry responds to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

7 Mar 2022

Image: © Jaturapat/Stock.adobe.com

Epic Games, EA, Activision Blizzard and CD Projekt Red are halting game sales in Russia, while some e-sports leagues are banning Russian teams and organisations.

While sectors around the world respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the gaming and e-sports industries are taking measures in response to the crisis.

Multiple gaming companies have announced the suspension of services and activities in Russia following a call for action from Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov.

Future Human

Fedorov shared a letter on Twitter urging all game development companies and e-sports platforms to block Russian and Belarusian teams participating in events and to cancel all international events being held in these countries.

“We are sure that such actions will motivate the citizens of Russia to proactively stop the disgraceful military aggression,” Fedorov said.

Activision Blizzard

Gaming giant Activision Blizzard announced on Friday (4 March) that it will suspend new sales of its games in Russia while the conflict with Ukraine continues. The company added that it will pause microtransaction purchases within its existing games in the country.

In a message to company staff, Activision Blizzard president and COO Daniel Alegre said the company is committed to help those impacted by the “terrifying violence” and to provide assistance “in every way possible”.

“I want to reassure you that the safety of our employees is our leadership team’s top priority,” Alegre said in a statement. “We are doing everything possible to assist employees, and their families, who are being directly affected by this tragedy.”

Alegre said the company is also matching employee donations to organisations that are providing relief to Ukraine.

“Together we have raised over $300,000 in this effort. Next week we plan to add additional charities to choose from for consideration and also will raise the company matching limit from $1,000 to $10,000.

“We stand with the Ukrainian people and will provide updates on any new actions we take as this crisis continues to unfold,” Alegre said.

EA and Epic Games

FIFA maker EA also said on Friday that it is stopping sales of games and content in Russia and Belarus while the conflict continues.

“As a result, our games and content will no longer be available for purchase in our Russian region storefront on Origin or the EA app, including through in-game stores,” the company explained. “We are also working with our platform partners to remove our titles from their stores and stop the sale of new in-game content in the region.”

Fortnite creator Epic Games then announced on Saturday that it is “stopping commerce with Russia” in its games in response to the invasion.

However, the company said it is not blocking access entirely for the same reason other communication tools remain online, as “the free world should keep all lines of dialogue open”.

CD Projekt Red

CD Projekt Red, the developer behind popular titles such as the Witcher series and Cyberpunk 2077, said last week it made the decision to halt all sales of its games in Russia and Belarus “until further notice”.

“The entire CD Projekt Group stands firm with the people of Ukraine,” the company said on Thursday. “While we are not a political entity capable of directly influencing state matters, and don’t aspire to be one, we do believe that commercial entities, when united, have the power to inspire global change in the hearts and minds of ordinary people.”

Ubisoft and Wargaming

French-headquartered game company Ubisoft has taken a focus on the safety of its team members that are located in Ukraine. In a statement last week, the company revealed measures it is taking to help its colleagues who are dealing with the crisis.

“Last week, when the unthinkable became a reality, Ubisoft worked to reinforce our support and assistance for our colleagues in Ukraine,” the company said in a statement last Tuesday. “We have set up alternative housing in neighbouring countries where our colleagues and their families can take shelter if they wish and are able to do so.

“To stay closely connected to all our team members, Ubisoft has created dedicated hotlines to provide them personalised support and aid,” the company added. It has also set up an emergency communication system to stay in touch with its team members “in all circumstances”.

The gaming company said it had pledged €200,000 to the Ukrainian Red Cross and Save The Children to help the “urgent needs of the Ukrainian population”.

“We stand by our teams in Ukraine and will continue to adapt and reinforce our support as the situation evolves,” Ubisoft added.

World of Tanks creator Wargaming has taken similar measures, saying that the safety and security of its employees is its top priority.

E-sports platforms take a stand

In response to Ukraine’s request, a number of e-sports organisations have decided to ban Russian teams from joining upcoming events.

Blast Premier, an e-sports league based in Denmark, made the decision on 1 March to have no Russia-based team join its events “for the foreseeable future” .

The company also cancelled its Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) qualifier, which features nine countries including Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

“We are sorry to the fans and players of the CIS region for this decision, but we do not think it is appropriate that this event goes ahead, at this time,” Blast said in a statement.

The following day, Finnish e-sports organiser Elisa Esports also showed its support for Ukraine, by suspending all Russian-owned organisations from participating in its tournaments until further notice.

At the end of February, Ukrainian company DMarket – which sells NFTs and virtual items for games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – made the decision to block Russian and Belarusian customers in response to the invasion, Axios reported.

Don’t miss out on the knowledge you need to succeed. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of need-to-know sci-tech news.

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com