By Jake Threadgould
Madrid, Mar 24 (EFE).- When the makers of Fortnite decided to donate all real money in-game purchases to charitable organizations providing relief for Ukraine, contributions skyrocketed to $50 million in just two days.
That sum of money is growing.
Fortnite’s developers Epic Games announced in a March 20 statement that for a period of two weeks all net proceeds would be donated to United Nations organizations UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the refugee agency, as well as to NGO Direct Relief.
The feat is a testament to the immense popularity of the battle royale game, whose cartoonish characters have kept teenagers glued to screens since its release in 2017 and even influenced football celebrations — see: Antoine Griezmann.
But it is also indicative of wider movement in the gaming industry, which has responded to Russia’s horrifying invasion of Ukraine through sanctions, boycotts and acts of solidarity.
One month on, Russia’s military assault on its smaller neighbor has killed at least 977 civilians, according to the UN, although the real number is expected to be much higher, and displaced more than 10 million, with over 3.5 million seeking refuge abroad.
AN EMBARGO ON ENTERTAINMENT
As Western governments and their allies drew up harsh sanctions against Russia in the early days of the invasion, so too did the gaming industry’s big-hitters.
American tech behemoth Microsoft, which owns Xbox, said in a March 4 statement that it would suspend new sales of products and services in Russia and would continue to help Ukraine protect its cybersecurity from attacks.
Days later, Sony’s Playstation and Nintendo announced a halt in services, as did gaming studios such as Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard and Fortnite’s Epic Games.
EA also removed Russian teams from FIFA 22, which mirrored real life sporting sanctions doled out by FIFA and UEFA.
CLOSER TO HOME
Polish studio CD Projekt Red, the makers of Cyberpunk 2077 and the award-winning Witcher series, also cut sales in Russia and Belarus, which has helped facilitate the invasion, and was quick off the mark when on February 25, a day after the invasion, it donated over $200,000 to Polish humanitarian organization Polska Akcja Humanitarna.
11-Bit Studios, also based in Poland, raised $850,000 for the Ukrainian Red Cross when it decided to donate all profits from its anti-war game This War of Mine to charity.
Poland has received over 2.1 million refugees since the war began.
For Ukraine’s gaming studios, the invasion hits closest to home.
Russia’s onslaught not only jeopardizes their workflow and income, but it poses an existential threat to the lives of their employees and relatives.
Artem Myronivsky, the CEO of Kyiv-based Red Beat game development company, said in a statement that some of the studio’s colleagues had taken up arms against Russian forces, while others dedicated their time to cyber security or volunteered to help vulnerable people.
“The Red Beat team, like all of Ukraine, is fighting against Russian military aggression in every way possible,” he said, adding in the undated statement that the team continued to work despite the hostilities.