Mar 3, 2022 - Technology

Witcher, Cyberpunk developer halts Russian game sales

Video game screenshot of a sword-wielding man in what looks like a medieval tavern.

Screenshot: CD Projekt RED

Polish studio CD Projekt RED will suspend selling its popular games in Russia and Belarus due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the company announced on Twitter this morning.

Why it matters: CDPR is the biggest gaming company to pull business from those countries, following many other industries' similar withdrawals.

  • CDPR developed 2015’s The Witcher 3 and 2020’s Cyberpunk 2077, two of the most popular games of the past decade. Both are slated for major updates this year.
  • CDPR is also pulling its GOG PC gaming marketplace from Russia and Belarus.
  • It says 5.4% of its game sales over the past year were from those countries, as well as 3.7% of its sales through GOG.
  • A smaller indie studio, Bloober Team, also said it was pulling its games from sale in those countries.

What they’re saying: “While we are not a political entity capable of influencing state matters, and don’t aspire to be one, we do believe that commercial entities, when united, have the power to inspire global change in the hearts and minds of ordinary people,” CDPR reps said in a tweet.

  • “We know that players in Russia and Belarus, individuals who have nothing to do with the invasion of Ukraine, will be impacted by this decision, but with this action we wish to further galvanize the global community to speak about what is going on in the heart of Europe.”

Between the lines: Video games, especially those sold for PC, are primarily distributed digitally. Halting sales is a matter of blocking game transactions and downloads through online retailers.

  • CDPR and Bloober Team both said they’d work with their distribution partners to cut off sales.
  • These efforts echo a move over the weekend by Ukrainian-owned digital marketplace DMarket to suspend any accounts by Russian and Belarusian users.

Yesterday, a Ukrainian official called on Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox and the rest of the industry to suspend business in Russia and Belarus.

  • Representatives from Sony, Microsoft, Ubisoft, Riot, EA, Activision, Wargaming, Gameloft, Nintendo and Valve, did not comment on that plea, when asked by Axios.

The big picture: As the assault of Ukraine continues, Ukraine’s government and companies like CDPR hope to sway Russian citizens, but in that country, resistance is hard and anti-war protestors have been arrested.

  • A Russian gaming blogger, who asked not to be identified out of concern for their safety, told Axios “the position of the Ukrainian people is understandable–they want us to overthrow a bloody tyrant.”
  • The problem was the country’s feared internal security forces or “repression machine,” they said. “People fear it more than [the] economic collapse that is heading our way. Though maybe it will push our people a little to open their eyes and do something.”

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