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.