This week, Wargaming held a press conference in Minsk, Belarus—an event not inherently special, except that this one was held to mark Wargaming's 15th anniversary. Although many gamers might believe the international mega-publisher has enjoyed meteoric success, its rise to online dominance didn't happen overnight.
At the Minsk National Library, (which looks more like a space station than a book repository) CEO Victor Kislyi led a panel of Wargaming luminaries who discussed the company's past and future. Kislyi started by reviewing the company's storied past, including many projects like DBA Online, Order of War and Massive Assault, which were only mildly successful:
“We realized that the retail box business model was not going to survive for a long time...things were moving from single player to massively multiplayer online...we like tanks, people like tanks, so we decided to make an MMO about tanks and call it World of Tanks. Three years ago we ran out of money but we launched (World of Tanks) in Russia and the game exploded. Since then, in three years we've transformed from a small, enthusiastic group of old friends to a global, transcontinental, cutthroat, blood-sucking corporation.” (laughs)
Kislyi elucidated the company's many awards and accolades (including breaking two Guinness Records for Most Players Online Simultaneously), then went on to announce the opening of the firm's sixteenth office in Austin, Texas. This new American hub will house a “business intelligence” division, production center and a global tech group that will focus on the company's forays into Xbox and mobile platforms. The division will also facilitate the quicker release of game updates.
Along with the announcement of the company's new Austin office, Kislyi revealed the addition of British planes to the World of Warplanes Soviet, German, American and Japanese roster. (The game's release has yet to be determined, but Kislyi said it's “just around the corner.”) The most important part of the press conference however, was the declaration of Wargaming's vision/mission. Kislyi was emphatic about this point and explained it at length:
“Please listen, because every word here is important. We deliver legendary online games, globally, with passion....We say 'deliver' instead of 'make' or 'produce' because these kinds of games are not just games. MMOs—yes, it has to start with a game, but it's more of a service. Our 65 million users, we know what they want. They want experiences. They want to love the game they play, they want to chat with their friends online and Facebook, they want to post videos so World of Tanks delivers that.
Next word, "legendary". With all of the competition...only the best games will survive. We want to deliver games that can be compared with works of Shakespeare, to Star Wars, to Titanic, Avatar. "Globally” - we produce our games globally, we publish them globally and this is a big challenge for us, you know, with different time zones, languages, cultures, religions...but we work as one international family. “With passion” - absolutely obvious. Inside and outside of the company. Gamers are passionate people. If you're not passionate about a game, you won't play it. Well, we're gamers ourselves and the only way to ignite that passion in our players is if we're passionate as game developers.”
Kislyi ended by pointing toward the next fifteen, twenty, one hundred years as being potentially much more exciting for Wargaming than the last fifteen, thanks to this motto. With a little time for Q&A, Kislyi then fielded a few questions from the press in attendance, including one that put him on the spot regarding making games in Belarus. His response was—appropriately for the CEO of an international company—diplomatic.
“We love this country. Government, ten years ago made a very wise move. They created this techno park, a business incubator for IT companies. If you qualify, you get substantial tax breaks, you have totally transparent and clean business environment. Belarus is home not only to Wargaming but to one of the biggest European software giants, EPAM Systems. So in this city, in this country, IT technology is huge...and we will all flourish in these circumstances.”
As covered exhaustively during the press conferenece, World of Tanks is one of the biggest online games in existence, and when eventually joined by its aeronautical counterpart, World of Warplanes, no doubt will only get bigger. Kislyi wrapped things up by confirming some good news for gamers—that when Wargaming's third project, World of Warships, arrives and all three games are playable, gamers will enjoy easy access to all three with one account that covers all three titles (thus allowing for shared experience points and currency) and one premium account subscription price that also covers all three.
Wargaming's “overnight” success may have taken fifteen years of hard work and dedication, but now all that is definitely paying off. With new offices opening, new records being set and new titles in the works, the company has a lot to celebrate about the last fifteen years and a lot to look forward to in the next fifteen.