Major Video Game Companies Could Be Doing More For Covid-19 Relief

Major Video Game Companies Could Be Doing More For Covid-19 Relief
Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard, Getty
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I understand why people get excited when video game companies and their executives donate millions to charity, as has been happening recently. Big numbers make for catchy headlines. “They’re doing their part!” we tell ourselves, happy to see private citizens chip in where governments have so often failed. After all, none of us will ever accrue that kind of money in our lifetimes. But is that truly the best they can do?

CD Projekt co-founder and CEO Marcin Iwiński is a billionaire. He owns 12,150,000 shares of the company he helped establish in 1994, whose stock is now worth 368 Polish złoty (PLN). This makes Iwiński’s net worth (based on his stake in CD Projekt alone) around 4.4 billion PLN, or a little more than $US1 billion USD. Last month, Iwiński announced that he and the company’s other board members had somehow pulled together 2 million PLN (around $738,007) of their own money to “combat the spread of covid-19 in Poland,” where CD Projekt is located.

I’m not saying anyone should turn away that kind of money, especially in desperate times like these, but this amounts to a paltry sum when compared to the wealth Iwiński has accrued thanks to crunching employees who make a fraction of his income. Even if he had ponied up the full amount himself instead of going dutch with the rest of the CD Projekt board, that would amount to just .04% of his net worth.

You’ll find this phenomenon throughout the gaming industry. ZeniMax Media, the massive conglomerate that owns acclaimed developers like Bethesda Softworks, id Software, and Arkane Studios, announced today that it plans to donate $US1 ($2) million across a handful of charities. While it’s hard to gauge ZeniMax’s yearly revenues, since those details are private, investors valued the company at $US2 billion in 2016, and it’s a regular recipient of millions of dollars in cash infusions from private equity firms like Providence Equity Partners.

Meanwhile, Ubisoft reported making over $US2 billion USD over the 2018/2019 fiscal year, but announced in March that it would contribute just $150,000 USD ($232,078) to the World Health Organisation’s covid-19 relief fund. CEO Yves Guillemot rakes in an annual compensation of around $US2 million alone.

Last month also saw Riot Games promise $US1 ($2).5 million in relief for the Los Angeles area. Riot is owned by Chinese megacorporation Tencent, whose total revenue for 2019 amounted to a staggering $US15 billion. League of Legends alone brought in $US1 billion of that. Riot founders and chairmen Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill are compensated handsomely, with some estimates saying they “earn” $US10 million apiece every year. And both have previously purchased homes worth many times what the company is giving to help those in need.

The covid-19 pandemic is the biggest crisis many of us have seen in our lifetimes. Infection numbers continue to grow, coronavirus-related deaths are all too common, and millions have found themselves without income. It’s only natural to look fondly at big-looking checks in a time of need, no matter the source. But the numbers show just how trivial recent donations from massive video game companies really are in the grand scheme of things. If the situation’s gotten so bad that these leftovers are worthy of celebration, we’re in deeper shit than I thought.


  • I’m seeing this sentiment in a few places, but I also think that if they are to be taken seriously then they should be making the points in regard to profits and liquid assets rather than revenue and net worth.

    • Shares are liquid assets. The article notes that Marcin Iwiński owns 12,150,000 of them, currently worth a little more than $US1 billion USD.

  • Yes because a company’s revenue is totally proportional to how much money they can donate. I mean, it’s not like they have any other expenses they need to pay for.

  • Even if game companies (and it seems your gripe extends to CEOs) dumped their entire fortunes into the effort, that would still be nothing compared to what’s required to salvage entire countries economies.

    I get the sentiment – they made it big because of our tax dollars, whether it be through direct support or the fact that they exist in the society we paid for. But all this will succeed in doing is making you feel better.

    The govt (at least the aus govt) is better positioned to take on this burden on our behalf than us chasing after a handful of CEO/companies for peanuts.

  • What we shouldn’t be doing is giving obscenely rich people cheap publicity for sweeping up a few of the dimes that have fallen under their couch cushions in order to donate to whatever random charitable purpose they personally feel an urge to support that morning.

