It’s a bit of an odd game, World of Tanks. If you mention it to the vast majority of gamers out there, at best you’ll get a vague nod of recognition – most folks will simply go “World of What?” and move on – yet this is a game that is played by thirty million people around the world.
It holds the world record for most players on a single server at one time (over 91,000). It appeals to players of all ages… and yet it feels like it’s totally under the radar, that bugger all people are even aware of its existence.
I sat down with Victor Kislyi, the CEO of developers Wargaming.net, at Tankfest. Held at Bovington Camp on the south coast, this annual event celebrates all things tank related and – as you’d expect – is pretty much a captive audience. The World of Tanks booth is somewhat incongruous with its surroundings; vehicles that have all seen military action go against the glowing mice and huge screens, all of which are ready to show off the game.
The game began humbly. “I was in Minsk, studying physics at university,” says Kislyi. “My brother and a couple of college friends started working out of a bedroom, making games that only a few people would play.
They were very basic, no AI, but I really liked the strategy game idea. We made no money of course, but one good thing came out of it: the original programmer has been with us ever since.
I think we’ve already made all our screw-ups with our previous games and the Karmic Authority, the guys upstairs, are letting us do our thing.”
Controls are easy enough to pick up, so much so that a large amount of the player base is kids who get scarily good in next to no time. Even more appealing, it’s free to play – and yet it’s making money. Enough for the company to employ hundreds of people around the world and still turn a profit.
How are they doing this? “We were aggressive and bold at the start. We burned our bridges and threw everything into the game to try and make it work: money, manpower, spirit.
The premise of World of Tanks is simple; pick a tank from history and destroy the enemy team. Played on an ever increasing variety of maps, two factions battle it out with a maximum of fifteen a side, blowing each other up and (hopefully) gaining XP that can be traded in for upgrades, bonuses and – of course – faster, stronger, trundling weapons of awesomeness.
A lot of players choose to bypass the grind and dive in with the credit card which is understandable. After all, who wouldn’t love a gold behemoth of a tank that ruins all that stands before it?
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