Understanding World of Tanks as a Product

A little bit of a different article today. We’ll review in product terms where World of Tanks is at the moment and where it is heading. What does Wargaming want from us?

With the recent spam of Premium content in WoT it is pretty obvious what Wargaming want; they want money. We are at a stage where WoT has matured to a level that it will be hard to reach new customers. Let’s review the product.

As being a Product Manager in real life it is quite easy to see where WoT is; in fact we are speaking of text book behavior.

Product Life Cycle

There is a fairly simple model that shows the stages of the life of a product. The four phases are known as Introduction, Growth, Maturity and Decline. Let’s try to take these stages apart and apply them to WoT. For simplicity sake we stick to the PC version.

2010 – Introduction

World of Tanks was launched in 2010 where the so called Introduction phase has started. This phase is characterised by high costs due to marketing and development costs and little to no profits. A goal should be to make sure the market knows your name.

2012-2015 – Growth

Ever since WoT has gained a lot of popularity and exposure the growth phase has started; this is where the game benefits from new members and product development is focused on new content for customers in order to keep growing and to keep it exciting. This phase also sees competition “waking up”. We saw War Thunder Ground Forces popping up, as well as Armored Warfare being launched a bit later. This is where the product needs to make a difference in order to maintain the advantage. World of Tanks has maintained their strengths by sticking to an Arcade approach and has proven to be a very solid game.

2015-now – Maturity

Now the interesting phase has arrived in which we are now. The Maturity phase. New customers are hard to come by and marketing costs rise per new registration (cost per lead; CPL). This is mainly because the people that are interested in tanks and games already heard about World of Tanks and are either playing already or have made a concious decision to not play it.

In order to keep the game profitable the exisiting customers need to be monetized as we have reached the highest level of customer base now. Furthermore we need to make sure to keep the game comfortable to play.

We see Wargaming releasing a lot of premium content whereby the rule “better than stock, worse than elite” has pretty much been thrown overboard (Skorpion G anyone?).

Additionally we see Wargaming releasing a lot of optimizations of game performance and UI improvements; which finally incorporate new features that were already in third party mods; this  however almost leans towards phase 4 as desribed next.

2017? – Decline

The “scary” phase is ahead of us now; the decline. Some might argue that this phase has already started. This is where people start to leave to game, going to other games and/or platforms. Game revenue starts falling and the number of (paying) customers decreases. The focus is then not to piss off existing and loyal customers too much and to keep them warm and comfy to ensure as much as revenue is generated. WG has made a misstep with those ridiculous bundles and advent calendar from 2015 for instance, pissing off a lot of people.

We cannot say yet when this phase starts but we’re already seeing signs of this behavior in the current WoT strategy. The product life cycle can also be applied to individual premium tanks; whereby the Jagdtiger 88 (as an example) has passed the point where everyone that wanted to buy one has already bought it or decided to not ever buy it. Therefore it is pulled from the store and new ones are introduced (KanonenJgpz, Skorpion) so that the same customers can be monetized again. Grasping back the latest premium that were released, they seem to be a little OP in order to create another reason to open the wallet and spend money.

Maturity & Decline – Is this bad?

In the end the question remains if it is bad that the game is now focused on more money making or not. In its current form I would say “Yes”. Why?

The aspect of making the new premiums both expensive, sometimes bundled and on the OP side, makes the game lean towards pay to win. Pay to win is frustrating for people that do not want to spend money or cannot afford to spend so much money. These people will eventually leave the game and then we are stuck with a bunch of wallet warriors that fire premium at each other. The money value of those individual users will increase but the overall value of the average player will likely decrease. This is something that WG should not want to reach as it is harmful to the players and their business.

Whether they are seeing this trend themselves I cannot answer as I don’t know how much money they have left at the end of the day. It is however unlikely that we can stop this trend as in harsh marketing and product management terms they are exactly doing what they should be doing as a business: milking the cows. The books however suggest using the money to invest in newer endeavours…

World of Tanks 2…is that you?

What are your thoughts on this topic? Let us know in the comments.

 

38 thoughts on “Understanding World of Tanks as a Product

  1. Reacting to my own post: Just saw the Black T34 hitting the EU server. Another prime example of milking. Same tank, different look. Monetize your customer twice with something unique and special even though deep inside it’s the same old T34 that has been live for years already.

