advertisement
advertisement

Ukraine’s growing video game industry caught in Russian attacks

Video game companies such as Ubisoft, Gameloft, and other video game developers in Ukraine are scrambling to keep workers safe after a Russian military invasion.

Ukraine’s growing video game industry caught in Russian attacks
[Source Images: the_burtons/Getty]

Russia’s invasion and subsequent attack of Ukraine could impact global energy prices, world financial markets, and food supplies throughout Europe. It could also have an effect on the video game industry and upcoming installments of several popular video game franchises. A growing number of video game developers are based in Ukraine or have outposts in the country.

advertisement
advertisement

4A Games, the team behind the Metro franchise, a first-person shooter set in a postapocalyptic Moscow, was founded in the Ukraine and still has a studio in Kyiv, the country’s Capital city, where explosions were heard early Thursday morning.

The company moved its headquarters to Malta in 2014, following the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation.

In 2020, 4A was acquired by Saber Interactive (part of Embracer Group)—and that publisher says it’s keeping a close eye on the situation.

advertisement
advertisement

“We are concerned by the events and are monitoring the situation closely,” the company told Fast Company before Putin launched the “special military operation.” The company noted that, “After consultation with our staff in Ukraine, we don’t feel that our development efforts will be impacted; not only do our developers have the ability to work remotely, as they have been for much of the past two years, they have the option to relocate if they choose. We are prepared to support our employees however we can and remain fully committed to the physical and emotional well-being of all of our teammates, and are in touch daily with studio leadership as the situation develops.”

4A, which is working on the next installment in the Metro series after 2019’s Metro Exodus, as well as a new intellectual property, isn’t the only game maker that has a studio in Ukraine. Several franchises, including S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Cossacks, and Warface originated in that country.

N-iX Game and VR Studio has done work with Wargaming, Pardox, and Supermassive Games. Vostok Games developed the battle royale Fear the Wolves and the soon-to-shut-down Survarium. And Frogwares has seen notable success with its Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series, selling more than seven million copies as of 2107 (more recent figures are not available).

advertisement

Ubisoft also has a division in Kyiv, which it describes as “one of [its] biggest studios.” The team there has worked on several key franchises, including Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Watch Dogs, and Trials. (Among its current job openings is the role of Senior Narrative Designer for the upcoming Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora.) Like 4A, Ubisoft says it is monitoring the situation and has “already implemented several measures to help keep our teams in Ukraine safe.”

Gameloft, a former Ubisoft corporate cousin, has studios in Kharkiv, another city where explosions were heard Thursday. That division has been called “one of the largest and the most successful Gameloft Studios.” The company also has offices in Lviv. (Kharkiv is in northeast Ukraine. Lviv is closer to the western Ukrainian border.) A Gameloft spokesperson says the company has been talking with employees in Ukraine about the situation “for the past few weeks” to prepare for any potential outcome.

“We have already taken measures to ensure stable communications and support for our employees and to mitigate any potential disruption of work,” the company said. “We are updated on the situation and its evolution on a daily basis to reassess our support if needed.”

advertisement

And G5 Entertainment, a mobile game developer which has had a studio in Kharkiv since 2008, issued a statement early Thursday morning about its Ukraine team. 

“We currently have no reports of our staff being involved in any hostilities,” it said. “We recommend our employees to follow the advice of the Ukrainian president to shelter at home and not relocate at this point. We have some employees that have relocated earlier whilst the majority remains in their hometowns. At this point we have given the Ukrainian employees two days off so that they can look after themselves and their family and friends.”

NATO and Western nations have long expected Russia to move forward with a full-scale invasion of the rest of the country. Putin announced a “special military operation” just before 6 a.m. in Moscow Thursday morning, calling on Ukrainian soldiers to immediately lay down their arms and warning other countries to not get involved.

advertisement

“Anyone who tries to interfere with us, or even more so, to create threats for our country and our people, must know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences as you have never before experienced in your history,” Putin said. “We are ready for any turn of events.”

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, tweeted that Vladimir Putin had “started a full-scale war against Ukraine” and had begun shelling civilian cities. “This is a war of aggression,” he wrote. “Ukraine will defend [itself] and win. The world can and must stop Putin. It is time to act.”

In the face of an invasion that is disrupting and endangering the lives of more than 44 million citizens, the impact to video game timelines is a minor, perhaps even trivial one. 

advertisement

But as an industry, gaming has been one of the country’s fastest growing, with salaries for programmers and developers growing significantly and its economic impact moving at nearly the same pace. By 2025, game development was expected to make up a significant amount of the country’s $8.4 billion in information technology exports.  

It’s a way of life for thousands of Ukrainians—and it’s one that could be looking at a massive disruption for an unknowable period of time.

advertisement
advertisement
advertisement

About the author

Chris Morris is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience. Learn more at chrismorrisjournalist.com.

More