How War In Ukraine Will Affect The Gaming Industry
Gaming|Jul 27, 2022

How War In Ukraine Will Affect The Gaming Industry

Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way, And The Russians Are Incredibly Resourceful People.
Ian Miles Cheong

It's no secret that popular video games draw inspiration from wars both past and present, with many offering a heavy focus on Russia. While some titles draw from the jingoistic anti-USSR propaganda of the 1980s, others, especially war games, draw upon Russia’s sacrifices against the Nazis in World War II. 

As one of the world’s largest economies, Russia has become a thriving marketplace for video games, and – like its western counterparts – has largely benefited from its own thriving video game industry thanks to publishers like Owlcat Games, which produces the Pathfinder franchise, and Battlestate Games, the makers of Escape from Tarkov

Following the onset of the war in Ukraine, Russian gamers have been steadily deprived of online services previously offered by Xbox and PlayStation, and efforts by pro-Ukraine activists in the west have been underway to cut Russian gamers off from PC games. Further efforts by western governments have compounded the difficulties faced by Russian developers who struggle to earn payments from the sales of their products. 

As the current news cycle continues to foment tensions between European and Russian players, who mostly have nothing to do with the war – they simply want to enjoy video games – the impact of the conflict on video games themselves cannot be understated.

The much-anticipated sequel to S.T.A.L.K.E.R., which was being made in Ukraine, has been stalled in development due to the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine, affecting the cities of Kiev and Odessa, where the developer is located. While gamers themselves may pine for the sequel, the developers themselves have much bigger things to worry about – like staying alive. 

Russian game developers undoubtedly have to turn their focus towards local markets or be forced to find workarounds as some studios

Even ahead of the invasion, a number of other Ukraine-based studios left the country due to the troubles following the Euromaidan revolution in 2014. 4A Games, one of Ukraine’s premier game studios and the developer of Metro 2033, moved its operations to Malta. 

European studios, like those in neighbouring Poland and the Czech Republic, have offered their assistance in relocating Ukrainian games professionals to their offices in the west. Some, like The Witcher developer CD Projekt Red, have run fundraisers for the Red Cross in Ukraine, and provided additional visibility to highlight the plight of average Ukrainians. 

The game industry’s efforts in the ongoing conflict has also been to take punitive, if questionable, actions against Russians by suspending sales of their games in Russia and Belarus. 

Some developers have even gone as far as to censor Russian content, by removing characters or altering their stories. Ubisoft, for instance, removed all biographies from the Spetsnaz operators in their action game, Rainbow Six Siege. Amazon, meanwhile, halted the localisation of New World into the Russian language, impacting even Ukrainian gamers, who speak Russian. EA Games removed Russian teams and players from FIFA 22 and NHL 22, citing their removal from the official leagues. 

With Russia’s access to a western audience cut off by sanctions for the foreseeable future, Russian game developers undoubtedly have to turn their focus towards local markets or be forced to find workarounds. Some studios, like Owlcat Games, already have – by setting up their businesses in not-so-hostile territory and catering to the western market by proxy.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and the Russians are incredibly resourceful people.