With the country’s plans for one national game engine (opens in new tab) on life support, Russia has begun exploring other ways to revive its faltering gaming industry. At a meeting between officials and industry representatives at Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development on Dec. 15, the government began considering a federal project it calls “The Gaming Industry of the Future.” One of the possible options? “Founded a Russian Electronic Arts to Help Streamline the Release of High-Quality Russian Games”. Hey, the FIFA license is now available.
According to materials seen through Compelling (opens in new tab), Russian authorities hope to establish a new set of institutions to stabilize and strengthen Russian game development. In addition to two bodies that should focus on regulation, research and training of the industry, officials also want to establish “Rosgame”: a center for the “strategic development” of the Russian gaming industry, which would focus on the “regeneration and the industry development” as well as the “game development and publishing”.
The lords have three possible scenarios in mind for Rosgame, ranging from the improbable to the absurd. The first, a so-called “stabilization scenario”, envisions a $7 billion investment that will see the gaming industry recover and Russia enter the “top 20 game developing countries” ranking by 2030. There is also an “ambitious scenario”, for which a $20 billion injection, which would mean an “industry breakthrough”. Kommersant may wryly remark that “the essence of [the industry breakthrough] was not disclosed” in the materials it saw.
But where the rubber really gets on the road is in the $50 billion “leadership” scenario, which would apparently see the Russian games scene turn into a “soft power (opens in new tab) tool” that could defeat the gaming industry titans by 2030. Soft power, if you don’t know, refers to cultural influence – the power to persuade and co-opt others to adopt your values - as opposed to military and economic hard power.
The office of Dmitry Chernyshenko, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister for Tourism, Sports, Culture and Communication, suggested that even they may know how improbable that sounds, that the authorities haven’t really figured out how to fund all that yet. and that “extra-budgetary mechanisms” are likely to be the proposal.
A document prepared by the non-profit Agency for the Development of Computer Sports and Other Sports (ARKIVS), whose representatives were also present at the December meeting, proposed some concrete objectives for the Gaming Industry of the Future project. Aside from setting up a Russian EA, ARKIVS envisions that Russian game development will reach one billion foreign users by 2030, spawn four Russian game engines and [deep breath] somehow produced two new game consoles. All this despite the fact that Russia is still subject to harsh international sanctions after the invasion of Ukraine, and many game companies have leave the country altogether (opens in new tab).
Doesn’t sound likely, right? If I were a gambler, I’d suggest that many of these plans be drastically scaled back or completely frozen once they leave the judgment-free zone of the Ministry of Digital Development’s offices. Still, it’s interesting to note that games loom large enough in the minds of Russian ministers – not just as an economic sector, but as an instrument of soft power – to justify multiple mooted schemes to keep Russian gaming afloat. Of China is also rethinking its hostility to games (opens in new tab) in the context of their use as a tool of cultural influence, the ongoing great power competition in the world could begin to affect our hobby sooner rather than later. More than it already was (opens in new tab)that is.