World of Tanks – Interview with Wargaming’s CEO Viktor Kislyi

If you are looking for straight up information,  Kislyi doesn’t go straight to the facts and likes to beat around the bush with analogues and philosophy. If you are not aware with the recent Gamescom QnA and the Reddit QnA, we’d encourage to read those instead.

About Tanks and Football

– Is it a myth that in the World of Tanks today only forty year old men with a beer belly play the game?

Several million of these are sure to exist. I try to train, but also belong to the age category. We have covered the entire male population: who played, who later returned, someone plays now, someone with friends, fathers, children. That is, an almost demographic section by men, but the main monetization, as we expected, is for those who need to save time for a small amount of money, that is, just for age after 35.

– That is, you hit the age audience?
Specifically in our former homeland, in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine … although it may be immodest to say so, but we are still a cultural phenomenon. I am ashamed not to know about tanks and not even try. Therefore, what we do is for everyone. Yes, there are some specific features, new tanks, modes, where youth will certainly go. For example, the same light tanks or wheeled vehicles, it’s fast … Something we are preparing for older people. There are a lot of things in tanks now, both in the main mode and in the mods that we do.  April 1, racing, football … Everyone can find something for himself.

You can compare with great football. There is a FIFA where they play Ronaldo, Messi and the Brazilian national team. And there is domestic football, where the boys gathered six together and chase the ball in the sand.
– Is there a long-term development strategy? Tanks will soon be ten years old. How to maintain the interest of the audience for the same amount of time and even more?

That’s right, we’ll celebrate the anniversary in a year. The players are kept by the game mechanics “I’m in a tank”: he drives like a car, like a tractor, back and forth. You can turn around backwards, creep around the corner. There is a turret, it rotates and aims at the enemy, there are tanks that holds certain shells at certain angles. If you learn a little materiel and play to gain visual experience, you can ride endlessly, having fun and shooting enemies.

Here again, everything is akin to football. In football, it would seem, simple rules, but it can be played endlessly. I skated a couple of thousand matches in yard football. The same thing in Tanks. Nine years old, you know, nine years old. You look at the profile: people have been playing for nine years – and there are very many of those who are with us from the very beginning.
– However, what about the future plans for the life of the project?
Root mechanics most likely has some kind of biological basis, we associate this with a “ballistic computer”. Our ancestors had to throw a stone, spear, shoot from a bow … A person, unlike a monkey, has excellent coordination of eyes and hands, we aptly throw a stone at an empty bottle from Coca-Cola, we fall and enjoy as children, even when we are already many years old. Never pass an empty bottle.

In shooters, including Tanks, these mechanics are strongly supported. We throw a stone all the time, like children – snowballs. Naturally, I exaggerate, but there are a lot of interesting and tasty things. Therefore, we don’t worry about the mechanics, it just proved itself like football.

Again, remembering football – it is one and the same. Two gates, one ball, do not take with your hands, especially do not push. And the championship in Russia was watched and rejoiced. Everything is much better than the previous championship in design, in the picture, in the cameras. And the movement around football is such that even women almost without exception began to understand the tactics of the English coach, why Messi screwed up, and so on. All women have become specialists, and this is a good sign.

And you can recall, for example, the 1990 or 1994 World Cup in America and Italy – go to YouTube, see the picture. Football is like a picture around the rules. Every year, every championship, you can see how it grows above itself, capturing new countries. In Korea they did, in Japan they did, in Poland, in Ukraine they did, in Russia they did, now they’ll go to Qatar. And all the time he is getting better and better.

Football is a good example of how to build a big movement around simple rules: business, media, cultural events. So we will continue to try different modes and develop the movement around root mechanics. To hold some fan events, to release funny modes: “Halloween”, “New Year”, “April 1st” and further on the list. And some of them come in. For example, “Battle Royale”, which was released purely for fun one and a half years ago, went well. Bloggers were just nuts about how cool it was. For a year and a half they refined the quality, it is not a shame to release it to the masses. And on August 26th our “Battle Royale” comes out, everything’s grown-up – uppgrades, you can do things that a normal Battle Royale can’t do … In short, World of Tanks: Steel Hunt, it’s a Battle Royale.

About modern industry

– Nine years ago, when the Tanks were just launched, and today – what is the key difference, how has the market changed? What was possible before and what is unrealistic to imagine today?

When we started in 2010 and started out in Russia, we were small, everyone all loved us, they forgave us a lot, and there was no tank game on the market. In general, it was only possible to have fun with Western toys: World of Warcraft, Counter Strike, Eve.

Now the market has changed. It became more competitive – Fortnite, Epic appeared, and the Chinese go with their games. The number of players on the planet has grown, women have joined gamers. Guys in Russia – at least they play in Tanks. All people are already gamers. If earlier, in the early nineties, playing at the computer was a crime, you had to hide – mom and dad scolded you, ordered to learn for lessons, to do things, otherwise you’re rubbish, you said that everyone was playing, and now everyone plays, and society accepts this. People can play games instead of watching dumb comedy.

