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Game developers in Ukraine hope Steam will be able to pay them soon

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Many game developers in Ukraine and Russia won’t receive Steam revenue they were owed in March until sometime in April, or possibly later. Valve says that its bank added new rules after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, and as a result, it currently cannot wire money to accounts in either country. Steam publishers with Ukrainian or Russian bank accounts either have to wait for Valve to comply with the new rules—the company says it’s working on a way to collect and transmit new information required by its bank—or use a foreign bank account for the time being.

“Due to the current environment, we are unable to send bank payments to Belarus, Russia and Ukraine,” Valve wrote in an email sent to Steam publishers two weeks ago. The message was posted to Twitter by Stas Shostak, a Ukrainian game developer who has released a number of games on Steam.

That note was received poorly for its use of “environment” as a euphemism for “invasion,” and because Ukraine’s game developers are being deprived of earned income when they need it most. A day later, however, Shostak posted a second email from Valve which both explained the issue in greater detail and apologized for the terseness of the first message.

A Valve representative has confirmed to PC Gamer that the contents of that email are accurate: The company must collect “intermediary banking information” from users in order to make payments to bank accounts located in Ukraine and Russia, and it continues to work on the problem.

“Any outstanding account balances will be paid as soon as they can be sent,” Valve says. “We know this is super frustrating for all involved, and are hoping to find a better resolution soon.”

So Valve clarified, it really is a technical problem and it’s gonna be okay till April payment. Sorry if I was being rude, but I wish they’d say this from the beginning. pic.twitter.com/s1B2p4MnXPMarch 18, 2022

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Shostak was relieved to find out that the payment pause is ultimately a technical problem, but almost two weeks later, he doesn’t know whether the issue will be resolved in time for April’s payment.

“I’m not sure about April,” he told PC Gamer this week. “Will they really sort it out between the banks, or will Ukraine still be cut out just in case? All my Ukrainian gamedev friends report the same situation. Some (me included) are just waiting for the next month, some decided to open accounts in foreign banks to be completely sure they get the next payment.”

It’s not clear exactly how many Steam publishers are located in Ukraine and are affected by the stalled payments; the bigger studios in the country include 4A Games, Frogwares, and GSC Game World, but individual developers like Shostak will be affected most by any further payment delays. When the issue was first communicated on March 17, a few other Ukrainian developers reacted publicly on Twitter.

“My country was attacked by Russia and because of this you decided to deprive me of a source of income?” said independent developer Ternox Games. After posting the second email from Valve, they added, “In short: I have to wait, but there will be no payment this month. Thanks for the clarification.”

Russian game developers are also affected by the Steam payment freeze. Valve’s communications so far indicate that the issue with wire transfers to Russian bank accounts is the same as the issue stopping transfers to Ukrainian bank accounts; they’ll presumably be resolved simultaneously. Regarding Belarus, however, Valve says that its bank is “no longer allowing payments” to the country without qualification.

Things are different on the customer side: Steam users in Russia are reportedly unable to use the most popular payment methods due to US sanctions, and have been limited to spending existing Steam Wallet funds. Meanwhile, CD Projekt-owned game store GOG explicitly halted all sales in Russia, as did Microsoft. Many game publishers have also pledged to suspend game sales and microtransactions in Russia, including Ubisoft, EA, Epic Games, and Activision Blizzard. In Russia itself, the studio behind Loop Hero has suggested that Russian gamers who are unable to buy its game due to sanctions pirate it. “We are against war,” the indie studio said in February.

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