Wargaming’s CEO on the joys of free-to-play
Web surfers and keyboard heroes would have at least noticed the influx of World of Tanks ads during their daily online reads. No, the name isn’t some weird army recruitment program; it’s one of the top-rated online action games that boasts over 75 million players. Stuff.TV was hot at the scene of South Korea’s annual gaming convention, G-Star, to pick the brain of the company’s CEO Victor Kisyli on the successful game business model and some advice on the trade.
Why did Wargming go F2P for World of Tanks?
Wargaming has been around for 15 years, and we were making the usual retail boxed games. Strategy, turn-based and real time. But the industry in Russia and the rest of the world isn't doing very well when it came to selling games in boxes. Especially for PC and even on consoles. We realized within 10 years that this path isn’t going anywhere. However by that moment, we had a great team that was capable of making military games, experienced connections with the media, and understanding of military history and strategy games.
We noticed that there are newer types of online games like WoW with their subscription model, which was killing it and making a great splash. The model was particularly big in Russia, Korea and China, but with that, you’re like buying the box every month.
Some browser games in Russia followed that model slightly. They’re free to play, but you pay money if you want the cooler items or if you want to speed up the game. We followed that logic and went ‘Hey, why don't we try making a really cool military combat action strategy game without payment and subscription models’?
Sounds logical, but won't in-game purchases turn costly in the long run?
Historically, if you look at most Chinese and Korean games, they have pay-to-win elements. They pay money, they have distinctive advantages in the playfield. It was probably a notable novelty then, but F2P doesn’t have to be that way. The more F2P games appear on the market, the less tolerant people are about them. We felt this with World of Tanks; even our first model was quite against pay-to-win. Our monetization was very low, but we get a lot of players; last we checked it was 75 million WoT registrations around the world. But nobody’s paying $1000 per month.
However, there are consumables that you can only get with in-game gold. They affect in-game battle, like gold rounds that gave an additional 2% penetration through armor. Paying for gold with real money [to exchange for in-game credits] is for busy people like us who value their time very, very much.
The credits themselves can be earned in-game with lots of time investment, like teenagers who don’t pay, or just hobbyists who don’t pay out of principle. With this ‘free to win’ move, we’re both on the same playing field. This means that in the eSports field, this is totally fair especially in that fierce and competitive field.