    Meaning design and rebalancing costs are next to zero, but the Euros will be rolling in.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In my opinion milking phase is the proof we are at the top of product’s curve. Yes, the decline is about to come, but the exact year depends on those WG fu.kheads and their ignorance. For me it is not the product, making me angry. It is the russian “we know it better” thinking of WG, their arrogance towards us, their customers, their inability to reach our demands, changing rules and many others. Yes, the drop in the playerbase will surely follow, but still this could be reverted if those cracks realise their errors and will make the playerbase demands more important than their assumptions.
      I am 40 now and I am playing this both because of tanks and relieving of stress. This is not a stress-reliever when you are for example in the french duck tank facing platoon of three O-I fake tanks. There would be numerous examples of WG’s faults which pisses the playerbase majority. Most could be solved. Let us hope.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Stupid stats you got here.
      Everybody knows WoW by now – so why google it?😀 (back then it was probably next-gen masterpiece – therefore hype).
      Where WoT was “Huh? Tank MMO exists? LOL, better give it a try”.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. I dont mind if they offer more gold tanks or not. also skins and etc,to say Scorpion G is op🙂 I think you like bush too much. till the moment when they will be selling completely op tanks -Im fine with what they do.
    Also you forget abut RU market, maybe in EU u are right, but in RU they are definetelly not at the decline stage

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    1. They are just using EU as cash cow since we have money here. They tied their product to the USD so for many Russians the WoT products are relatively expensive.

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  3. WoT on the PC is certainly at it’s peak and WG made millions off of it in the past years. While it’s nice that they invest in new games the main thing gamers buying premium tanks expect is that they support the devopers/development of the game they are buying stuff for.

    At this point in time the only way to retain players is by improving the game in the eyes of these same players. The way to do this which has been made abundantly clear on the forums (which is, you know the location the people who care for this game express their opinions) is to rebalance premium ammo, to fix the ridiculous damage potential arty has and to tweak maps so they are no longer corridor fests.
    These are the basic points that need addressing first before they start tweaking with anything else as these are the points which have been pissing off pretty much all the players leaving so far.
    (Well outside things they never will change like 25% RNJesus etc.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Knowing WoT as product – I’d say it will live up until 2019.
    WoT 2 would be logical next step, continuity and economically wise, even more so that AW has set examples of what works or doesnt.

    But then again – if AW continues to improve, it might be the point where WoT 2 wont do anything as people wouldnt want WG classic behavior (russian bias, balance takes million years, any other feature two million years) and wont play WoT or both.

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  5. Very good article Tomah4wk!

    For me it became clear very early, somewhere in 2014, that Wargaming actively persues the marketing strategy of: “Profit Maximization”.
    Link to wiki description: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Profit_maximization

    Looking at the strategy it has clear advantages for any company that has no adversaries in it’s product niche. The way they reacted when their product monopoly came under fire from new competition is also very in line with a company which peruses “Profit Maximization”.
    That showed in how they suddenly became active (Risk) and started developing & implementing changes, which were addressed by the new competition or were points of criticism by WG’s current playerbase. These changes were made to ensure player retention and safeguarding revenue vs it’s competition.
    This worked very well, as the competition didn’t really deliver what a lot of players were looking for.
    Now WG could lessen the slack on development pace once again. Competition out of the water they could return to do as they pleased product wise.

    Last jan. 2016 was a second turning point, internally driven this time, with the intended release of Rubicon. The intense bad feedback it got from testers and community contributors alike, made them need to change their strategy temporarily for the risk or loosing revenue.
    Making promises of addressing balance etc, implementing features (mods) only were made to strengthen customer expectations and to create goodwill (see paragraph below) to make sure feature revenue would stay at a certain level.

    In my opinion, from early 2016 and now, they are making a dangerous assumption (walking a thin line) and that is in regards of player “Expectation and Goodwill”.
    There is just so much a company (limit) which strives for “Profit Maximization” can do before the customerbase looses those two attributes. Seeing the feedback on certain 9.17 aspect hint in the direction of this development; a.k. a deja vu to Rubicon.
    Link to desctiptions: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/advantages-disadvantages-profit-maximization-11225.html

    IMO they have to act very careful, in which extent they can continue to ignore well grounded feedback regarding the implications of the things they develop and want to release.
    As the result of that might be a loss of player retention.
    And them we get to your point of the paragraph Decline and onward.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. What can WoT even give new?
        Havok? Cant due to russian PCs.
        PvP Modes? Something interesting will be AW-meta – fast action, fast vehicles.
        PvE? Oh hell no…..
        Eh…..
        Gold ammo rebalance?😀

        Like

        1. Well yeah, if you want to tank about small product details🙂

          My reasoning was more in light of the bigger picture and what is lacking in that picture.
          Meaning boring stuff😛 like: marketing, internal strategies, economics, decision making, how department are run, internal and external communication or lack there of, etc etc😉

          Like

      2. Of course!
        Keep in mind it’s just my personal observations/opinions, seen from my IT background🙂

        Two things stood out in my opinion, feedback regarding:
        1) the “global balance consequences” of the new overmatch mechanics;
        2) the Swedish t8-10 heavy tanks, esp the non historical turret armor of the Kranvagn.

