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Ukrainian gov’t calls for game companies to cut off Russia during invasion [Updated]

Mykhailo Fedorov, the vice prime minister and minister of digital transformation of Ukraine, speaks at a December 2021 press conference.
Enlarge / Mykhailo Fedorov, the vice prime minister and minister of digital transformation of Ukraine, speaks at a December 2021 press conference.

Update (March 3): Poland’s CD Projekt Red announced this morning that it has “made the decision to halt all sales of our games to Russia and Belarus.” That includes physical deliveries of CDPR-published games and all digital sales on its popular GOG platform. Prior purchases by players in Russia and Belarus will still be accessible, as the company clarified in a follow-up tweet.

“The entire CD Projekt Group stands firm with the people of Ukraine,” the company writes. “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. We know that players in Russia and Belarus, individuals who have nothing to do with the invasion of Ukraine, will be impacted by this decision, but with this action we wish to further galvanize the global community to speak about what is going on in the heart of Europe.”

In an investor note published alongside the decision, CDPR notes that Russian and Belarussian customers accounted for 5.4% and 3.7% of the company’s sales in the last 12 months, respectively.

Original Story:

Mykhailo Fedorov, the vice prime minister and minister of digital transformation of Ukraine, has publicly called on “all game development companies” to “temporarily block all Russian and Belorussian accounts” in response to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

In a tweet from his verified account, Fedorov also called on esports platforms to “temporarily stop the participation of Russian and Belorussian teams and gamers in all international esports events and cancel all international events holding [sic] on the territory of Russia and Belarus.”

These moves, Fedorov suggests, “will motivate the citizens of Russia to proactively stop the disgraceful military aggression” by the Russian government. “In 2022, modern technology is perhaps the best answer to the tanks, multiple rocket launchers… and missiles.”

In an additional note directed at the Xbox and PlayStation Twitter accounts, Fedorov wrote that “if you support human values, you should [leave] the Russian market!” In a follow-up tweet, Fedorov also asked Riot Games, EA, Ubisoft, Gameloft, and Wargaming to “close your office in Russia” in solidarity with Ukraine. “There’s no place for [an] aggressor on the global technological map!”

Representatives from Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Valve were not immediately available to respond to a request for comment. We will update this article if we hear anything from the companies included in Fedorov’s requests.

Will support lead to action?

The open call to the game industry comes as governments and corporations around the world are responding to the invasion by taking significant steps to sanction Russia and cripple its economy. Many Western governments have barred the exports of most technology products to Russia and have largely cut Russian banks off from the global financial system. Apple has halted Russian sales of its products and has cut sanctioned Russian banks off from its Apple Pay service. Fedorov has also asked Apple to bar Russians from accessing the iOS App Store, a move the company has yet to make.

The International Game Developers Association has publicly condemned an invasion it calls an “egregious breach of international law” and has called on its members to “denounce the violent actions taken against Ukraine.” Over 400 game companies have Ukrainian offices, representing 30,000 Ukrainian employees, according to an IGDA State of the Ukrainian Game Industry report from January.

IGDA’s State of the Ukrainian Game Industry report.

Video game companies including Bungie, CD Projekt Red, 11bit Studios (This War of Mine), GSC Game World (Stalker), and Digital Extremes (Warframe) have publicly pledged to donate a portion of their profits to Ukrainian relief efforts and have urged others to do the same. Necrosoft Games’ Brandon Sheffield is also organizing an indie games bundle to raise funds for international relief charities operating in Ukraine.

But few video game companies have taken the more extreme steps suggested by Fedorov to bar Russian customers entirely. Ukraine-based gaming NFT marketplace Dmarket is the primary exception, as it cut ties with Russian and Belorussian users over the weekend.

Esports disruptions

In the traditional sports world, organizations including the International Olympic Committee and FIFA have already barred Russians from international competitions and canceled events planned for the country.

In esports, Danish league BLAST Premier has banned Russian teams from participating in events for the “forseeable future,” and it canceled an upcoming qualifier tournament that it felt was “not appropriate… at this time.” Riot Games has also postponed a Valorant Champions Tour event in the EMEA region, saying its “number one priority is to support the players, casters, staff, and fans affected by the escalating crisis in Ukraine.”

Intel, meanwhile, decided to host its high-profile Extreme Masters Katowice event as planned in nearby Poland while “closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine.” Ukrainian Counter-Strike pro Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev used an interview at that event to stress that “esport[s] is out of politic[s]. All of you have nothing to do with government decisions.”

That said, he added that “all of us want peace for Ukraine and for [the] whole world. All of us [are] scared. All of us need to show [an] example in this tournament for [the] whole world. We all need to stay humans first.”

Kostyliev later announced on Instagram that he had donated 1,000,000 Ukrainian hryvnia (approximately $33,000) to the Ukrainian military.

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