World of Tanks developer Wargaming has announced that they are ending their business ties with Russia and Belarus, due to the ongoing war being waged against Ukraine. Wargaming will shut down their studio in Minsk, and has spun off the Russia-based Lesta Studio and transferred its live games business in the two countries to that company.
This is a huge decision for the company to make. Wargaming was founded by Victor Kislyi in Minsk in 1998, and that studio remained the company’s largest development studio, even after the company HQ was moved to Cyprus in 2011. Meanwhile, Lesta Studio, led the development of World of Warships, and Wargaming’s Ukrainian studio Persha Studia led World of Warplanes’ development.
Wargaming’s statement reads:
Over the past weeks, Wargaming has been conducting a strategic review of business operations worldwide. The company has decided it will not own or operate any businesses in Russia and Belarus.
Effective March 31 the company transferred its live games business in Russia and Belarus to the local management of Lesta Studio which is no longer affiliated with Wargaming. The company will not profit from this process either today or going forward. Much to the contrary, we expect to suffer substantial losses as a direct result of this decision.
We will be completing the operational transition with all due speed while remaining in full compliance with all laws and ensuring the ongoing safety and support of our employees. During the transition period, the live products will remain available in Russia and Belarus and will be operated by the new owner.
Wargaming has also started the process of closing its studio in Minsk. It will be conducted in strict compliance with the law. Heads of Products and Services will be meeting with their teams shortly to discuss the impact of this decision on each department.
We will provide as much severance and support as possible to employees affected by the change.
Wargaming has effectively been divided in two by the war in Ukraine, and even back in February found that it had to fire creative director Sergey Burkatovskiy over his public support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. What’s not clear at this time is how the company plans to continue to develop its key franchises going forward. As they look to shut down operations in Minsk, Wargaming will likely be able to retain a lot of the talent by helping them move to studios in neighbouring countries – they have studios in Lithuania, Poland and the Czech Republic. Even less clear is if there will be any kind of collaboration with the now independent Lesta Studio in future, once the war has come to an end.
This is far from the only impact on the games industry that we’ve seen from the invasion of Ukraine, with many developers and companies cutting ties with Russia and Belarus over their despicable actions, and developers in Ukraine having to halt their work while the survival of their country and people is under threat.
Source: press release