Best practices for growing your video game in Russia

Best practices for growing your video game in Russia

October 6, 2021
Expand your mobile game business to PC and web to reach new players.

Learn how to navigate Russia’s latest legislation to monetize its $2.5 Billion video game economy.

Russia doesn’t just have the most landmass of any country, it also has one of the biggest video game economies in the world. Standing at 14th place among global video game economies with an average of 65M+ players month over month, the nation's online video game market volume grew to $2.5B as of 2020. Aside from video games, Russia earned 10th place in the global eCommerce market at over $27B in sales, and has the world's fifth fastest-growing online economy.  

With projections of growth beyond $2.7B by 2024 in the country’s gaming sector, Russia’s video game economy is growing in both size and complexity.

Сaption: Source: Statista, RMAA Agency, Market Opportunities

Local payment ecosystems in Russia

Unlike in North America, where more than 90% of people pay with Credit Cards and PayPal, Russia is among the numerous countries that developed their own local payment ecosystems. Plus, with old services becoming obsolete and new ones taking their place, the payment scene in Russia is changing as fast as any other sector.

Our data has shown that only 26% of eCommerce payments in Russia are made via credit or debit cards (from vendors like Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, and MIR), while the remaining 74% are covered with alternative payment methods. This is widely different from American markets, which see 60% of payments made with debit and credit cards, 30% with PayPal, and the remaining 10% paid with alternative methods including cash, gift cards, banks, and others.

Here’s a list of vendors, banks, and other providers to keep in mind (and develop support for) if you want to enter the Russian games market.

Digital Wallets

Global digital wallets like PayPal or Amazon pay are not widely used in Russia. Local digital wallets networks rule the marketplace at large. YooMoney, Qiwi Wallet, and WebMoney are the most popular payment methods for online payments in Russia, chosen by more than 30% of respondents from an Xsolla survey. 

Сaption: Source: russiansearchmarketing.com, globenewswire.com, wmtransfer.com

  • YooMoney. YooMoney is Russia’s second largest electronic payment service. Many businesses in Russia utilize YooMoney’s payment portals (formerly Yandex.Money) presenting users with a one-click “Pay with YooMoney” button at checkout. They also offer their own physical and virtual MasterCards for online purchases. Serving both merchants and individual clients, you’ll likely cross paths with YooMoney while selling in Russia.
  • Qiwi Wallet. Supported by over 10,000 merchants in Russia, Qiwi Wallet is another popular vendor and e-wallet for Russians.
  • WebMoney. With 300,000 active weekly users in 2020, WebMoney is one of Russia’s oldest and largest electronic payment processors.

Bank transfers

Banking services in Russia, in terms of digitalization and usability, are some of the best in the world. Similar to digital wallets, these banks have their own developed mobile apps, web portals, and even basic SMS banking systems that in addition to common online banking offer a substantial number of services. These include support for food delivery, paying TV and mobile bills, social networking, and even online gaming. You can buy games online and add money to game accounts directly from many of these apps and services.

Take SberBank, the largest bank in Russia, Central Europe, and Eastern Europe. It’s also one of the leading international financial institutions worldwide. SberBank Online, their app and web portal ecosystem, is the most popular fintech service compared to other banks in Russia. The app alone is the #1 financial app in Russia according to AppAnnie on both iOS and Android.

Gamers can top-up their account in games like World of Tanks, pay for Xbox Game Pass, and more with SberBank. Not only will you likely be taking payments from SberBank-adjacent services if you conduct business in Russia, but also work with them as a service to manage your money domestically.

Tinkoff, VTB, and Alfa Bank are the next most popular banks that you’ll likely come across while weighing your vendor options in Russia. Tinkoff, for example, supports dozens of games and game stores, which is notably higher than SberBank.

Each of the mentioned platforms are viable options with their respective pros and cons, and all offer widely accepted payment methods and transaction support for all forms of digital commerce. It’s becoming a must-have, especially for the Russian market, and Xsolla is working on delivering Fast Payment Systems support by the end of 2021.

Trends in online payment solutions

Online payment solutions like Fast Payment Systems and Mobile Payments are rapidly increasing in popularity among Russian gamers. 

Fast Payment Systems, similar to the eTransfer, email money transfer, or Venmo system from North America and western Europe, are starting to surpass bank cards when it comes to money transfers. The Faster Payments System (FPS) is a service that lets individuals make instant and constant interbank transfers using only a mobile phone number. 

