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Gaming’s biggest power players are cutting ties with Russia

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, much of the world has pushed back. Governments have imposed strict sanctions on the country, and others, including the United States, have even banned the import of Russian oil in an attempt to inflict never-before-seen financial damage on the Kremlin. A fair number of companies have also taken actions against Russia for its invasion, including some of the largest players in the game industry.

Over the course of the past two weeks, the average Russian video game-playing citizen has effectively been cut off from their hobby of choice. With sales restrictions coming in from all corners of the gaming world, from indie developers to AAA publishers, Russian users are being frozen out of both new hardware and software.

The most notable actions taken against Russia by members of the game industry have come from its three biggest players, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. On March 4, Microsoft was the first of the three to outright stop “all new sales” of its products and services in Russia, a move that includes first-party Xbox titles and even Xbox hardware. Sony pulled its latest first-party release, Gran Turismo 7 on the same day, but just five days later, on March 9, similarly halted all of its sales. In a statement given to CNBC, the PlayStation parent company said that it was no longer selling any hardware or software in Russia and that the PlayStation store would not be available in the region.

Nintendo’s actions concerning Russia, on the other hand, haven’t been as outwardly antagonistic. On March 7, the company’s eShop was taken down in Russia, although not on Nintendo’s behalf. Instead, the payment company that processes transactions through the shop caused its closure after suspending any transactions conducted in Russia’s currency, Rubles. Two days later, Nintendo delayed one of its upcoming first-party titles, Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, citing “recent world events.”

However, a new report from Reuters claims that Nintendo is halting all product shipments to Russia for the time being, although seemingly not for moral reasons. Instead, the company’s choice to halt shipments to Russia stems from what it calls “considerable volatility surrounding the logistics of shipping and distributing physical goods.”

In light of recent world events, we have made the decision to delay Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, which was originally scheduled to release on Nintendo Switch on April 8th. Please stay tuned for updates on a new release date.

— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) March 9, 2022

March 5 saw another gaming giant cut ties with Russia entirely: Epic Games. The developer behind Fortnite posted a message to Twitter in which it explicitly mentioned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “Epic is stopping all commerce with Russia in our games in response to its invasion of Ukraine,” reads the post. It’s not clear if Russian users can still play Epic Games’ hit title, Fortnite, or use the company’s online games marketplace, the Epic Games Store.

EA took a similar approach on the same day, announcing through a news post that it was stopping the sales “of our games and content, including virtual currency bundles, in Russia and Belarus while this conflict continues.”

While larger companies have only started taking actions against Russia as recently as the past week, indie developers and publishers inside of Ukraine and its neighboring nations were swift. The day after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, multiple studios either called for fans to donate money to Ukraine’s armed forces or did so themselves. The owner of CD Projekt Red, CD Projekt Group, not only donated just over $240,000 to a Polish humanitarian organization operating inside of Poland but also halted the sales of its products to Russia on March 3.

With no end to Russia’s war against Ukraine in sight, it’s almost a guarantee that more developers and publishers will pull their products away from Russian customers. The only question left is what price developers and publishers will pay for excluding the massive country going forward.

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