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the developer of the video game “World of Tanks” withdraws from Belarus and Russia

In 2013, Russia and the former Soviet republics represented the biggest market for the game

The Wargaming development studio, known for video games World of Tanks, announced Monday, April 4 in a press release that it was going to cease its activities in Russia and Belarus, going so far as to close its offices in the latter country. No specific reason was given by the studio, but the move comes after a month-long war in Ukraine and as economic sanctions and political pressure complicate the operations of international companies with offices in Russia.

Founded more than twenty years ago in Belarus, Wargaming has become one of the great jewels of video games in Eastern Europe. The company notably publishes war games and clashes of tanks and boats World of Tanks and World of Warships. For the first, the company claims more than 160 million registrations worldwide in ten years.

In 2020, the studio had more than 5,000 employees, including a significant part in its original offices in Belarus, a country in which the social network LinkedIn lists nearly 1,500 employees. “Wargaming has also started the process of closing its studio in Minsk. We will provide as much support as possible to all employees affected by this change.”explained the company, which had already moved its headquarters to Cyprus in 2011. According to the official website of the company, Wargaming also has offices in France, Australia, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

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An important market

In Russia, Wargaming had, for more than ten years, the development studio Lesta and its offices in Saint Petersburg. The company explains that ties with this entity have been severed (without specifying whether it has been sold), simply stating that“effective March 31, the company transferred all of its online gaming-related activities in Russia and Belarus to Lesta”. According to Wargaming, the studio’s games will still be accessible to Russian and Belarusian Internet users during a “transition” period, but they will be managed in these two countries by Lesta.

This announcement leaves several questions unanswered: we do not know if, in the long term, it will still be possible to play World of Tanks and World of Warships in Russia and Belarus, or if a commercial or contractual relationship is intended to subsist between Lesta and Wargaming. This decision has, in any case, already led to reactions within a pro-Russian propaganda Telegram channel: a call to attack, on social networks, accounts administered by Wargaming was broadcast on Monday April 4.

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Wargaming is not the first company to suspend or end its activities in Russia and Belarus (very close ally of the Russian authorities), as several companies in the video game industry have made announcements to this effect since the beginning. of the war. But the decision of this heavyweight in the sector could have significant economic repercussions. “Society will not benefit from this process, either now or in the future. On the contrary, we expect to incur substantial losses as a result of this decision.”, Wargaming said in its statement. Russia is indeed an important market for it: in 2013, Russian users and users living in the former Soviet republics represented more than a quarter of the players of World of Tanks.

1er March, Wargaming fired one of its executives who had caused controversy by speaking out in support of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine on social media. The company has a branch in Kyiv, which among other things donated $1 million to the Ukrainian Red Cross earlier this month. At the start of the conflict, the company had suspended advertising campaigns for the game World of Tanks, in order to remove images showing tank advances. Marketing activities have since resumed, except, according to PC Gamer, in Ukraine, due to the nature of the game and its imagery being inappropriate to the political and humanitarian context of the country.

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