Wargaming withdraws from Russia and its native Belarus

Wargaming Group Limited, developer and publisher of the wildly popular games World of Tanks and World of Warships, announced that “after a strategic review of worldwide business operations”, it “will not own or operate any companies in Russia and Belarus”.

Wargaming’s statement continues: “As of March 31, the company has transferred its live gaming business in Russia and Belarus to the local administration of Lesta Studio, which is no longer affiliated with Wargaming. The company will not profit from this process today or going forward, on the contrary, we expect to incur substantial losses as a direct result of this decision.

“We will be completing the operational transition with due speed, remaining in full compliance with all laws and ensuring the safety and ongoing support of our employees. During the transition period, active products will remain available in Russia and Belarus and will be operated by the new owner.”

The decision will affect Wargaming Moscow, Lesta Studio (St. Petersburg, formerly owned by Wargaming) and especially Wargaming Minsk: the company was founded in this city by Victor Kislyi in August 1998, and this studio was the largest in his portfolio.

(Image credit: Wargaming)

Due to the size of the Minsk studio, Wargaming is still in the process of winding down and says that everything “will be conducted in strict compliance with the law. The heads of products and services will meet with their teams shortly to discuss the impact of this decision in each department. We will provide as much compensation and support as possible to employees affected by the change.”

This leaves Wargaming with its headquarters in Cyprus and studios in France, Germany, Australia, the UK and the US (Chicago and Baltimore).

The company’s geographic spread made it in the news around the Russia-Ukraine war for other reasons. In February, Wargaming fired creative director Sergey Burkatovskiy about his public support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – the Belarusian company quickly denied his statement, said it “categorically does not match the company’s position”, and he was gone the next day.

Wargaming also discontinued all of its advertising globally, redesigning it to remove images of advancing tanks and other military vehicles. He returned to announcing his games with new assets, but the pause remains in Ukraine, “as we believe it is inappropriate and insensitive to announce our games while being at the center of this conflict.”

Today’s statement concludes: “Despite the magnitude of this decision, we as a company are confident in the future of our business and are committed to delivering quality games to our players.”

It’s hard to overstate what a big move this is. Wargaming is Belarus’ largest game development studio, a tech gem in the country, and the Minsk studio in particular has been instrumental in its global operations. Undoubtedly, Wargaming faces a period of internal turmoil and restructuring: but no one can say they don’t put their money where it is.

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