I was lucky enough to get some time with both Jungwon Hahn, Wargaming Asia-Pacific General Manager and Travis Plane, Wargaming Australia New Zealand Country Manager for a quick fifteen-minute interview in which we talked about the hot topic of PAX Australia, Wargaming starting dedicated local servers for prime time Australia and New Zealand players. We also touched on some other topics such as the difficulty of being free to play in Australia and how to get a client that is 50GB or more onto players machine and how that can be a huge barrier for entry for some people. Also, we discussed the player base for World of Tanks and how they have been nothing but supportive of the company’s long approach to the dirty word microtransaction and why that might be.
The big talking point was obviously this amazing decision to bring local servers for World of Tanks to the Australia and New Zealand regions between the hours of 6 pm and midnight as of the 1st of November. This proved so popular that it has already been extended the finishing time to 2 pm, this I was not surprised about and I mentioned this to Travis as a lot of players in this market play once their partners are asleep and they are most active between 10 pm and 2 pm. What this means is World of Tanks players now can play against locals in far more lag-free experiences in these hours. This move was one that was sure to bring lapsed players back to the game and even entice people on the fence to jump in. I must admit that we have even discussed having a World of Tanks night here at Ultra Super Mega in the near future.
With a worldwide player base of over 130 million players and this number seems to be growing each year it is only a matter of time before the servers for our region go to full time, Travis clearly believed it was a matter of when and not if and the plan is for sometime in 2018. If you have not played World of Tanks before it’s a free to play, 15 vs 15 player, tank combat game. If you are like me and your twitch shooter professional days are long behind you then give World of Tanks a look. The action in the game is a lot slower paced and the action is a lot more strategic with positioning and map awareness being keys to success. There is plenty there to keep you going for a long time if you dip your toe in and like what you play.
It is a strange concept to wrap your head around and it took me for a spin when Travis mentioned that their free to play games have a high barrier for entry and this is one of the biggest problems that they face in getting their games played by more people. As he explains, to play World of Tanks, for example, you need a 50GB plus download file before you can play. In Australia that is a tough ask still for many and it stops people from impulse downloading the game to give it a go. Both Travis and Jungwon discussed a possible solution was to sell a physical copy of their game in stores. This threw me once again as it was a free to play game but the physical copy could come with in-game items that you would normally buy from the premium store and even some premium time. This I thought was a genius move and one I hope they follow through with.
There is nothing gamers hate more than microtransactions at the moment but wargaming have had World of Tanks on the market for over seven years now and they have been selling in-game items and premium time to go along with this from day one. I have never had an issue with their model but decided to ask their thoughts on the whole concept in their game. They explained how the Wargaming titles attract an older audience and one that has far more disposable income than other titles on the market. This they believe is one of the reason that they have never really received any backlash over the years and the audience is happy to pay for in-game items in the free to play title they love. They did mention the joys of balancing that are involved when in-game items can be purchased and how it can be fun. However, they have been doing this model long enough to have learnt a few things that other companies could and should learn from.
I really enjoyed my time with Travis and Jungwon and I learnt a great deal about the issues and dilemmas facing a company that steps into the free to play market. The key thing I did take out of my time with the pair is that wargaming really does care and listen to their players. They understood the struggles for the local player base and how passionate they were about their game. They then used this to make the life of their gamers easier in the best way possible that other companies just don’t seem willing to do. I was also impressed by their ability to understand their player base and really have fun with that and if you go watch the trailer announcing the local servers you will understand what I am talking about. Overall, if you can download the client easy enough and are looking for that slower paced, more tactical shooter then give World of Tanks or my favourite, World of Warships a go and find out why there are over 130 million people playing the games.