Wargaming, the video game developer of World of Tanks, World of Warships, and World of Warplanes, has announced in a statement that the company will close its studios and cease operations in Belarus and Russia due to the Russian Invasion of Ukraine. This news comes from the fact that Belarus held Russian military exercises prior to the invasion and that Belarus’ defense minister, General Viktor Khrenin, stated that Russian soldiers will stay indefinitely. Furthermore, Belarus allowed Russian soldiers near Belarus’ southern border mainly because the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, is merely 226 km or 140 miles away from the border.
Wargaming, founded in Minsk, Belarus in 1988, had headquarters in Belarus until 2011, where the developer transitioned its headquarters to Cyprus. Despite Wargaming’s headquarters being in Cyprus, Wargaming has a major studio in Minsk, Belarus and an acquired company, Lesta Studios, stationed in St. Petersburg, Russia. In their statement, Wargaming will be closing this major studio in Belarus and stepping away from Lesta Studios at “great costs” to the company. Wargaming is still going to allow their games to be available in Belarusian and Russian markets; however, their operations will now be overseen by their departed studio, Lesta Studios.
This departure from Belarus and Russia will undoubtedly be a huge blow to Wargaming. World of Tanks, while free to play, is massively popular in Russia, with $1.3 million being won by Russian players in World of Tanks tournaments. Additionally, Belarus players are third in terms of money won from World of Tanks tournaments. With this large, dedicated fanbase being removed from their profits, Wargaming is correct in its prediction that this departure from Belarus and Russia will result in “substantial losses.”
In addition to leaving operations in Belarus and Russia, Wargaming has also been supporting Ukraine. Near the end of February, Wargaming donated 30 million hryvnia, equal to $1 million, to the Ukrainian Red Cross. On top of that, a Wargaming representative stated about its office in Kyiv, “Currently, all available company resources are helping and supporting our 550+ colleagues: providing them with alternate housing, early salary payments, additional funds to aid travel and relocation.”