Translated from fakt.pl
“It doesn’t make me happy that my product is gaining because of the coronavirus, says Victor Kislyi, the CEO of Wargaming, the biggest game developer in Belarus. Almost five million Poles played World of Tanks, the most known game of Wargaming, and over 180 million people worldwide. Kislyi admits that the experience from strategy games helped his company foresee the coronavirus, and prepare for it.
World of Tanks celebrates its 10th anniversary. How did the game industry change during the past decade?
Victor Kislyi, CEO of Wargaming: First of all, it grew greatly, and in almost every aspect. Today, almost everyone is a player, and we can thank the spread of mobile devices for that. We see people game every time, and in every place. This is a new and vast market, in which Wargaming is present, for example thanks to World of Tanks Blitz. The game industry is currently more diverse than 10 years ago, since the players have more choice.
Players get bored quickly, and seek new thrills. You managed to keep their attention with one game for a decade. What is your secret?
The answer to this question boils down to one word – hobby. We see that a lot of people, including me, treat World of Tanks as their hobby. It’s their private time, which they spend on their favorite activity, just like some during fishing, or watching sports. If we think about the aforementioned, they’re simple tasks, very repetitive, and you do everything the same all the time. Football only has a few simple rules, but it engages on many levels, and delivers fun to billions of people on the entire world. World of Tanks is similar in that regard. For all it’s worth, you basically just drive a tank, and shoot, but the changes in the game are a never-ending story. Same as in TV series. The authors of South Park or Two and A Half Men have to come up with fresh jokes for every new episode. We hire specialists, which constantly check the expectations of the players. After ten years, we have a lot of data regarding the gameplay, and behavior of our players. If a game existed for so long, it means it has something magical in it. Then there’s the whole environment around the game, additional services like tourneys, special events, addons, seasonal content, like for example Christmas or Chinese New Year. This way, we evolve our hobby, and the player community, and thus create more occasions for earning income. Once again I would like to return to the comparison to football, where FIFA, UEFA, and the big clubs profit from selling kits, gadgets, and media licenses.
How did your hobby start?
We have to go back to the middle of the 90s. Already then I was an avid gamer, and I thought that I might as well try to make them. Together with my brother, and our friends, we decided we’d do so, professionally. That’s why, as to not get into trouble with the law, I went and bought a legal version of C++, and the nearest city I could do it in was Cracow. I paid 450 dollars for the official version. And that’s how it all began. However, it was the beginning of a long way, because before World of Tanks, we designed 13 games, almost all of them going under the radar. Our first success was Massive Assault in 2003. The game was popular in Germany, Russia, and Scandinavia, giving us some income. It would earn more, but it was a box game, and sadly, moments after it got released, pirated copies appeared. But we didn’t waste our money, and when the project of an MMO with tanks appeared, we took the risk, and in 18 months we made World of Tanks. The name appeared naturally, however, some thought we were lampooning World of Warcraft.
Belarus has World of Tanks, Poland has The Witcher. Are video games a Slavic specialty?
Such success has many causes, however, our region is known for its hard working people. Besides, it’s hard to dissuade us, since we as a society survived wars, and decades of tyranny, thus, we don’t give up easily. Adding to that, we have a high standard for technical and scientific education. Also, we Slavs are merry people, we appreciate life. Currently, this happiness appears in video games, which are spreading over the world, of which we should be proud.
Are we also good in video games?
Poland is our biggest market in Europe, player count wise. In World of Tanks we have 4.6 million accounts from your country, and that’s 12 percent of all your citizens. From interactions with the players, we know how passionate they are about gaming, so we added a lot of Polish maps, and tanks to the game. We really appreciate the Polish community.
Wargaming has offices around the whole world. Do you see yourselves as an international corporation?
Indeed, in 17 offices around the world, we employ around five thousand people. It’s because of the specifics of our product, and various markets. A lot of player problems, in, eg. Japan, can’t be solved by the Russian or American offices. That’s why we create publishing teams on spot. But in Belarus we employ less in total than in all other locations, and we are still the biggest gaming company in the country.
What is the impact of the coronavirus on the gaming industry?
You can’t hide the fact that 2020 changed the rules of doing business. Many industries, like air transport, or gastronomy, suffered greatly. On another hand, for obvious reasons, the online entertainment market, like gaming, or Netflix, experienced a boom. In the face of this challenge, humanity should unite, and collaborate, rising above historical, and political divisions. In Wargaming we noticed that we won’t save the world on our own, but we secured the safety of our employees. As gamers experienced with strategic games, we foresaw that the problem from China could spread across the globe, thanks to which we managed to prepare, and adapt well. In February, before any government announced a lockdown, we sent five thousand of our employees to home office. Thanks to that, we still function normally, and develop our products.