Russia plans to ban crypto currency, might ban in-game currencies as well

Russian Department of Finances is planning to ban “surrogate currencies” in Russia. The law is clearly aimed at crypto currencies, such as bitcoin, but it is written so vague, that it might affect any other virtual (i.e. fictional) currency as well, including in-game currencies.

Apple Insider here worries that it will effectively put an end to in-game purchases. It probably will not, but game companies will have to replace their “gold”, “crystals”, “hairy gophers” with Russian roubles.

Or maybe not, you never know with Russian laws.

Changes to SMS laws will affect Russian gaming industry

Russian Parliament recently passed a law about SMS-spam and SMS-fraud. This law introduces a lot of much-needed changes into what many consider to be ‘gray area’ or even ‘fraud market’. Now SMS providers won’t be able to automatically charge you unless you explicitly agree to it via SMS of your own.

This law will also affect certain games in Russia, but, fortunately, not many. Five or six years ago SMS were the main source of payments in online gaming, but since then the share of SMS payments dropped to less than 5%. So some games might take a hit in their revenue, but it won’t be significant and probably won’t last as affected users will switch to credit cards and e-wallets.

Still, I’ve heard some SMS payment companies are now firing up to half of their staff.

Russian bloggers are now officially mass media and have to register

Remember how ten years ago people argued about bloggers being new journalists and blogs becoming “Media 2.0″. How time goes by…

So, Russian Parliament just decided that bloggers are in fact mass media. And if you have more than 3 thousands visitors (or friends/followers) per day you have to be registered as a media. Well, not as a “real media”, you don’t need to have a company and everything. But you have to show your name and contact address, verify your sources and abide all laws written for traditional media.

Technically that makes each Russian blogger equal to a newspaper and every Russian Youtube personality to a TV station.

UPDATE: I see this post got some coverage on Interwebs, so I’ll clarify it a bit.

If you’re a blogger and you have 3K daily visitors during one month you have to add required information to your blog so you can be added by government agency to its list of bloggers. You can later opt out if your popularity drops and you’ll have less than 3K viewers per day for three months straight. But when you hit that magic number, you will be registered again.

If you fail to comply your blog will be blocked in Russia. Russia has quite an effective system for Internet filtering with deep packet inspection hardware installed at most major providers. So, when Russia blocks you, it blocks you for good majority of its population.

No word on international Russian-speaking bloggers. I’m one of those, I have around half a million visitors per month to my personal blog, so I’m kinda worried. Worst case scenario they’ll block people like me as “foreign agents”.

Russian Parliament might issue a ban on “war propaganda” in games

When I wrote about Russian age ratings and whatever Russia might add to that law in the future, I never thought it would happen so soon.

According to Izvestia, Russian MP Oleg Mikheev (“A Just Russia”) introduced several amendments to Federal Law #149. As you might remember that’s the one that regulates age ratings for media products including video games.

He is basically asking for ban on certain games despite whatever age rating they might have. Red flags are “war propaganda” and “ethnic, racial or religious intolerance”. Companies found to distribute such games will be fined from 100 thousands roubles to 500 thousands roubles ($2,700-$13,800). Pretty steep rise compared to current fines range (20 thousands to 50 thousands roubles).

Oleg Mikheev is particularly worried about two games: Maidan and Soldiers: Heroes of World War II.

Maidan is a browser-based game about Ukraine, where player has to fight in a future civil war for what is left of the country. The game was developed in Russia by branch of a publishing house Eksmo called Ethnogenesis and spearheaded by Konstantin Rykov, member of ruling “United Russia” party. In Ukraine Maidan is actually considered to be a pro-nazi game.

Soldiers: Heroes of World War II was developed in Ukraine in 2004 and became one of the bestselling WW2 tactical games of its time. It was published by 1C, now part of 1C-Softclub, a leading Russian games distributor.

P.S. I’m really sorry this blog is turning into political news outlet instead of gaming news, but that’s Russian reality today.

Russian age ratings for videogames

Despite what everyone outside Russia thinks, there is no official censorship in games industry of any kind or, at least, it never happened so far.

Russian age rating system works a little bit different from most age rating systems in other countries.

Ratings are mandatory by law

There is a special law that regulates all age ratings in media, including games, movies, news, shows, books and even blog posts. You should read it.

There are also fines applied for failing to rate your game properly or selling adult games to minors. Continue reading