Best known for its smash hit game World of Tanks, Wargaming is now spreading its wings.
At the end of last year, the firm launched its Alliance label and announced that it would be teaming up with Creative Assembly and Sega for Total War: Arena. With this title - which entered closed beta at the start of September – Wargaming is sharing its intimate and very profitable knowledge of the free-to-play market.
“Alliance is our 'label'. It's the same Wargaming,” CEO Victor Kislyi tells PCGamesInsider.biz.
“We've experienced a couple of successes, but on the other we are still a new company. We're very young when you think about this free-to-play MMO. It would be stupid to believe that our people will make all the best games in the future. Some other people – like Wargaming once – who are independent, maybe indie, but haven't had the luxury of luck that we've had, yet have great ideas, tech, team and people.
“That's why Wargaming Alliance runs around the world. It's business development. We get requests to talk to small companies, big companies, even huge companies like Sega. You never know where the next Angry Birds or League of Legends will come from. You need to have this network of people talking and exchanging ideas.
“There are some things that Wargaming possesses, including some financial muscle, but also a distribution network and servers, partnerships, reputation, marketing muscle, or going to trade shows. If the idea, team, tech and so on are good then there are stages of discussion.
"It's your typical publishing process, but unlike your traditional boxed retail publishing where companies know how many units they can push through using their retail muscle. That was the business of the old days; now those companies are shooting towards digital, free-to-play and online so again it'll be publishing new, indie, independent, young, crazy, smart developers, if there is the opportunity to work together.”
Though known for its modern military titles, Total War: Arena is a return of sorts to Wargaming’s roots. The company began in at the turn of the millennium with a browser title called DBA Online in which ancient armies would duke it out.
“We had 220 different armies, it was turn based, it was a computer version of a physical game where you'd be throwing dices, rotate units like you'd do on the table top” Kislyi says.
You had Romans, Greeks, Japanese samurai, pretty much every army from biblical times, but in a top-down turn-based game. For me, not just as Wargaming's founder, but as a gamer, it's exciting to be part of a similar experience on your screen where you are in charge.
“This is nostalgia. This is how Wargaming started in 1998, we made this kind of game, but turn-based. All our models back then were brush painted then scanned into the game. We had 1,300 units and there was noway a small company would pay for all those 3D units.”
It should come as no surprise, then, that Wargaming Alliance is primarily looking to work with military-style titles; yet Kislyi says that it doesn’t want to be confined to that box.
"The Wargaming brand screams military, historic, serious and so on. But never say never,” he explains.
“If somebody shows us Final Fantasy or some non-combat amazing idea we can always make another brand, if the game is really good and the market fits to a different audience like women or a younger or older market or a particularly big territory.”
Alliance has been part of a change-up at Wargaming. The firm has moved towards a more ‘product-based’ strategy.
“We used to have pillars; development, publishing, administration and R&D, which worked really well when had one or so products. Our publishing is World of Tanks publishing; the same was true of development and so on,” Kislyi says.
“Now we have so many products and platforms and ambitions to become even more diversified, those pillars are traditionally powerful and entrenched, but players don't play in our bureaucracy or administrative set-up; they play our products. Now we are very product-focused, especially in the last few months. We are polishing all those details. It's a total refurbishment. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, we are product-focused.”
Rolling out new labels and ventures has been important. Kislyi says that around half of Wargaming’s revenue comes from Russia, a country whose currency, the rouble, has tanked in value in the last year.
“We have had to live with this geopolitical turmoil with Russia and Ukraine,” he says.
“We don't do politics and so on, but economically, obviously, those events have affected the whole region. The Russian rouble went down and that affected the oil price. That geopolitical stuff which was quite negative. But we survived that. It was a really good test for us as a company. Almost 50 per cent of our revenue comes from the former Soviet Union but can we as a company survive such a huge geopolitical shake-up?
“I can proudly say that the diversification that we started pretty much right after the success of World of Tanks, with new products and platforms, new geographical area, such as Tokyo, Seoul, Singapore, San Francisco – that all paid off.
“Something is always happening somewhere in the world we live in.”