Russia is looking into the possibility of developing a national video game engine to support the country’s developers should American companies like Unreal Engine creator Epic Games and Unity Technologies refuse to do business with them over the Russian government’s ongoing assault on Ukraine, Kommersant reports. (h/t eXputer)
Kommersant sources say potential for this kind of state response germinated in a behind-closed-doors meeting between presidential administration officials and reps from the Russian video game industry in May. With Epic blocking in-game commerce in Russia and Unity “pausing relationships” with entities connected to the Russian government following the invasion of Ukraine, some fear local studios may at some point lose access to vital development tools entirely.
Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development confirmed to Kommersant that it’s been in talks with “major players” in the IT industry, including Russian social media platform VK, about the need for supporting the country’s video game industry with a domestic game engine. The prevailing argument is that such an initiative could be funded through a grant from the Russian Foundation for the Development of Information Technologies, which typically ranges from 20 million rubles (around $345,000 USD) to 500 million rubles (around $8.6 million USD).
I can’t help but view Russia as performing its own version of Bender’s popular “blackjack and hookers” routine from Futurama. Like building a theme park, spitefully creating a brand-new game engine from the ground up is neither cheap nor simple, and those who know better have serious misgivings about the viability of this hypothetical project.
Neither constant Russian missile attacks nor military occupation have stopped Ukrainian developers from making video games. But as evidenced by the calculations many developers have to make on a day-to-day basis just to keep a modicum of normalcy, the circumstances of their work is now completely changed by the war.
An unnamed source in the Russian game industry, for instance, told Kommersant that the government would need to invest tens of millions of dollars just to match the built-up ecosystem of “logical blocks, assets, and plugins” available via other game engines. Another expert raised concerns about training specialists as well as the necessity of getting video card manufacturers like Nvidia and AMD to play ball, both of which have also stopped doing business in Russia.
My very astute business and political analysis tells me that Russia probably doesn’t have the resources to go the distance, especially as its months-long conflict with Ukraine and subsequent global sanctions continue to wreak havoc on the Russian economy. While it would be nice to see more competition in the game engine space, it’s only a matter of time before, much like Bender, the handful of oligarchs who run the country get bored and decide to spend the money on yachts and blow instead.