Users can assess the system via PC, tablet, or smartphone. After the payer has confirmed the transaction, funds are transferred and become available to the payee within seconds. In general, dealing with Russian vendors and customers will likely include some form of Fast Payment Systems, as 208 banks across Russia fully use and support FPS as of August 2021.

Mobile vendors such as MTS, Beeline, and MegaFon are disrupting the online payment market too, especially in Russia. Placing sixth in the world in terms of mobile payment users, Russians increased their use of mobile payment by almost 40% from 2015 to 2021. That’s almost 100 million monthly smartphone users, or 69% of Russia's population.

Caption: Top Countries by Smartphone Users, Source: newzoo.com

It’s also worth mentioning cash kiosks. Starting out as a way to buy mobile phone airtime, cash kiosks have become popular in Russia and other Eastern European countries, distributed across more than 300,000 locations. This payment method earned around $700 million in 2018, and is used in smaller cities and rural areas where players have no access to alternative digital and banking services.

Compliance in Russia

If working with the Russian online game payment ecosystem wasn’t complicated enough already, a recent law has introduced even more complexity. With the July 1, 2021 implementation of The Russian Federal Law "On Activities of Foreign Companies in the Internet in the Territory of the Russian Federation", your organization will likely need to take new or additional steps to avoid potential sanctions when marketing, selling, and operating in Russia.

This new law affects foreign game development company, application, or platform with more than 500,000 Russian (free or paying) users per day if it:

  • Distributes information in Russian
  • Publishes advertisements targeting Russian users
  • Processes Russian user data

Receive payments from Russian individuals or companies.

Applicable companies will have to meet the following requirements:

  • Create a branch, open a representative office, or establish a local legal entity in Russia by January 1, 2022.
  • Register a company account on the communications supervision site Roskomnadzor by January 1, 2022. Roskomnadzor is an authority responsible for the supervision of communications, information technology, and mass media.
  • Post an electronic feedback form for Russian users on their websites with an effective date of the July 1, 2021.

Failure to meet Russia's legal requires may result in one or more of the following sanctions:

  • Being labeled as a noncompliant website on search engines, websites, applications, and platforms
  • Being banned from digital advertising and other marketing efforts
  • Having your financial transfers restricted as a noncompliant businesses
  • Being removed from search queries on search engines, applications, and platforms
  • Prohibition of Russian citizen cross-border personal data transfers
  • Full or partial blocking of your noncompliant resources

Along with accepting widely used forms of online payment solutions in Russia, you’ll have to keep in mind the following restrictions when marketing to, selling to, and operating in Russia. A local Merchant of Record like Xsolla can help answer your questions, guide your business decisions, and help you work through local regulations with its video game industry partners.

Tips to grow your game in Russia

Support local payment methods

The more support you add, the better. Think SberBank Online, YooMoney, Qiwi, and WebMoney. Don’t forget about mobile payments and Faster Payments Systems, which are catching up to digital cards and wallets.

Support localized checkout

Adding Russian language support can help minimize customer bounce rate, increase your revenue, and create happier customers. Minimizing all monetary transaction barriers ensures maximum profits. for your studio.

Consider mobile and free-to-play models

Mobile makes up more than half of the global video game market, with many games offering free-to-play functionality. In Russia, free-to-play accounts for 47% of revenue (for comparison, on average in Europe, this share is much less — 20%). With this in mind, it's worth considering optimizing your games and their marketing to include mobile and free-to-play.

Ensure local compliance

If your daily user base is more than 500,000, you need to start working on your local branch in Russia. Without local representation, you may violate Russian legislation and risk potential sanctions.

The Easiest Path to Compliance and Profitability in Russia

As an expert in Russian commerce, Xsolla is ready to help you power your video game business with all of the powerful solutions and tools you need to grow your game in Russia with complete compliance.As your trusted guide and partner, we can power everything you need to break into — and grow in — the Russian video game economy, including: 

  • Access dozens of popular Russian payment methods
  • The video game industry’s #1 fraud protection
  • Russian compliance on every Xsolla transaction
  • Complete adherence to Russian sales taxes, laws, and regulations
  • Market and legal expertise, with constant analysis and reevaluation
  • Payouts in one convenient financial stream
  • Hands-off financial institution liability and risk transfer
  • The ability to localize in-game stores, launchers, and website interfaces in Russian and more than 20 other languages 

Xsolla also powers localized in-game stores, launchers, and website interfaces in more than 20 languages — including Russian.

Email us at business@xsolla.com to learn about how we can help you successfully access the Russian video game market and build your game's audience with complete regulatory compliance.

