Many game developers in Ukraine and Russia will not receive the Steam revenue due to them until at least April. Valve’s bank added new rules after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, and as a result, the company says it cannot currently transfer money to accounts in either country. Steam publishers with Ukrainian or Russian bank accounts have to wait for Valve to comply with the new rules — the company says it is working on a way to collect and transmit new information required by its bank — or use a foreign bank account for now.
“Due to the current environment, we are unable to send bank payments to Belarus, Russia and Ukraine,” Valve wrote in an email sent to Steam publishers two weeks ago. The message was posted on Twitter by Stas Shostak, a Ukrainian game developer who released a number of games on steam.
That note was poorly received because of the use of “environment” as a euphemism for “invasion” and because Ukraine’s game developers are being deprived of income when they need it most. A day later, however, Shostak posted a second email from Valve that explained the issue in more detail and apologized for the brevity of the first email.
A Valve representative confirmed to PC Gamer that the content of that email is accurate: the company must collect “intermediate bank information” from users in order to make payments to bank accounts located in Ukraine and Russia, and is continuing to work on the issue.
“Any outstanding account balances will be paid as soon as they can be submitted,” says Valve. “We know this is super frustrating for everyone involved and we hope to find a better resolution soon.”
So Valve clarified, it’s really a technical issue and it will be fine until April payout. Sorry if I was being rude, but I wish they’d said this from the start. pic.twitter.com/s1B2p4MnXPMarch 18, 2022
Shostak was relieved to find that the payment pause is ultimately a technical issue, but nearly two weeks later, he doesn’t know if the issue will be resolved in time for the April payment.
“I’m not sure about April,” he told PC Gamer this week. “Will they really settle this between the banks, or will Ukraine still be cut off as a precaution? All my Ukrainian gamedev friends report the same situation. Some (myself included) are just waiting for the next month, some have decided to open foreign bank accounts to be absolutely sure they will receive the next payment.”
It is unclear exactly how many Steam publishers are located in Ukraine and are affected by the stalled payments. The country’s biggest studios include 4A Games, Frogwares and GSC Game World, but individual developers like Shostak will be the most affected by any payment delays. When the issue was first reported on March 17, some other Ukrainian developers reacted publicly on Twitter.
“My country was attacked by Russia and because of that you decided to deprive me of a source of income?” he said independent developer Ternox Games. After posting the second email from Valve, they added, “In short: I have to wait, but there will be no payout this month. Thanks for the clarification.”
Russian game developers are also affected by the Steam payment freeze. Valve’s communications so far indicate that the problem with wire transfers to Russian bank accounts is the same as the problem with stopping transfers to Ukrainian bank accounts; makes no distinction between them, so they will presumably be resolved simultaneously. Regarding Belarus, however, Valve says its bank is “no longer allowing payments” to the unqualified country.
Things are different on the client side: Steam users in Russia are supposedly unable to use the most popular payment methods due to US sanctions and were limited to spending existing Steam Wallet funds. CD Projekt’s GOG game store explicitly suspended all sales in Russia, as well as Microsoft. Many game publishers have also pledged to suspend game sales and microtransactions in Russia, including Ubisoft, EA, Epic Games and Activision Blizzard.
The Russian studio behind Loop Hero has suggested that Russian players who can’t buy the game go ahead and pirate it. “We are against war”, the indie studio said in February.