Speaking to TechRadar Gaming, Vice President of Amazon Games, Christoph Hartmann, said that the company has stopped the Russian localization of its open-world MMO New World, joining other companies in the industry responding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“We were looking into localizing New World for Russia, and we stopped that,” Hartmann told us. An Amazon Games spokesperson later confirmed this was a response to the invasion. This is in line with the news that Amazon corporate is matching employee donations to Ukrainian relief organizations.
Amazon Games also recently published the English language release of Lost Ark, developed by Smilegate. Lost Ark has been playable in Russia since 2019, though Mail.Ru and not Amazon Games publish that version of the game. We’ve contacted Smilegate for comment on its plans to continue maintaining the Russian release of its MMO.
Ukraine’s Vice First Minister called on the games industry, and Sony and Microsoft in particular, to “temporarily block all Russian and Belarusian accounts, temporarily stop the participation of Russian and Belarusian teams and gamers in all international esports events and cancel all international events holding on the territory of Russia and Belarus.” Microsoft and Sony have not replied to the open letter or our comment request, but other companies have.
EA says it’s “initiated processes” to remove Russian teams from FIFA 22 and NHL 22. CD Projekt RED, the developer of The Witcher series, Cyberpunk 2077, and operater of the GOG digital store, said, “in light of the Russian military invasion,” it’s halted “all digital sales of [its] games to Russia and Belarus.”
The ESL released a statement saying it will not allow “organizations with apparent ties to the Russian government, including individuals or organizations under alleged or confirmed EU sanctions related to the conflict, […] to be represented” in the upcoming ESL Pro League. So far, this block applies to two teams, Virtus.Pro and Gambit.
These actions by the game industry will not end the invasion of Ukraine but they reveal how widely the effects of this conflict are being felt. Russia represents a huge market for the game industry, particularly for MMOs. For Amazon to halt its Russian localization of New World is to choose not to release its biggest game in a key territory.
We’re still waiting for a response from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, but if any of the platform holders were to block sales of its games and consoles in Russia it would be a dramatic statement against the invasion.