        Regarding 1. I see this more in regards to their internal processes and QA within WG.
        From my perspective they seem to have either a) overlooked the consequences; or b) want implemented it intentionally. if b), well then it falls in line with their strategy.

        Regarding 2. IMO they are in a (unwilling) viscous circle, that in order to keep up revenue thru content and retain customers they need to creating new and exciting content.
        But this IMO results in them needing to, every time, exceed their previous content creations. therwise none will invest (xp convertion/premium tank).
        Downside is that this leads to powercreep.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Premium tanks dont have the same purpose as the one had. First of all some premiums alreaddy outperformed or were on pair with their regular counterparts before the buffs. Secondly, all premiums released lately has been as good or better then regular. ofc it is pay to win so is gold ammo. How will Wg adress this in global rebalance? Will thhey rebalance all tenks and keep the premiums untouched since they cant change premiums? Making the premiums still being better than regular tenks since that is how they were sold. I am against these “good” premiums because it mess up balance.

    Like the amx 49 and the t26e5, they are better than their counterparts on tier 8. The AMX has better mobility and armor and pen than tiger II for example, and the t26e5 has better armor, mobility, pen, and dpm than for example caernarvon. I have played against these fucking premium tenks in my tier 8 and it is not funny. Considering the amx 49 and t26e5 armor, they should have significantly worse pen or gun handling or mobility, because now they can autopen pretty much all other tier 8 HTs frontaly due to their high pen. Some years ago these tenks would never make it live, if the AMX 49 would have the armor some years ago they gun would be much worse in terms of gun handling and specialy pen, like 212-215mm pen max for the AMX. It would probably not even have a 300 dmg gun btw.

    What will WG do, will they buff all regular tenks and make game even more fast paced? No, all tenks need to be brought back to their initial state inclusive premiums and be balanced accordingly. All Armor buffs should be removed and real weakspots whould be introduced again like in old days. And gold ammo should be gold only or removed. This game has turned into absurdness really. What fucking tier 8 HT has 280mm effective lower plate or 245mm effective upper plate and 250mm turret (AMX 49)? That is fucking tier 9 HT armor.

    And 112 and wz buffs are also retarded, they could be penned b yall tier 8 mediums at pretty much all angles, but now the lower plate is as effective as the upper plate on the fucking tiger II and kv4. Duhhh!

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    1. I don’t understand your thinking about how they can’t change premiums. Tonight I was up against a T26E5 in my Type 59 and it was pretty obvious how badly the Type has been nerfed since it came out.
      But yes, I do agree with you that all premium tanks need to be brought back to their original specs. What we bought for real money ought to always be the same as what we paid for.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. This game is piece of garbage. I spend 60-70€ – wasnt worth it at all. Motherfuckers! Full of bullshit. Blizzard is good example of how to manage with peoples. Or valve… not this shithole

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  8. It is funny that WG can buff premium tenk and not nerf them, why? Arent you supposed to not change didigtal good at all=?

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  9. “It is funny that WG can buff premium tenk and not nerf them, why? Arent you supposed to not change didigtal good at all=?”
    @Noobkid – it’s due to EU electronic consumer protection legislation. If WG were still in Minsk they could have tried to nerf the premiums, as soon as WG moved their corporate headquarters to Cyprus they were bound by EU legislation, and no producer of electronic goods is permitted to down grade what the consumer purchased without offering the consumer a refund.
    This is exactly what happened with the SuperPershing when it was nerfed.
    None of the other premiums have suffered a direct nerf since the move to Cyprus, although all the older premiums have been subject to power creep, but as that effects the whole game structure it is permitted under the law.

    Like

  10. you forgot “rebirth”

    this is rare for most games as a rebirth without a new game/engine/wot2. would require a ton of work, specially with legacy code. But sometimes its the best way as the players want the game, but don’t want a new game.
    so they rework the mechanics, maybe update the graphics a bit of a dead game, and its reborn. an example of this is final fantasy mmo, runescape(though they went for copy pasting your stuff into a new game…so it might not count), and EVE Online.

    final fantasy reworked theirs as it failed to soon after launch. so better to fix the loss in investment. and it worked

    runescape’s appeal was the feel of the game(everything else..you had WoW). by making runescape 2.0 and 3.0 that were essentially the same game, jsut with different graphics. it feels refreshing while maintaining the old feel. now if they let you travel between 2.0 and 3.0 while keeping your stuff. this would be epic for nostalgia while keeping your stuff.

