Jasper Nicolas is the General Manager of Wargaming Asia. Present at the 15 year celebrations of the game developers, we were able to sit down and have a chat with him about the future direction of the company.
Q. World of War Planes is slated for released later in Asia Pacific as compared to other regions. Why is that so?
We are doing our best to move heaven and earth and make sure that all the releases are as close to each other as possible. The only reason World of War Planes is being released earlier in the three other markets is server restrictions [for Asia Pacific]. We are mobilizing all of our efforts and resources to try and get to the point where the gap between the releases for the other clusters and our territory is very small. I cannot promise a specific date but internally we are targeting these goals very aggressively.
Q. World of War Planes seems to be in the same vein as World of Tanks. Is this your view as well?
I believe that it is a completely different genre and a completely different community of people will play World of War Planes. At the same time we know for a fact that World of Tanks players are at least going to try it out. But we consider it to be also a completely different game from World of Tanks.
World of Tanks has its own personality and it is really about on-ground tactical tank battles. World of War Planes is about aerial battles, it is about dog fights and about how you maneuver not on the ground but up in the air with 360 degree possibilities.
It is really up to you to figure out whether you will crash into your flight mates or are you going to be good enough to take someone from the other side of the map out. I believe we will be addressing completely different crowd with this new game. World of Tanks will continue on and World of War Planes will have an entirely new fan-base.
Q. Will World of Tanks continue to be supported even after the introduction of World of War Planes?
We are not in the practice of releasing games and abandoning it. In fact we are one of the few companies that put a lot of time and effort into developing new content for our existing titles. This is why World of Tanks has been really successful over the past few years, because we never stopped its development process. We always look to put out the best content for World of Tanks.
Q. How did the chance move to Xbox 360 materialize? How do you feel about World of Tanks on the Xbox 360 being behind a paywall of sorts seeing that it is only available to Gold members?
When we decided to get into consoles, Microsoft was a natural choice because they have been with us for a very long time from when we were very small developers. The relationship has been really good. There was a clear opportunity to create an Xbox version of the game and we are not in a position to dictate how Microsoft does their business. We do not want to change their business model. However we do recognize that the customers being served by the Xbox Gold service are already established. So at least they are not being pushed to do something they are not used to.
At the same time we are not telling our PC gamers to abandon their PCs and move to Xbox. What we are saying is that before you had World of Tanks free to play with PC version. But now you have the Xbox version also. Yes it is not completely free to play but it is still completely free to download. And that is the clear messaging here.
Q. Seeing that World of Tanks will be on both PC and consoles now, might Wargaming perhaps try to be one of the first few to offer cross-platform gaming for their title?
We have to face facts and reality that the engineering and architecture of both platforms is completely different. Being able to mix them together is tough. However, I think intrinsically the problem lies within the fact that those are two different kinds of gamers. The type of guy who sits in front of a PC will not be the same type of guy who will be on a couch in front of a 50-inch screen. It is an entirely different gaming process.
So it means that these gamers are completely different. While your PC guy will be in front of a computer from 8pm to 10pm your Xbox player will not be on the couch during the same time. If you ask me they will never even meet in the play times that they have. While cross platform it is an interesting goal to have it is not one that we are really actively pursuing because we recognize that there are two different customer bases.
Q. World of Tanks is making the move into the eSports scene. What are some of the ongoing eSports efforts from Wargaming.net?
The Wargaming League is underway and has three seasons per cluster, meaning there are three seasons of Wargaming.net World of Tanks League for the European region, the Russian region, the CIS region, the North American region and our region, that is Asia Pacific. There is a separate effort for China, Vietnam and Korea due to barriers to entry.
It is all going to be brought together by the Wargaming league finals which will happen sometime early next year. There is a total prize pool of US$2.5 million which is cutting across all the different terriories and spread across all three seasons.
In years to come we are looking to expand. We are already present in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan and maybe in the future we will also have greater presence Indonesia and Hong Kong, Macau. Australia and NZ are of course also focus points. We are seeing a lot of interest not only from players, but also from potential partners, even broadcasting companies.
Q. As a free-to-play game, how does World of Tanks maintain its competitive balance to be considered a eSports title?
If you play World of Tanks you recognize really quickly that there is not much to spend on. It is a micro-transactions based game but we do not really put a lot of stuff on our stores. In fact it is very limited. The main product remains to be a subscription for a premium account where what happens is that if you pay a certain amount, roughly around 10 dollars it gives you 30 days of premium subscription. What that does is every battle you get into, you get 50 percent additional experience. That is the only thing it gives you. It doesn’t give you any natural advantage over other players.
At the same time this Free-to-Win ensures that unlike before when there were items and consumables which gave you a very minimal fractional advantage, this is no longer the case. For example gold shells had a higher penetration rate than normal shells. Before you could only buy it with cash. Now you can get it with experience points.
We think we have broken the barrier and made sure that the game can be free-to-play and free-to-win. We recognize the fact that high school kids will have huge amounts of time on their hands. But guys like you can me who have regular jobs and travel a lot, our 15 minutes are precious. So for people like us, paying 10 dollars a month is not that much to spend on a game. And to be able to get 50 percent extra experience for that amount is good value.