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World of Tanks maker closes studios in Russia, Belarus

<em>World of Tanks</em> will remain playable in Russia and Belarus even though developer Wargaming is leaving those countries.
Enlarge / World of Tanks will remain playable in Russia and Belarus even though developer Wargaming is leaving those countries.

Wargaming, the developer behind the massively popular military MMO World of Tanks and its spin-offs, has decided to close its offices in Russia and Belarus amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

In an announcement on LinkedIn, the company cited a “strategic review of business operations worldwide” precipitating the move. That’s not that surprising, as governmental and corporate sanctions have made it increasingly difficult for many international businesses to operate in Russia and Belarus in the first place.

But that doesn’t mean the closings will be of immediate financial benefit to Wargaming. “The company will not profit from this process either today or going forward,” Wargaming wrote. “Much to the contrary, we expect to suffer substantial losses as a direct result of this decision.”

Wargaming did not cite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine directly in announcing its departure from the countries. In late February, though, Wargaming fired Creative Director Sergey Burkatovskiy after he posted a pro-war message on Facebook. “Sergey Burkatovskiy expressed his personal opinion on social media which categorically does not reflect the position of the company,” a Wargaming spokesperson told PC Gamer at the time. “He has been let go and is no longer at the company.”

Wargaming said its games will continue to be available to players in Russia and Belarus through the local management of Lesta Studio. That sets Wargaming apart from many other gaming companies that have cut off new game sales in Russia and Belarus in the wake of the invasion (though previous purchases and online services for games often remain accessible). Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus dominate the competitive scene for World of Tanks, and the game reported 37.2 million players on Russian servers—more than for all of Europe, at the time—as recently as 2018.

Wargaming was founded in Minsk, Belarus, in 1998 and maintained a large studio there despite its decision to relocate its headquarters to Cyprus in 2011. The company said it employs over 550 employees in its Kyiv, Ukraine, studios and has previously said that it was putting “all available company resources” into “providing [Kyiv employees] with alternate housing, early salary payments, [and] additional funds to aid travel and relocation.”

Wargaming previously halted all worldwide advertising for World of Tanks in apparent deference to how the military imagery would be perceived amid an international conflict. The company later resumed advertising with redesigned content that removed imagery of advancing tanks and military vehicles. The advertising pause remains in effect in Ukraine, though, “as we believe it is inappropriate and insensitive to advertise our games while it is the center of this conflict,” the company said.

In late February, Wargaming announced a donation of $1 million to the Ukrainian Red Cross “to support Ukrainian hospitals and doctors, those citizens who have been displaced and other vital activities of the humanitarian organization as is needed.”

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