  • Since when did donating money have to be proportional to your worth.

    Seriously, how insufferable are you ian? These companies have done more with their donations than you ever will. Instead you sit here and bitch about how they didnt donate some arbitrary amount that is acceptable to you.

    Your attitude says more about you than the companies.

    • It’s a badly written article, but I think the nub of his criticism is in the last sentence, specifically the question of whether a donation of .04% of someone’s income is something “worthy of celebration”.

      Compare this to, say, little Timmy giving $5 when that might represent every coin in his piggy bank. Or compared to, say, these guys.

      Sure, donate what you want, but I’d suggest that we shouldn’t be giving the donation article upon article of effusive praise either.

      • It doesn’t help that they’re throwing shade at a company (Bethesda) with which they’ve famously had a massive falling out. (not sure if that counts as a pun)

      • You’re looking at it the wrong way around and part of the problem is the playing of the percentage game, something that gets done when you want numbers to say what you want. The important part here is that nearly a million dollars was donated from a singular source, quite a significant amount to put towards anything. That magnitude is what’s being celebrated because it gives a lot to work with, much more than $5 that might represent a kid’s pocket money for the week.

        As another example, everyone celebrates GDQ’s millions of dollars contributions but if the individuals who actually made that possible were to donate on their own nobody would blink an eye.

      • I honestly don’t care about a little faux PR if it results in several million dollars being donated to a worthy cause.

        What is the negative here? All I’m seeing is a net positive. A Rich person getting some positive PR has no negative consequences other than some wannabe communists chucking a sook about wanting to “eat the rich” while tweeting on their $1k iPhone.

        • Just to clarify my point, I’m not accusing you of being that type of person. You are a decent person who articulates your opinions properly.

        • Fair enough. I think the problem, to the extent that there is one, is the disproportionate credit and recognition being offered for the amount of effort involved.

          Compare someone who volunteers every day in a soup kitchen for 20 years without an ounce of credit with someone else who is virtually sainted in some commentary simply because someone sends out a press release about their decision to donate a bit of spare change to whatever charity happened to be in the news that morning.

          • I’ve seen some examples of well known wealthy people/celebrities being criticised for not donating anything towards various causes (such as our recent bushfire crisis) when in fact they had, and had opted not to make a public announcement about it.

  • After all, none of us will ever accrue that kind of money in our lifetimes. But is that truly the best they can do? And that is the problem with your attitude to this. “Oh you donated more money than the average person makes in a lifetime but I think you should still give even more.”

    I’m sure that when it comes to little Timmy giving $5 of his pocket money it’s all “Every little bit helps”.

  • What’s Kotaku donating perchance? Easy to throw stones and try to lop the tall poppy… but how about being a bit more honest and setting the example, or displaying how you’ve set the example, before you do?

  • What another absolutely garbage Kotaku “article
    How much of the Ad revenue you are shoving down our throats are you donating to the Covid-19 relief

  • Looking at these comments, I’m not alone in thinking there’s something obnoxious about Ian’s tone.
    I agree with the idea that we shouldn’t be celebrating every small amount, too.
    But $2mil is going to do a lot more than $0, and I think it’ll still go a long way.

  • Guess they should all stop donating then… Avoids articles bitching about what they did bother to donate when they didn’t even have to in first place.

    The sheer fucking nerve of people who write articles like this, my god.

  • If the worlds top 1% of wealth gave up 5% of it, we could solve all sorts of societal and global issues.

    It is never going to happen.

  • The bootlicking of people who would sell us all to a meat farm for a dollar in this thread is shameful.

    Billionaires should not exist.

      • No. It is impossible to become a billionaire without exploiting people. It is entirely unethical to have a society where billionaires exist but we let people go homeless and hungry.

        Companies are not good or nice. The billionaires who own them aren’t good or nice. These feelgood stories about how a landlord who owns 28 apartment buildings is being nice about the rent aren’t feelgood. They’re reminders that everything is so goddamn corrupt that when people who live by sucking money from the poor are put on pedestals because we equate wealth with virtue.

        Fuck that. Stop thanking the guy eating the whole cake for your crumbs.

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