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Wargaming, publisher of the spectacularly successful multiplayer title World of Tanks, has acquired Australian online-game software maker BigWorld for $45 million.
In an exclusive interview with GamesBeat, Wargaming chief executive Victor Kislyi said that the acquisition is like many others where a publisher decides to acquire one of its suppliers of a critical tool so that it can stay in control of its own destiny. That’s important as Wargaming tries to disrupt traditional online games with its free-to-play titles, where users can play for free and pay real money for virtual goods. Wargaming has become one of the fastest-growing game companies, and it is insuring that it will control its own technology platform with the BigWorld deal.
Wargaming — based in Cyprus with teams also in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia — makes massively multiplayer online games like World of Tanks, which has had more than 35 million registered users. The company is in the midst of launching World of Warplanes and is working on World of Warships. The BigWorld technology forms the critical platform for all three of the virtual game worlds, Kislyi said. Kislyi says the company is aiming at achieving revenue of $200 million a year in the not so distant future.
“This very crucial for us, as we want to control the technology provider we are using,” Kislyi. “Now we can integrate them to make internal development more efficient.”
Canberra, Australia-based BigWorld makes middleware, or a software technology that allows Wargaming to securely launch and run its online game worlds with millions of users. Other MMOs often use peer-to-peer technology, but that exposes them to security risks. But Kislyi said that BigWorld relies upon more secure server infrastructure, and it also enables the much faster creation of MMOs like those that Wargaming makes.
“This is a huge advantage over any other MMO technology that we know of,” Kislyi said.
Wargaming began using BigWorld about four and a half years ago as it was developing World of Tanks. It is also using the platform in two subsequent games. Now development costs will be lower with BigWorld in house, Kislyi said.
Kislyi compared the technology to the CryEngine from Crytek or the Unreal Engine from Epic Games. One side effect is that Wargaming could eventually integrate the BigWorld software and publish other games based on the technology, even if they are built by outside game developers. But Kislyi said the technology of BigWorld will have to be properly integrated with Wargaming’s software before anything like that could happen.
“BigWorld has a licensing business of its own, and we will continue to support its customers,” Kislyi said. “We will be in a position in the future, if everything goes right, to offer the combined BigWorld and Wargaming technology to anyone who wants to do an MMO.”
The acquisition adds more than 25 employees to Wargaming’s current staff of more than 1,000. Wargaming was founded as a hardcore strategy game company in 1998. But it really took off after World of Tanks — which features high-end, realistic 3D graphics in a world where tanks battle each other in World War II landscapes — debuted in the fall of 2010. World of Warplanes is launching this year, and World of Warships is expected to debut in 2013.