Russian electronics stores will not sell the new Call of Duty game, titled Modern Warfare III, out of fear that in-game violence against Russian characters might break local laws, news agency RBK reported on Tuesday, citing four popular retail chains.
According to the report, retailers M.Video-Eldorado, DNS, Buka, and EMSI have all opted not to distribute the first-person shooter game, at least until they see its final version.
An official at DNS was quoted as saying that “the probability of this game containing violence against Russian citizens is very high,” which, in turn, can be viewed as a violation of the country’s hate speech laws.
Representatives of Buka and EMSI similarly said they would refrain from selling the game during its worldwide release and would only change their mind if the game’s content does not break the law. “The probability of such content is quite high,” a representative for Buka told RBK, citing previous media reports.
Yasha Haddaji, the head of the Russian Association of Distributors and Importers of Video Games, told the news agency that the game’s marketing campaign depicts a Russian character as a villain. “The game contains calls to violence against a Russian citizen. We believe it is unacceptable,” Haddaji, the former head of Nintendo Russia, said.
The trailer for Modern Warfare III released last month focuses on the game’s main antagonist, Vladimir Makarov, whose tattoos include an image of a roaring bear.
The series, which has had other Russian villains in the past, first stirred controversy in 2009. Modern Warfare 2 contained a level which allowed players to take part in a massacre of civilians at a Russian airport. The mission sparked outrage in Russia, eventually prompting developer Activision to remove the level from the Russian version of the game.
Multiple big-name foreign video game publishers have left Russia in the wake of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine, which was launched in February 2022. While companies and marketplaces banned digital sales in Russia, stores continue to sell physical copies of the games imported from abroad.