Wargaming.net has enjoyed a meteoric rise to MOG studio stardom. By
their estimates, combining China, Russia, Europe, and America, World of Tanks
has 3 million active players. In Russia, the game’s peak
concurrent user number hit 155,000 in May. That’s roughly
300,000 concurrent players around the world at any given time, and by
all accounts that number is growing.
We caught up with Wargaming.net CEO Victor Kislyi for details on the company’s bombshell (pun intended) announcement at E3, plus what’s brewing in the future of World of Tanks.
Tank Paratroopers?Ren & Stimpy reference aside, Wargaming.net’s big announcement at E3 was World of Warplanes, and the big question on many World of Tanks players’ minds is whether they’ll have to deal with divebombing Stukas. While the two games might share two-thirds of a name, don’t expect the two games to share much linkage right off the bat. “We don’t want to say this is a spinoff of World of Tanks,” Wargaming.net’s CEO Victor Kislyi explained. “This is not an add-on, this is a separate, standalone game.”
World of Warplanes is currently in development at Wargaming.net’s partner studio Lesta, one of Russia’s better known games studios specializing in modern military games. Their 2006 title Pacific Storm was perhaps the first Russian-made WWII grand strategy game to make it to US shelves, but didn’t sell well due in part to lackluster graphics. As evidenced by World of Tanks, Russian studios have closed the graphics gap, and Lesta is developing WoWP in their new Kiev studio, currently with no timetable set.
According to Victor, WoWP will follow the same “successful formula” Wargaming.net used for World of Tanks: subscription-free with no bashfulness about premium perks, loads of variety in planes and loadouts, and match-based mechanics designed to see players make progress in the space of 10-15 minutes. But, surprisingly, WoWP will likely have even more variety than World of Tanks will ever offer. “At the end of the day, we’ll do around 400 different tanks – French, British, Czechoslovakian, Japanese, Polish, enhanced Russian, German, and American trees with special prototypes. Period warplanes, on the other hand, number in the thousands – at least two to three thousand.
“Not all will be available on day one – as with World of Tanks, major nations and iconic airplanes are released first, and then we go forward with new models, new technology, and so forth.”
World of Tanks’ success goes well beyond gameplay, and that’s something that Victor hopes to carry forward to World of Warplanes. “Far more important than putting three tanks on the floor at E3 is how we treat our community,” Victor explained, though I had to note that bringing three fully-functional (sans armament) 20-30 ton tanks to LA complete with knowledge crews and (not as knowledgable, but fun to look at) Tank Girls fresh from the Deal or No Deal set, was no mean feat.
Victor, ever the brusque Belorussian professional, pulled me back on task. “We want to repeat our marketing and community strategy with World of Warplanes, which is to get a group of hardcore enthusiasts, build a game that’s strong on realism and fun that this group loves playing, then take it to a larger audience.” Victor noted that Wargaming.net just opened offices in San Francisco and Berlin staffed to serve their growing American and European audiences, and the company has been prolific with sponsored in-game and venue-based WoT tournaments around the world.
World of Warplanes. “There are more combat airplane magazines – Flyer Magazine, PC Pilot – I’m not talking about commercial aviation, right? Just combat aircraft magazines. There’s probably 30 in the Western world. A significant part of those are devoted to historical aircraft from, particularly, World War II. We’re going to go and grab the people that read these magazines, and we’re going to invite them to our community. We won’t rest on our past successes – these people may not care about tanks, so we should be careful. We’ll be starting from scratch.”
Though warplanes and tanks will probably not be recreating WWII on the same maps, Victor didn’t absolutely rule out some ties between the two games. “We might, in the future, make some links on the level of Clan Wars, and there are absolutely obvious ways of doing that. But right now, the focus is the combat aircraft-devoted niche. We have a formula, and we know it works.”
Clan WarsWorld of Tanks, even among longtime World of Tanks players schlepping through the middle tiers. Last month, the realtime territory control system came to US servers with 2 continents – Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. The update came months after the feature went live in Russia, where 7 sub-continents and 800 territories are up for grabs for the game’s 4,500 active clans.
“The good news for the US is that there are no rich guys – yet – sponsoring any clans.” Pointing to the map, he noted that a clan he calls the ‘Rats’ (I can’t read Cyrillic) have taken over Northern Europe. I asked Victor if he was worried about one clan taking over and taking the fun out of the game. Victor explained that until recently, the Rats had been pushed around by other alliances until they forged a critical set of alliances that allowed them to conquer a vast territory. In time, he’s certain that other clans will do the same thing to the Rats. “We are absolutely not worried about this thing getting boring… we don’t control this game. Why would we interfere with all this conspiracy, backstabbing, allying, double-crossing – all the crazy stuff that goes on behind the scenes. That’s the beauty of the game.”
The Future of World of TanksWorld of Tanks in the future. He put it succinctly: “More tanks, more maps, and a new gameplay mode.” More tanks I’d heard of – the surprisingly powerful French tank tree is coming this autumn. (Historical oddity – the French had some of the best armor in the world at the beginning of WWII, but, sadly, were fewer in number, plus tanks tend to be better on offense than defense.) Victor also hinted that Japanese and British tanks might be coming in 2012.
The “more maps” part was plain enough – all maps are free, and “Mountain Pass” and “Steppes” came into the game with the last update, plus Wargaming.net has been known to toss up new maps for weekend events.
Thanks to Victor Kislyi for his time between rockstar camera sessions, Arthur Propagatau, Dima Pinchuk, and everyone that staffed the raucous World of Tanks booth presence at E3 2011.