In 2018, World of Tanks giant Wargaming turned 20. It wasn't two solid decades of success, however, with founder and CEO Victor Kislyi telling PCGamesInsider.biz last year that the first 12 years of the company's existence were purely about persistence.
Eventually, the firm had its breakout hit with 2010 of free-to-play military title World of Tanks, followed up with World of Warplanes and World of Warships.
Now, in 2019, the Belarusian firm is trying to expand outside of the niche which it has created for itself - but not too far. Wargaming recently showed off 1C's third-person shooter free-to-play Caliber at Gamescom 2019, the title's European debut, while premium hack and slash title Pagan Online from Mad Head Games launched in August. But that's not all Wargaming has in the works.
"Calibre is definitely our strategic direction - it's military-themed, it's mainly for older guys and it's not so twitchy," Kislyi tells PCGamesInsider.biz.
"It's photorealistic, there are authentic units and equipment. Pagan is more of an experiment. It's not a huge gamble; we can afford to make a bet and see how it goes. In general, we should stay within shooters, both vehicular and human ones.
"We have two other projects in the works. Hopefully, each of them will be triple-A. In one case it's a Kiev studio called Frag Lab with which we co-operate very closely with. They're making a triple-A first-person shooter. We also acquired Edge Case in Guildford and Sean Decker became the head of the studio. They're ramping up now, they're 40 people with 30 more vacancies open. They're making something triple-A which will presumably be for a global audience, but that's all I can say. Both projects are going to be free-to-play in the style of World of Tanks."
Kislyi says that the acquisition of Edge Case Games - now Wargaming UK - isn't the start of a rush of purchases. The exec says that buying companies is "case-by-case."
"If someone knows someone or we have an idea, we'll look at it," he says. "We have a presence in the UK, we don't need to buy anything there right now. We'd rather have people joining for the next big thing in the games industry in Guildford."
Wargaming UK's title is the first of the company's output to use Unreal, while the aforementioned Kiev project is using Amazon's Lumberyard. Historically, the company has stuck to its own tech, but Kislyi says that this is quite old and not as easy to use as it'd like.
"Truth be told, World of Tanks and World of Warships using this hugely modified but old big client technology has been difficult when it comes to making assets, tweaking and balancing and so on," he explains.
"It's quite old and not very user-friendly. Unreal, hopefully, will give us tools. When it comes to alpha or beta release, then the gates of hell usually open and you have to start making content like never before. For that, it would be nice to have technology which gives you tools for content production."
While it's clear that Wargaming is looking beyond World of Tanks, this title is still a huge focus for the company, with the firm frequently adding content to the game. One new addition was a battle royale mode called Steel Hunter, which started as an April Fools Day joke back in 2018. The game type was met positively by the community and media, with Wargaming then spending 18 months to make this event into a full "production quality" version. The event ran between August 26th and September 16th.
"I'm a big fan of cinema and think Battle Royale is a work of art," Kislyi says.
"Battle royale isn't about PUBG or Fortnite; it's this suspense of knowing someone could be looking at you from anywhere. It's exciting, so why not make it with tanks? World of Tanks is a cultural phenomenon. It deserves to have this mode. We've been doing this for a while now - adding in a football mode, a Halloween mode, racing and, of course, battle royale. We could make it permanent or improve it. That's how these games should be operated; there should be core game mechanic which is something everyone should enjoy. Then people who want to have some fun can play those modes. They'll be fun or seasonal or testing new mechanics; sometimes they'll get killed off as they don't work but that's our job - to come up with new, creative ideas about how to make running around and killing each other in tanks more fun."