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Wargaming CEO: Hardware should not constrain the player

Wargaming CEO Victor Kislyi on putting the company's new resources to work

Free-to-play sensation World of Tanks put Wargaming on the map, but the company hasn't been content to rely on one title for success. Since World of Tanks launched two years ago, Wargaming has used the revenue brought in by the game to expand its operations immensely. The company recently acquired console developer Day 1 Studios and PC developer Gas Powered Games to strengthen its development muscle. It purchased middleware developer BigWorld last year in order to have total control of the technologies behind its titles. Wargaming has moved World of Warplanes into closed beta, put World of Warships on track for an alpha this year, and has planned brand expansions like the mobile World of Tanks Blitz and the collectible card game World of Tanks Generals.

GamesIndustry International asked Wargaming chief executive officer Victor Kislyi about the company's plans for Day 1 Studios and Gas-Powered, and a possible expansion into consoles.

"Free-to-play, which we are big advocates of, can be enjoyed on any hardware device," said Kislyi. "The hardware cannot constrain the player from getting the experience. Obviously with Day 1, we would like to expand our multi-platform venture. We don't have much experience working with consoles or mobile, but you should start one day. So we started with both Gas Powered and Day 1."

"Right now, we aren't doing anything for PlayStation 4, but nobody knows what the future holds for us."

Wargaming is still not completely sure about what both studios will be doing in the future, but the full weight of the company is behind them. Despite the PC-like architecture of Sony's upcoming PlayStation 4, Kislyi said the company is currently not planning to bring a title to that platform, but he did not rule out future plans.

"We are still doing experiments. It's about selecting the most cool idea for the time being, seeing if it's technologically possible, and then beginning prototyping and production. Nothing is clear, we recently acquired those two. We just think they are veteran teams making great games. We need to blend that with Wargaming's free-to-play experience, financial muscle, publishing infrastructure, and the wisdom we have with how to monetize and how you'd rather not monetize," Kislyi explained.

"Right now, we aren't doing anything for PlayStation 4, but nobody knows what the future holds for us. As I mentioned before, the free-to-play experience can be enjoyed on any device. We will see, and Day 1 will probably be helping us in that endeavor," he said. "It's all about the game, the platform alone will not do miracles. It has to be a good game concept. But we don't shut doors. Every possibility in the future, we have the power to review when it is reasonable."

Kislyi said that Wargaming would have "at least some physical presence all major territories" by the end of this year, listing the Middle East, Latin America, Taiwan, and Japan as regions the company hasn't touched down in yet. Despite the physical expansion and the additional 'World of' games, Kislyi said Wargaming's main focus is getting World of Warplanes into a perfect state.

"Right now, we pay the most attention to World of Warplanes, because soon we'll be ready for open public beta and release. We don't give dates now, because certain elements have to be polished. Unlike World of Tanks, where we had the opportunity to fly a little bit under the radar; we were unknown and nobody was expecting anything great from us, so that was a very favorable attitude. But now, given our size, revenue, and history, everybody is expecting nothing else but top-notch quality in everything. That just takes an extra couple of months. With World of Warplanes, we deliberately delayed talking about it. We grabbed a couple of extra months to nail the controls," he stated.

"The thing is that flight simulation games are either too hardcore - with hundreds or dozens of buttons, very realistic, but it takes one hour to take off - or there's this cartoon-ish, very simple, arcade-ish feel, where the plane flies like there is no air. We call them UFOs. Neither of those options are good. Hardcore is not good for [the mass market], while arcade-y is too much for our older users, who do value realism and authenticity. So, we made a couple of prototypes for the control scheme and we found the right balance. Right now, you have air, ballistic aerodynamics, and the controls are easy. A 35-year old guy can come home, download this game, and start playing. After five or ten minutes, he'll be flying well. That is what we have in World of Warplanes now, we're just working with the content polishing."

Kislyi is perfectly fine with World of Warplanes stealing thunder from World of Tanks. He explained that as long as the customer is within the Wargaming ecosystem and enjoying themselves, everything is running according to plan.

"For us as a company, it does not matter which of our games you play. You are in our ecosystem. We'd rather prolong the lifespan of a user."

"Right now, just with World of Tanks, we have 55 million registered users. We have this concept of and we'll have never-ending improvements on that. One account that will give you access to all three games. Golden coins which you can use in any of the three games. Most importantly - which nobody else has - experience which you can transfer from Warplanes to Tanks, from Tanks to Warships," Kislyi said.

"For us as a company, it does not matter which of our games you play," he added. "As long as you're having a good time, we like you. There's a 70 percent chance of you being a non-paying user, but we love you. You are in our ecosystem. Business intelligence tells us that there's no such thing as cannibalization in-between our games. We'd rather prolong the lifespan of a user. You may get tired one day of Tanks; welcome to Warplanes, welcome to Warships! I myself spend approximately 30 percent of my playing time with Tanks, 30 percent of my time with Warplanes, and 30 percent of my time with Civilization V."

We asked Kislyi how the company handles harassment, considering the topic has become a larger issue in competitive PVP titles. For Wargaming, the answer is simple: resources.

"Our company is now 1,500 people. Around half of that is genius programmers, but the other half is community management and support. People whose jobs are to watch the forums, gather tickets, resolve problems, and police. Especially with a World War II title, you do get those neo-Nazi groups; we ruthlessly eradicate them. That's a lot of work. You have to be careful, you have to follow the law. In different countries, it's a little bit different, but in most cases it's a pure moral justification of policing that kind of behavior. We put a lot of resources into making the gaming experience of dozens of millions of players enjoyable." he said.

Finally, with World of Tanks, World of Warplanes, and World of Warships all nestled under a single account system, GamesIndustry International wondered if we could expect the ultimate 'World of' title one day. A single game combining all three games into one giant war.

"I will be honest with you, right now, we need to polish aerial combat and make it perfect. The same with Warships. Then we can say, 'Okay, Wargaming can make hits, one after another.' Right now, there is no such thing going on at Wargaming," Kislyi said.

"Thinking over a cup of coffee, yes of course. Everybody would love to see that kind of fighting environment. One day we'll get there, but right now our focus is World of Warplanes polishing."

[Headline image via Polygon]

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Mike Williams: M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.
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