On February 24, 2022, Russia declared war on Ukraine. In the immediate aftermath of the invasion, the video game industry has rallied around the citizens of Ukraine. Many developers and publishers are working to support organizations on the ground and to give aid to those who have been displaced as a result of the ongoing conflict.
Ukraine has long been one of the largest development hubs in Europe, producing everything from Metro 2033, to STALKER, to the Sherlock Holmes series of detective games, and countless others. Many of the studios based in Ukraine have taken to social media to call out Russian aggression and to show players how they can best assist efforts on the ground, including GSC Game World (opens in new tab), Frogwares (opens in new tab), Vostok (opens in new tab), and Sengi Games (opens in new tab).
GamesRadar+ investigated what it was like for game developers in Ukraine, working and living under the shadow of war in the days that followed the invasion. In the weeks since, the situation has only worsened. If you’d like to help Ukraine war victims, you can find links below to more information about relevant charities and organizations:
- Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal
- The International Committee of the Red Cross
- Save the Children’s Ukrainian Crisis Relief Fund
- UN Refugee Agency
- United Help Ukraine
Keep reading to see how the video game industry is providing support and aid to Ukraine. GamesRadar+ will continue to update this story.
11 Bit Studios
Towards the end of February, 11 Bit Studios made the pledge to sell its game, This War of Mine, with all proceeds going towards the Red Cross in aid of Ukraine. The polish studio put out a company statement on Twitter about the decision (opens in new tab). “Today Russian military forces attacked the free country Ukraine – our neighbors”, the statement begins. “As a Polish game studio and creators of the globally recognised anti-war game, This War of Mine – one that directly speaks about the suffering and misery of civilians who are affected by war – we’d like to hereby announce our company statement: we stand against the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
The statement goes on to say that “just words would be empty without a meaningful act”, which is why the studio decided to give all proceeds of the sales of This War of Mine and all its DLC to charity over the course of seven days. Fellow Polish studio, Darkwood developer Crunching Koalas, also joined the cause (opens in new tab), with the profits from all of its game sales going directly to the Red Cross. Through the sales of This War of Mine, 11 Bit Studios announced that $850,000 (opens in new tab) was raised, which has been donated to the Ukrainian Red Cross.
Activision Blizzard has also taken steps to halt the sales of its games and in-game purchases in Russia. The studio, which is best known for titles such as Overwatch and World of Warcraft, confirmed the decision in a letter that was sent to employees and posted on its official website (opens in new tab) from president and COO, Daniel Alegre. “Throughout the past week, we have watched the news from Ukraine and the worsening humanitarian crisis that is unfolding,” Alegre begins. “Our company’s commitment is to help those impacted by this terrifying violence and to provide assistance in every way possible.”
“Today we are announcing that Activision Blizzard will be suspending new sales of and in our games in Russia while this conflict continues,” the letter states. As well as suspending sales, the company also says it will continue to “look at ways to support the Ukrainian people.”
Elden Ring publisher Bandai Namco announced that it is donating (opens in new tab) close to $848,000 to the Save the Children organization in support of Ukraine. In a statement released on March 11, the company said: “”The Bandai Namco Group has decided to make a donation of 100 million yen to Save the Children in support of their humanitarian cause for people affected by the crisis in Ukraine and seeking refuge outside the country. We hope that the people and communities affected by this crisis will be able to return to peaceful days as soon as possible.”
CD Projekt Group
After donating 1 million PNL to a Polish humanitarian aid organization in solidarity with the victims of the conflict, CD Projekt Group also issued a statement confirming it has made the decision to “halt all sales of our games to Russia and Belarus.” The Polish team also owns the platform GOG, which will be suspending all sales in the territories. As of March 3, the company confirmed in a statement on Twitter (opens in new tab) that it is “working with our partners to suspend digital sales and cease physical stock delivered of CD Projekt Group products, as well as all games distributed on the GOG platform, to the territories of Russia and Belarus.”
“The entire CD Projekt Group stands firm with the people of Ukraine,” the statement continues. “While we are not a political entity capable of directly 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. 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.”
Publisher EA has suspended the sales of its games and content, including “virtual currency bundles” in Russia and Belarus “while the conflict continues”. In an update on its official website, EA posted a statement (opens in new tab) confirming its decision to stop sales of all content. “As a result, our games and content will no longer be available for purchase in our Russian region storefront on Origin or the EA app, including through in-game stores,” the statement says.
The statement also confirms EA is also working with its platform partners to remove its titles from their stores and stop sales of new in-game content in the region. EA also took steps to remove Russian teams from FIFA 22 and NHL 22.
Following on from news that other major publishers had suspended sales, developer and Publisher Epic Games confirmed it is “stopping commerce with Russia in our games”. The news came by way of a statement on Epic’s official newsroom Twitter account (opens in new tab). “Epic is stopping commerce with Russia in our games in response to its invasion of Ukraine,” the post states. While Epic Games has stopped sales of in-game purchases, confirmed it will not block access to its games: “We’re not blocking access for the same reason other communication tools remain online: the free world should keep all lines of dialogue open.” The company is best known for Fortnite, but it has since gone on to acquire other studios such as Fall Guys developer MediaTonic and Rocket League developer Psyonix.
Earlier in March, indie studio Necrosoft Games began putting together a charity games bundle in aid of Ukraine. With an open call for submissions from developers to include their games, the bundle is now live and available to purchase over on Itch.io (opens in new tab). With content from 732 creators in total, the bundle includes games such as A Short Hike, Backbone, Cloud Gardens, Superhot, Celeste, Minit, and much more. You can pick up the bundle for a minimum donation of $10, with all of the proceeds being split between the International Medical Corps (opens in new tab) and the Voices of Children (opens in new tab) organization.
