The studio behind World of Tanks is helping Sega and Creative Assembly with the upcoming Total War: Arena.

Wargaming announced today that it will help publish the free-to-play strategy game along with the other two companies. This is the first game to fall under Wargaming’s new publishing label, Wargaming Alliance. Not only will Wargaming Alliance help publish free-to-play games by using the lessons its has learned with its own titles, but it will also give those projects access to Wargaming’s player base of over 100 million gamers.

The Total War series is one of the most popular strategy franchises on PC, having sold over 20 million copies since its debut in 2000 with Shogun: Total War. Arena takes the series into the free-to-play space and focuses solely on online competition. Free-to-play is Wargaming’s specialty thanks to its hit World of Tanks and its spinoffs, World of Warplanes and World of Warships. Although the studio has released some premium priced games, like the sci-fi Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars, free releases like World of Tanks remain the company’s backbone.

GamesBeat interviewed Wargaming Alliance chief Vladimir Makarychev about how the company will use its free-to-play knowledge to help games like Total War: Arena. He also discusses why the studio is willing to share its free-to-play user base with others, and how these kinds of games are changing.

Vladimir Makarychev, head of Wargaming Alliance.

Above: Vladimir Makarychev, head of Wargaming Alliance.

Image Credit: Wargaming

GamesBeat: Why is Wargaming interested in helping other third-party developers get into the free-to-play realm?

Vladimir Makarychev: Actually, it’s a mutually beneficial strategic partnership. Wargaming Alliance was created as an initiative offering close and productive partnership with the strongest gaming studios across the world. The goal of this initiative is to create and jointly promote quality F2P online projects worldwide for players. Wargaming gives third-party developers access to their exclusive knowledge of online F2P game development, their global publishing clout, and a 100 million-strong gaming community.

From our side, we get new high-quality products that will enhance and complete the gaming experience for our players, making them more satisfied and engaged in the Wargaming ecosystem.

GamesBeat: Why offer your subscriber base to others?

Makarychev: You can’t hold onto a player forever. If they see another game they like, they can easily jump into it, even if you offer them the best service in order to keep them loyal to your community. It’d be great if a player still stayed loyal to your game alongside the new game, but it’s rarely like that. The most effective way to retain players is to give them games they like, something they can spend months, even years in. Like I said, we want there to be a mutual benefit with a partner because they have access to the multimillion-strong subscriber base of our company, and we get a player who remains with us, who doesn’t shift to other products and companies.

GamesBeat: Why has Wargaming succeeded so well in the free-to-play gaming space?

Makarychev: Become a Wargaming Alliance partner and we’ll tell you the secret! Just kidding. Actually, there’s no magic. World of Tanks was the first quality project in the genre, which had a low barrier to entry. There’s a focus on fair play, no kinks with the sale of power-ups and other things that spoil game balance, and a proper in-game economy that’s designed for a long lifetime. There’s long-term in-game research, a great development publishing team, a loyal community, and in general, that’s the most important part. Also a passion for what you do and a desire to change the world, to make the best game for our players and make them happy.

GamesBeat: How is free-to-play changing these days? Are player expectations the same they were a few years ago?

Makarychev: It’s all very regionally specific. The free-to-play online niche has never been the same from region to region. Earlier, F2P was actively and successfully promoted only in China and the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States]. Now, more and more regions are moving to this model over boxed products. This is primarily due to an improvement in the quality of existing F2P products. Firstly, this was caused by the increased requirements of the first F2P players, because players have become more and more discerning. Secondly, the arrival of F2P major game studios and publishers, who, inspired by the success of projects such as Crossfire, League of Legends, and World of Tanks, also want to generate a long-term and steady source of revenue. They want a loyal audience and have invested tens of millions of dollars in the F2P development of their triple-A franchises.

Everything is connected. This is a F2P cycle that amplifies over time. Somewhere, someone increases the quality, and players immediately take it as the new benchmark. Then, other companies have to adapt or find new niches and new mechanics that will have a positive impact on a variety of genres in F2P. This means a high development cost and increased marketing to attract a larger audience. More revenue is invested into projects, which means there is more money in the market, bringing about new major players. New projects appear with a new level of quality, and the cycle begins anew.