– Advice for beginners who are trying to launch their free-to-play-game: what needs to be done to succeed?
 Deception will not succeed. If your scheme assumes that now we’ll do it like this cunningly, and the players don’t understand and will pay us, because we did it so cunningly, the players will quickly figure out and raise the heat. Root mechanics should be cool, and monetization should be honest. No need to try to fool a player.
– More recently, Donald Trump accused video games of provoking bloody executions in the United States. Do you think the games are somehow involved in this?

 This is their favorite refrain. It is difficult to comment on the policies of the elected president of a large state. In Canada, the same games as in America, and all cultural features are about the same, but they shoot there much less. They almost never shoot there. Probably, these events have other reasons, and let America deal with them. No matter how you look at any statistics, the number of deaths from a gunshot in the household is everywhere very high. And the number of weapons per capita. Let them understand.

About mobile games and VR

– What is the forecast for the mobile market? And why did it become so popular, because playing with a finger is more convenient than using a keyboard?
 Well, in World of Tanks Blitz you have to play while sitting on the couch and holding the tablet with both hands. In any case, this is exactly how I am playing, because it will not work to run after a taxi or a bus and play at the same time.

If we talk about purely mobile games, then, for example, Clash of Clans and Clash Royale are awesomely made. But monetization there is really squeezing. I poured in twenty five dollars into Clash Royale, I just wanted to find the limit, but it was not there. I realized that you can pour in money indefinitely, so I stopped playing, although I received great pleasure from the games.

Those developers who concentrate on purely mobile cartoon games polish every pixel and mechanics to the ideal. They also use artificial intelligence systems, training a machine that is looking for rivals for you – they make it not the first, not the second, so the third time you buy a chest. This is a separate industry where AI determines how to play, what and how to show, how to sell. We don’t do that. But the fact that people still play says that everything is right. Yes, sometimes you have to pay – however, schoolchildren do not pay either in mobile games.

Nonetheless, mobile games themselves produce players: we find those who haven’t really wondered whether to play Caliber or Tanks. And then they play on the phone, they becme interested … Then they’ll play some tricked-out strategy on mobile phones – and then one day they will transfer to PC with StarCraft II. Well, or immediately to us.
– What do you think about the development of VR? Wargaming also had different experiences in this direction, but a full-fledged game did not work out – why?

In VR, our position is this: hardware manufacturers need to go a few generations before the gadget is in every home. Light, beautiful, comfortable, youthful – you need to solve problems with synchronization and other things. When they are solved, then there will be glasses from Microsoft in every house.

And when it enters every home, it will already become a platform. We’ll go there with f2p content, because we need a critical mass. In the meantime, our engineers and researchers simply keep working. We have such image experiments where you can watch a battle through a tablet; Find features that do not exist. We keep the gunpowder dry, warming up on all kinds of image trinkets, so that when the time comes, go there in an adult way.

In fact, there is nothing technically complicated there, we are waiting for VR to enter every home. When people will use the technology for travel, for medical and other purposes. VR is useful not only in games, but also in many other applications: fly around the Grand Canyon, climb Mount Everest, conduct an operation from a distance …
– What is the main idea of ​​Wargaming Nexus? The official website says, “the mission of the unit is to create new mobile super hits and their subsequent transformation into cross-platform releases.” But what does this mean in human language?

Wargaming Nexus is a group of comrades, largely veteran. We decided to slightly divide our mobile unit, which is in Berlin, and focus on Eastern and Central Europe.

The scheme is very simple and focused on small groups of developers. If you think you have a good idea, let’s make a prototype, and we will give you one hundred thousand. And if after testing the prototype we decide that it might turn out to be a great game – this is the second part of the Merlezon ballet (Merlezon ballet refers to a russian book).

Wargaming Nexus tracks teams that can prototype game mechanics.

– And yet, how exactly  do you select? How do you decide who to sponsor and who not? Why, for example, were the Serbs lucky with their Pagan Online?
That was a special occasion. Thy came with the project – we saw that the technology looks beautiful, and the guys were burning with motivation. It was clear that they wanted to make a game, defeat the devil with the control of buttons and a mouse. They just decided: let’s try, because the game is not free-to-play, but “pay a certain amount and play for all your life.”

We entered early access on Steam to collect player opinions and see statistics on who is doing what. The teams that are involved in the project on our part and on the part of the fraternal Serbian studio beat their heels in the chest, swear that it will be awesome.

On the conquest of space and cinema

– Elon Musk launched a rocket into space, which sent a Tesla Roadster to Mars. And when is the first project to launch a tank into space?

What tank in space ?! Unless the astronauts from orbit sometimes help us by announcing some kind of action. But we won’t launch a tank into space.

– Do you have any plans for the film industry?
 This is a separate issue, there are very large budgets. But to be honest, I didn’t like Warcraft and similar films – I didn’t feel it.

We ourselves made a short film “Attack of the Dead”. The person who muddied the whole thing personally monitored the script so that there was no heresy. From time to time, the White Tiger and I do something similar in small volumes, but this is not our main focus.