“The people of Ukraine are under attack,” the description for the bundle begins. “As game developers we want to create new worlds, not destroy the one we have. That’s why we’ve banded together to present this charity bundle to help Ukrainans survive this ordeal and thrive after the war ends. This cause has resonated with creators around the globe, to the extent that our bundle contains almost 1,000 games, tabletop RPGs, books, etc.”
Nintendo has halted sales and shipments to Russia, following its move to place the Russian eShop into maintenance mode – preventing players from buying digital games. “We have decided to suspend shipping all Nintendo products to Russia for the foreseeable future,” says Nintendo in a statement to IGN (opens in new tab). “This is due to considerable volatility surrounding the logistics of shipping and distributing physical goods.”
Nintendo has also delayed the release of Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp “in light of recent world events.” The remake was set to launch on April 8 for Nintendo Switch and is yet to be assigned a new release window.
Microsoft announced it has suspended all new sales of Microsoft products and services in Russia. The suspension includes Microsoft products like Windows and Xbox, among others. President and vice chair Brad Smith issued a statement about the decision in a blog post (opens in new tab) on Microsoft’s official website. “Like the rest of the world, we are horrified, angered and saddened by the images and news coming from the war in Ukraine,” the statement begins, “and condemn this unjustified, unprovoked and unlawful invasion by Russia.”
Along with suspending sales, Smith confirmed that Microsoft is “stopping many aspects of our business in Russia in compliance with governmental sanctions decisions,” and that it is “coordinating closely and working in lockstep with the governments of the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom”.
“We believe we are most effective in aiding Ukraine when we take concrete steps in coordination with the decisions being made by these governments,” Smith states in the post, “and we will take additional steps as this situation continues to evolve.”
On March 9, Sony Interactive Entertainment announced that it has suspended all software and hardware shipments to Russia. The decision to halt the sale of the PS5, new releases such as Gran Turismo 7, and operations of the PlayStation Store in the country follows similar moves from companies like Microsoft and Nintendo. In a statement to The Verge (opens in new tab), SIE also confirmed that it was making a $2 million donation to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the NGO Save the Children to support those affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Similarly, Bungie (who is in the process of being acquired by Sony) has said that it is working to suspend all sales (opens in new tab) of Destiny 2 in Russia and Belarus – although those players will be able to access already-purchased content – and the developer is rolling out a free in-game emblem for players to be able to show their support of Ukraine.
Take-Two Interactive has also joined the growing number of games companies stopping new sales of its games in Russia and Belarus. Take-Two spokesperson Alan Lewis confirmed the company’s decision in a statement via Mashable (opens in new tab). “After significant consideration, last week, we decided to stop new sales, installations, and marketing support across all our labels in Russia and Belarus at this time,” Lewis said. Take-Two is the parent company of GTA 5 and Red Dead Redemption 2 developer Rockstar, as well as Tiny Tina’s Wonderland and NBA 2K22 publisher 2K Games.
Ubisoft is also among the big developers and publishers stopping sales in Russia. The studio behind Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Far Cry 6 published a post to address how it’s supporting its teams and the people of Ukraine (opens in new tab). With development teams based in Kyiv and Odesa in Ukraine, Ubisoft said its “top priority is to take care of the safety and wellbeing of our teams and their families” and highlighted that it has provided each team member with additional funds, hotlines, and alternative housing in neighboring countries to support them in this difficult time. Following the post, a short update confirmed the decision to stop digital and physical sales in Russia: “In light of the ongoing tragedy in Ukraine, we have decided to suspend our sales in Russia.”
The development platform and game engine Unity has launched two initiatives in support of those affected in Ukraine. By partnering with several publishers, Unity has launched the Ukraine Mega bundle which includes 32 assets that have been donated around the world and 100% of the proceeds for the bundle will go directly to humanitarian charities. A publisher support program has also been put in place that ensures 100% of Unity’s net revenue from sales of assets created by Ukrainian publishers will go to relief efforts for the rest of 2022. Unity has also revealed in a statement on Twitter that internally, employees have “committed over $623,000 to supporting Ukraine” through different humanitarian charities as of March 1.
Industry support at a glance:
- John Romero has created a new Doom 2 level called One Humanity (opens in new tab) that can be purchased with 100% proceeds going towards the Red Cross and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund.
- The Pokemon Company has donated $200,000 (opens in new tab) to its partners GlobalGiving to help provide humanitarian relief
- Alan Wake and Control developer Remedy has donated 50,000 Euros (opens in new tab) to the Red Cross to “help the people of Ukraine”.
- Blair Witch and The Medium developer Bloober Team announced (opens in new tab) it is halting the sales of its games in Russia and Belarus across all platforms.
- Throughout March, Dreamfall Chapters and Draugen developer Red Thread Games is donating all of the revenue from the sales (opens in new tab) of its games across all platforms to the Red Cross.
- WarDogs and Battalion 1944 developer Bulkhead donated £1000 to the Red Cross (opens in new tab) in solidarity with Ukraine and fellow developers like 11 Bit Studios.
- Following 11 Bit Studios’ statement, South of the Circle and Lumino City developer State of Play donated the earnings of a week of sales (opens in new tab) for its games across Steam, iOS, and Android to the Red Cross.
- Niantic has suspended all sales and gameplay of Pokemon GO in Russia, the publisher announced on Twitter (opens in new tab).
- On March 2, Just Cause developer Avalanche Studios Group released a statement in support of Ukraine (opens in new tab) and announced that it had donated an undisclosed sum to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.