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Russia's invasion of Ukraine might be causing game developers to go abroad.

Bryant Francis, Senior Editor

April 11, 2022

3 Min Read
A graphic showing how many developers have left the country or plan to.
Image via App2Today

Russia's invasion of Ukraine might have dire consequences for the country's video game industry. Russian game development trade outlet App2Top has published a survey (translated and first spotted by Dmitriy Byshonkov) that indicates up to 42.3 percent of the Russian game industry has either left the country or is making plans to leave in the next few months.

App2Top initiated the survey to ask developers if they were leaving the country after "the situation" that began on February 24 (the day that Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine). 85 percent of respondents were from Russia itself, while others were from Russian-speaking territories.

17.3 percent of respondents indicated they had already left Russia, bound for destinations like Turkey, Armenia and Georgia. 24.5 percent say they will be leaving in the next few months. 29 percent of this group said they have no plans to return.

57.7 percent of developers say they are staying in the country, but one third of these respondents said they "are planning to leave the country one day," per Byshonkov's translation.

Reviewing App2Top's results (using Google Translate, so there may be some language fuzziness), it appears that visual artists and marketers are the two most common types of employees to make plans to move. Programmers are the group identified as most likely to stay.

App2Top does note that many Russian game companies aren't headquartered in Russia anymore, having set up legal entities in other countries to facilitate international business. This means that in some cases, employees are following their employers across the border. Game industry employees who work closely with western companies like marketers or contractors appear to be the group most likely to depart.

Though 42.3 percent of an entire industry is one heck of a dramatic number, it's difficult to parse if this data indicates how Russian game developers feel about the country's invasion of Ukraine. Many developers obviously would want to leave out of fear or anger for Russia's actions, but others might be making practical moves to keep their jobs afloat. 

International sanctions on banking, travel, and more have cut off the Russian populace from the rest of the world. Re-accessing those financial services might be prime motivation for relocation. 

It's worth reminding readers who haven't been following updates on the war why those sanctions are continuing. Ukraine has credibly accused Russian forces of targeting civilian populations and infrastructure. The withdrawal of Russian forces to Ukraine's eastern territories has revealed thousands of civilian deaths in territories they occupied, and its push into the country targeted over 1,500 civilian structures (as of March 23).

One of the most prominent international exits from Russian territory was World of Tanks and World of Warships developer Wargaming, which is headquartered in Cyprus but had been founded in Belarus, which is aiding Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Wargaming had previously fired one of its creative directors for making pro-Russian comments.

While we aren't aware of any game developers explicitly stating they'd be cutting off access to Russian development partners, companies like EA, CD Projekt Red, Rovio, Activision, Epic Games, and more have heeded a call from Ukrainian vice prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov to halt game sales and services in the region. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to app2top.ru as an app promotional service. App2top, which conducted this survey, is actually a media outlet. We have corrected the error.

About the Author(s)

Bryant Francis

Senior Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Bryant Francis is a writer, journalist, and narrative designer based in Boston, MA. He currently writes for Game Developer, a leading B2B publication for the video game industry. His credits include Proxy Studios' upcoming 4X strategy game Zephon and Amplitude Studio's 2017 game Endless Space 2.

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