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Video game companies move to isolate Russia amid Ukraine war

Video game companies move to isolate Russia amid Ukraine war

A Cyberpunk 2077 promotion is shown at a video game store in Moscow, Russia on December 10, 2020.

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Video game companies have begun halting their operations in Russia amid a protest against the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Poland CD ProjektThe publisher behind the sci-fi title Cyberpunk 2077 and the popular role-playing game franchise The Witcher said Thursday it would halt all sales of its games in Russia and Belarus. It will also temporarily suspend all sales through the GOG Games distribution platform in countries.

“The entire CD PROJEKT group stands firmly with the people of Ukraine,” the company said in an announcement on Thursday.

“While we are not a political entity capable of directly affecting state affairs, nor do we aspire to be a single entity, we believe that business entities, when united, have the potential to inspire global change in the hearts and minds of ordinary people.”

at the same time, electronic arts On Wednesday, it said it would remove the Russian national team and all clubs in the country from the FIFA soccer titles and the NHL soccer series.

“EA Sports stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and, like many voices around the world of football, calls for peace and an end to the invasion of Ukraine,” the company said in a tweet Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Ukrainian Digital Minister Mikhailo Fedorov called Microsoft And the Sony To ban all Russian and Belarusian accounts and cancel any planned gaming events in the two countries. It also asked companies to refuse to allow Russian or Belarusian players to compete in international esports events.

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“We are sure that such measures will motivate the citizens of Russia to preemptively stop the disgraceful military aggression,” Fedorov said in a message posted on Twitter on Wednesday.

Microsoft and Sony did not respond to CNBC’s multiple requests for comment.

Microsoft President Brad Smith Friday said That the company “will suspend all new sales of Microsoft products and services in Russia” and “several aspects of our business in Russia to comply with government sanction decisions.”


The esports world has also been caught up in the Russia and Ukraine crises.

Russia has a large esports industry. Eight Russians are included in esports earnings The ranking of the highest-paid esports players in the world, Yaroslav “Mipushka” Naydenov took 11th place.

On Tuesday, esports regulator ESL said it would ban Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Virtus.pro and Gambit teams from competing in the ESL Pro League in June.

“We have taken the decision not to allow representation of organizations with clear ties to the Russian government, including individuals or organizations subject to alleged or confirmed EU sanctions related to the conflict,” ESL said in a statement. Update on its website.

Virtus.pro is owned by ESforce Holding, a division of the Russian technology company Mail.ru, while Gambit is a subsidiary of the MTS communications group. ESL said players for both teams would still be able to compete “under a neutral name, without representing their country, organization or team sponsors on their jerseys.”

ESL said it had temporarily suspended all scheduled competitions in the Commonwealth of Independent States, which includes Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

why does it matter

A video game world severing ties with Russia could have a major impact on the country’s economy. Russia is home to a vibrant gaming market, estimated to be worth $2.3 billion in 2021, according to data firm Statista.

With their own Xbox and PlayStation platforms, Microsoft and Sony are two of the largest video game distributors globally.

However, they are mobile platforms like apples iOS and Google Android and PC game distributors like Valve’s Steam may really bite, according to Lewis Dean, director of games research at analyst firm IDC.

Russia is mobile first, PC second, [and] A third market console,” Dean told CNBC.

Apple and Google had not responded to CNBC’s request for comment by press time. Both companies so far Restricted sales In Russia and removed the Russian state-owned media RT and Sputnik from their app stores.

In terms of consoles, “PlayStation has the largest installed base, so if the company on the console side has a particularly difficult choice from a purely financial standpoint, it’s Sony,” Dean said.

In the PC business, he added, Valve is “the largest distributor of digital computer games in Russia, so this will be another important shoe to let go if they suspend services.”

Valve was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.