If you’re already an Xsolla partner, contact your account manager to set up a time to discuss how we can help you successfully integrate Russia into your game's global growth strategy.

Learn how to navigate Russia’s latest legislation to monetize its $2.5 Billion video game economy.

Russia doesn’t just have the most landmass of any country, it also has one of the biggest video game economies in the world. Standing at 14th place among global video game economies with an average of 65M+ players month over month, the nation's online video game market volume grew to $2.5B as of 2020. Aside from video games, Russia earned 10th place in the global eCommerce market at over $27B in sales, and has the world's fifth fastest-growing online economy.  

With projections of growth beyond $2.7B by 2024 in the country’s gaming sector, Russia’s video game economy is growing in both size and complexity.

Сaption: Source: Statista, RMAA Agency, Market Opportunities

Local payment ecosystems in Russia

Unlike in North America, where more than 90% of people pay with Credit Cards and PayPal, Russia is among the numerous countries that developed their own local payment ecosystems. Plus, with old services becoming obsolete and new ones taking their place, the payment scene in Russia is changing as fast as any other sector.

Our data has shown that only 26% of eCommerce payments in Russia are made via credit or debit cards (from vendors like Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, and MIR), while the remaining 74% are covered with alternative payment methods. This is widely different from American markets, which see 60% of payments made with debit and credit cards, 30% with PayPal, and the remaining 10% paid with alternative methods including cash, gift cards, banks, and others.

Here’s a list of vendors, banks, and other providers to keep in mind (and develop support for) if you want to enter the Russian games market.

Digital Wallets

Global digital wallets like PayPal or Amazon pay are not widely used in Russia. Local digital wallets networks rule the marketplace at large. YooMoney, Qiwi Wallet, and WebMoney are the most popular payment methods for online payments in Russia, chosen by more than 30% of respondents from an Xsolla survey. 

Сaption: Source: russiansearchmarketing.com, globenewswire.com, wmtransfer.com

  • YooMoney. YooMoney is Russia’s second largest electronic payment service. Many businesses in Russia utilize YooMoney’s payment portals (formerly Yandex.Money) presenting users with a one-click “Pay with YooMoney” button at checkout. They also offer their own physical and virtual MasterCards for online purchases. Serving both merchants and individual clients, you’ll likely cross paths with YooMoney while selling in Russia.
  • Qiwi Wallet. Supported by over 10,000 merchants in Russia, Qiwi Wallet is another popular vendor and e-wallet for Russians.
  • WebMoney. With 300,000 active weekly users in 2020, WebMoney is one of Russia’s oldest and largest electronic payment processors.

Bank transfers

Banking services in Russia, in terms of digitalization and usability, are some of the best in the world. Similar to digital wallets, these banks have their own developed mobile apps, web portals, and even basic SMS banking systems that in addition to common online banking offer a substantial number of services. These include support for food delivery, paying TV and mobile bills, social networking, and even online gaming. You can buy games online and add money to game accounts directly from many of these apps and services.

Take SberBank, the largest bank in Russia, Central Europe, and Eastern Europe. It’s also one of the leading international financial institutions worldwide. SberBank Online, their app and web portal ecosystem, is the most popular fintech service compared to other banks in Russia. The app alone is the #1 financial app in Russia according to AppAnnie on both iOS and Android.

Gamers can top-up their account in games like World of Tanks, pay for Xbox Game Pass, and more with SberBank. Not only will you likely be taking payments from SberBank-adjacent services if you conduct business in Russia, but also work with them as a service to manage your money domestically.

Tinkoff, VTB, and Alfa Bank are the next most popular banks that you’ll likely come across while weighing your vendor options in Russia. Tinkoff, for example, supports dozens of games and game stores, which is notably higher than SberBank.

Each of the mentioned platforms are viable options with their respective pros and cons, and all offer widely accepted payment methods and transaction support for all forms of digital commerce. It’s becoming a must-have, especially for the Russian market, and Xsolla is working on delivering Fast Payment Systems support by the end of 2021.

Trends in online payment solutions

Online payment solutions like Fast Payment Systems and Mobile Payments are rapidly increasing in popularity among Russian gamers. 

Fast Payment Systems, similar to the eTransfer, email money transfer, or Venmo system from North America and western Europe, are starting to surpass bank cards when it comes to money transfers. The Faster Payments System (FPS) is a service that lets individuals make instant and constant interbank transfers using only a mobile phone number. 

Users can assess the system via PC, tablet, or smartphone. After the payer has confirmed the transaction, funds are transferred and become available to the payee within seconds. In general, dealing with Russian vendors and customers will likely include some form of Fast Payment Systems, as 208 banks across Russia fully use and support FPS as of August 2021.

