Wargaming Group Limited, the developer and publisher of the hugely popular World of Tanks and World of Warships games, has announced that "following a strategic review of business operations worldwide" it will "not own or operate any businesses in Russia and Belarus."
Wargaming's statement continues: "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."
The decision will affect Wargaming Moscow, Lesta Studio (St Petersburg, previously owned by Wargaming), and most notably Wargaming Minsk: the company was founded in this city by Victor Kislyi in August 1998, and this studio was the largest in its portfolio.
Due to the size of the Minsk studio, Wargaming is still in the process of closing down operations and says everything "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."
This leaves Wargaming with its headquarters in Cyprus, and studios in France, Germany, Australia, the UK, and the US (Chicago & Baltimore).
The company's geographical spread has led to it being in the news around the Russia-Ukraine war for other reasons. In February Wargaming fired creative director Sergey Burkatovskiy over his public support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine—the Belarusian company quickly disavowed his statement, said it "categorically does not coincide with the position of the company," and he was gone the next day.
Wargaming also halted all its advertising globally, redesigning it to remove images of advancing tanks and other military vehicles. It resumed advertising its games with new assets but the pause remains in Ukraine, "as we believe it is inappropriate and insensitive to advertise our games while it is the center of this conflict."
Today's statement ends: "Despite the magnitude of this decision, we as a company are confident in the future of our business and are committed to delivering quality games to our players."
It's hard to overstate what a big move this is. Wargaming is the biggest game development studio in Belarus, a tech jewel of the country, and the Minsk studio in particular was key to its global operations. Doubtless Wargaming faces a period of internal turmoil and re-structuring: but no-one can say it doesn't put its money where its mouth is.