    EVE Online has continually updated graphics, but this isn’t what stopped its declining playerbase. despite all the mechanic changes, content, and such that is added, the hostile gameplay of true loss if you die, makes people contantly leave.
    but, whenever a massive event (8000 person battle, or a 3 month long war, or heck the notable reinvigorated war between 2 long time enemies) makes the news, it attracts attention, and people remember why they loved eve before, the fact that no other game is like it or offers the freedom it gives. and so people return hoping to be involved in the next big news.

    example of this is linked here: https://crossingzebras.com/aivonen-falls-at-last/

    so 3 options
    -rework the flaws in your game (which WG is continually dodging doing looking for alternatives or distractions)
    -make a new game while keeping a player’s progress, and keeping the game feeling the same.(remake WoT on havok engine with physics. copy our stuff over….oh right, WG doesn’t have rights to havok anymore. experation dates…and they already tossed all the work they did on it.)
    -have your game make the new with incredible eye catching stories to make people feel nostalgic and return to get addicted again (Girls Und Panzer did this for WoT, add did stuff like “the great purple rebellion”)

    example of this is linked here: http://forum.worldoftanks.com/index.php?/topic/220872-operation-purple-dawn-the-great-pubbie-rebellion-of-2013/

    i’m personally in favor of the 3rd option, as WoT has done it before. but that was in CW1.0 when it was sorta sandbox and you could control an empire.
    you cant’ do that anymore in 2.0. and so CW has seen a decrease in how serious people take it….to the point where its just “another mode”

    even the CW campaigns have lost the excitement. going from serious alliances. to “grind and watch for exploiters”

    stuff like the T-22sr exploit, or CW2.0 in general don’t help.

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  11. For me game started to get out of it’s course about the last Christmas and it was caused by two related things.
    I can understand that there’s no balance in the game for reasons – it makes you to play more lines and pick some tanks that are somewhat above average. But at least whole lines were somewhat balanced.
    But instead of putting lines that are somewhat balanced as before, game forces me to grind the new ones to stay competitive and to spend more money than ever. I liked the time when tier 9 was quite well balanced. But they put TVP50 which is clearly OP (despite it has it flaws and it’s certainly not idiot proof). They changed Lorraine to BatChat, that is by far more dangerous. They added Grille (Scorpion) with speed of mediums. So now classic mediums that I liked can’t fullfil their role cause they are somewhat slow and they can’t compete with tanks that are pure opportunists. Centurion7 was made useless, M46 feels somewhat slow and can’t take any strong positions without being clipped or hit by some high alpha TD. Many tier 9 HTs were buffed.
    Second reason is adding premius that are just as good as best tanks on the tier – Rudy, Bromwell, IS3A, Mutz, Scorpion G, Patriot. This together with tier 9 buffs and powercreep makes all the tier 8 tanks except IS3 and perhaps T32, Rhoomba, JP2 close to useless freeXP sinks and credit sinks.
    So now game loses variety. It sends clear message – buy premium account just to make playing tier 8+ viable. Buy premium tanks to afford gold ammo. Grind new lines or play tanks that were made obsolete. I have no problem with money, but I’m not enjoying the game, when I’m forced into something.
    Regarding to decline, i think it already slowly started and player base dropped from 150-170k to 130-150k in peak hours on EU and it’s winter.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. If a product doesnt eventually fail to deliver, customers will buy it. Kids are getting older and are becoming gamers. Old gamers are getting fed up with it.

    Wot has reached a high level of success because it does many things right, like Wow or Dota do. The latter are even older than wot already and can be considered very alive. I wouldnt be surprised, if Wot survives another decade or so.

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  13. You know WoT is finally very close to it´s end, when they have Type59 in special sale again. Be sure, this is the last time they empty playerbases pockets before shutting down the servers 6 months later.

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  14. Man i thaugh pay2win as u, posted it on french forum, was lashed at like a jealous hater!, posted it on many famous twitch streamers, who lately (most of them) got so bad at the game, yoloing, shooting gold, they revert to play patriot and AMX M4!! and still wont admit the game slowly turning to P2W, i finally made the final stunt, i added WG Ceo on facebook, at wot debut and had it as contact, i was the 1st to inform him he won the golden joystick award, and now i posted on his wall that the game is worthless now, ty for voicing it loud and clear.
    https://goo.gl/photos/zbNdUpmUo5ohfNjN8

    Like

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