Mobile vendors such as MTS, Beeline, and MegaFon are disrupting the online payment market too, especially in Russia. Placing sixth in the world in terms of mobile payment users, Russians increased their use of mobile payment by almost 40% from 2015 to 2021. That’s almost 100 million monthly smartphone users, or 69% of Russia's population.

Caption: Top Countries by Smartphone Users, Source: newzoo.com

It’s also worth mentioning cash kiosks. Starting out as a way to buy mobile phone airtime, cash kiosks have become popular in Russia and other Eastern European countries, distributed across more than 300,000 locations. This payment method earned around $700 million in 2018, and is used in smaller cities and rural areas where players have no access to alternative digital and banking services.

Compliance in Russia

If working with the Russian online game payment ecosystem wasn’t complicated enough already, a recent law has introduced even more complexity. With the July 1, 2021 implementation of The Russian Federal Law "On Activities of Foreign Companies in the Internet in the Territory of the Russian Federation", your organization will likely need to take new or additional steps to avoid potential sanctions when marketing, selling, and operating in Russia.

This new law affects foreign game development company, application, or platform with more than 500,000 Russian (free or paying) users per day if it:

  • Distributes information in Russian
  • Publishes advertisements targeting Russian users
  • Processes Russian user data

Receive payments from Russian individuals or companies.

Applicable companies will have to meet the following requirements:

  • Create a branch, open a representative office, or establish a local legal entity in Russia by January 1, 2022.
  • Register a company account on the communications supervision site Roskomnadzor by January 1, 2022. Roskomnadzor is an authority responsible for the supervision of communications, information technology, and mass media.
  • Post an electronic feedback form for Russian users on their websites with an effective date of the July 1, 2021.

Failure to meet Russia's legal requires may result in one or more of the following sanctions:

  • Being labeled as a noncompliant website on search engines, websites, applications, and platforms
  • Being banned from digital advertising and other marketing efforts
  • Having your financial transfers restricted as a noncompliant businesses
  • Being removed from search queries on search engines, applications, and platforms
  • Prohibition of Russian citizen cross-border personal data transfers
  • Full or partial blocking of your noncompliant resources

Along with accepting widely used forms of online payment solutions in Russia, you’ll have to keep in mind the following restrictions when marketing to, selling to, and operating in Russia. A local Merchant of Record like Xsolla can help answer your questions, guide your business decisions, and help you work through local regulations with its video game industry partners.

Tips to grow your game in Russia

Support local payment methods

The more support you add, the better. Think SberBank Online, YooMoney, Qiwi, and WebMoney. Don’t forget about mobile payments and Faster Payments Systems, which are catching up to digital cards and wallets.

Support localized checkout

Adding Russian language support can help minimize customer bounce rate, increase your revenue, and create happier customers. Minimizing all monetary transaction barriers ensures maximum profits. for your studio.

Consider mobile and free-to-play models

Mobile makes up more than half of the global video game market, with many games offering free-to-play functionality. In Russia, free-to-play accounts for 47% of revenue (for comparison, on average in Europe, this share is much less — 20%). With this in mind, it's worth considering optimizing your games and their marketing to include mobile and free-to-play.

Ensure local compliance

If your daily user base is more than 500,000, you need to start working on your local branch in Russia. Without local representation, you may violate Russian legislation and risk potential sanctions.

The Easiest Path to Compliance and Profitability in Russia

As an expert in Russian commerce, Xsolla is ready to help you power your video game business with all of the powerful solutions and tools you need to grow your game in Russia with complete compliance.As your trusted guide and partner, we can power everything you need to break into — and grow in — the Russian video game economy, including: 

  • Access dozens of popular Russian payment methods
  • The video game industry’s #1 fraud protection
  • Russian compliance on every Xsolla transaction
  • Complete adherence to Russian sales taxes, laws, and regulations
  • Market and legal expertise, with constant analysis and reevaluation
  • Payouts in one convenient financial stream
  • Hands-off financial institution liability and risk transfer
  • The ability to localize in-game stores, launchers, and website interfaces in Russian and more than 20 other languages 

Xsolla also powers localized in-game stores, launchers, and website interfaces in more than 20 languages — including Russian.

Email us at business@xsolla.com to learn about how we can help you successfully access the Russian video game market and build your game's audience with complete regulatory compliance.

If you’re already an Xsolla partner, contact your account manager to set up a time to discuss how we can help you successfully integrate Russia into your game's global growth strategy.

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