Victor Kislyi storms into mobile with World of Tanks: Blitz (interview)

GamesBeat: You’ve announced this. What time frame are you thinking about?

Kislyi: We’re at an early stage. The announcement went over well. It’s been a good morale boost for the development team. We quietly got started about a year ago with a small team in Minsk, practically across the street from us. They’re mobile only, about 25 people, with about five years behind them. They were making lots of different mobile games, but of course not nearly as successful as World of Tanks and not as cool as this. We didn’t announce the acquisition because it was essentially just a handshake and, “Come over to this side of the street. Let’s make something big together.”

They’ve been secretly working on this for about a year, and this is what they’ve got. Of course, the acquisition of BigWorld helped us save half a year of development on network code. BigWorld’s technology platform is behind this on the server side

world of tanks mobileGamesBeat: Is that why you bought BigWorld?

Kislyi: Inside the company there was a lot of opposition to that, because it was so much money out of pocket. But I couldn’t be a happier businessman a year after the acquisition. Now we can go over to Chris Taylor’s studio in Seattle or a studio in Chicago and immediately hand them BigWorld, just to experiment on. We don’t even know what game they’ll be making, but we can say, “Here’s BigWorld. Go nuts. Let your engineers see how it works.” We can do internal projects using it, like this one. Technically we can still license it, too. We don’t advertise or push the licensing, but in the first place it was a licensable technology. Maybe some big partner can come to us because we have something they don’t have.

GamesBeat: How did you get Chris Taylor on board?

Kislyi: I admired his games for the longest time. We met each other and signed each other’s game boxes a  while ago. Then we saw that some big moves impacted him and we started talking. We want him to design a great game for us, doing what he does best with the proper resources behind him. I am very excited about this.

GamesBeat: Do you think this will turn into a series of games?

Kislyi: We’ll see how that goes. It probably will.

GamesBeat: You have to beat Puzzle and Dragons first.

Kislyi: [laughs] They’re making, what, $50 million, $75 million a month in Japan? This is something different. It’s a different market. Like with World of Tanks, we’re not out to beat anyone. We’re creating our own niche and we invite everyone else to join us. We took a few people from Counter-Strike, maybe, or Infinity Blade or some shooting game. But we want to create a new niche. That’s what we did with Tanks. Presumably we’ll do it again with Warplanes and Warships. Here, we’re not fighting against Puzzle and Dragons or Supercell. We’re offering realistic tank combat with cool visuals and 3D and teamwork and PvP and progression and free-to-play. We’re not carving it out of someone else’s market.

GamesBeat: Is there some way to connect the play of this to PC?

Kislyi: We’re not considering that now. First, we’re concentrating on an enjoyable combat experience on the iPad and Android. If the game isn’t any good, it doesn’t matter if it’s connected or not.

GamesBeat: Can you play iOS versus Android?

Kislyi: Yes. That’s thanks to BigWorld. Everything’s on one server. Maybe in the future we’ll connect them. For the PC games, we’ll have a unified account. will be your one destination for historical military online battle games. It’ll give you access to all three games – Warplanes, Tanks, and Warships. You’ll have gold which you can use in any game. More important, you can take all your free experience and transfer it to use in another game. Imagine I have 120 tanks in my garage after two and a half years. Maybe I don’t need yet another tank. I’d rather save my experience, and then when World of Warplanes comes out, I can transfer that experience to buy some top German and Russian machines in that game. When all three games are launched, we can encourage people to try them all that way.

Right now we’re very cautious about connecting across platforms, though. Time frames and attention spans may be very different. Using experience as a common currency only makes sense across games where time has the same value. Let’s say you play an hour a day and you make it up to level 10 in three weeks. That pace will be approximately the same in Tanks, Warplanes, and Warships. Here it might be much faster. So we have to finish it, test it in beta, and see how it goes. It’s within our power to unite these games, but we have to make sure that it makes sense.

GamesBeat: Right now, is there any worry that the PC gamers will leave you in favor of mobile?

Kislyi: We don’t care. You can’t fool them. Part of our parallel strategy is to give a variety of entertainment to our guys. “Here’s something new you can try, something more than PC. Are you happy with it?” “Yes, do it.” We’re not trying to fool anyone. We are for full transparency of ideas, strategic plans, delivery, and products.

GamesBeat: So they’d only leave if they had a good experience to go to, right?

Kislyi: Yeah. Or maybe it’ll just be separated by their commuting schedule or whatever. At home, if you have a good PC, why would you play the mobile game? You’ll stick to your powerful $5,000 laptop.

World of TanksGamesBeat: Do you still see the PC as a growing market for you in the foreseeable future. Everyone seems to think the PC is peaking as tablets take off. Do you still see growth in PC?

Kislyi: First, so far the user base is still bigger than anything. Second, though, it’s hard for me to predict the future. Third, now we have the capacity to have analytic people who are watching and reading blogs and following predictions. It won’t happen overnight. If the PC goes into decline, there will be signs.

This is one of the reasons we started doing this, though. We have to be prepared. We have to have a foot on that platform — and maybe some other platforms as well – to be well entrenched and ready to start an offensive if the situation requires.

GamesBeat: What’s the state of progress for World of Warplanes?

Kislyi: It’s brilliant right now. Everyone who plays it loves it. We deliberately and honestly announced a couple of months ago that we’re having some challenges with the controls. We needed a couple of extra months to research and fix that. That’s what we did. We did about two and a half prototypes – one inside view, one outside view, half of one combined.

A hardcore simulation control panel with lots of buttons and every little detail is nice, but it takes an hour to take off. There’s only 10,000 people playing that kind of game worldwide. We’ve done the research. Then there’s the cartoonish arcade games, with a World War II plane flying around like a UFO. We don’t believe our history buffs – serious guys who appreciate at least a glimpse of reality – want that either.

Our challenge was to find something in the middle. I can say now that Wargaming is famous for solving seemingly unsolvable problems. People said, “How could you manage the tank? It’s not easy to drive a tank.” But here, it is, because of the fantastic control scheme and the camera movement and all that. Now we’re doing focus tests and getting much better results than before. There’s a lot of polish remaining, but then we’re good to go. I can’t give you any dates because they don’t exist. It’ll be when we’re ready. But we’ll definitely not be artificially delaying this.

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