Wargaming on Australia, community, and why World Of Tanks isn’t next-gen

Wargaming is continuing it’s push down under with local servers and full support. But what’s driving the interest in Australia? GamePace spoke with Wargaming’s Jasper Nicolas to find out.

So Wargaming is a pretty big deal. The strategy game developer — which started operating in 1998 but didn’t really start making noise until the 2010 release of World of Tanks — is slowly spreading out of Europe, into North America (where it’s already making a splash), and down into the Asia-Pacific region, which includes Australia.

Tanks? Really? No! Really?

Anyone at PAX Australia this past weekend may have been taken back by the massive Wargaming booth smack-bang in the middle of the main hall, taking up much more space than anyone else showing off their wares.

There’s a reason Wargaming had such a big presence at PAX Australia, just as it did at E3 in Los Angeles a month earlier. Wargaming wants to take its tools of the trade to gamers the world over, and passionate gamer hubs like Australia are high on the Belarus-based developer’s agenda.

“When we came out with World of Tanks and started talking to global publishers about it, they were like, “No way! It’s not going to work. Tanks? Come on!”

Admit it: just as Wargaming.net’s Asia-Pacific GM, Jasper Nicolas, claims, Wargaming games, like World of Tanks, are always going to be a tough sell.

“Nobody could imagine themselves being embodied in a tank.”

Therein lay the challenge for Wargaming founder and CEO Victor Kislyi: make a not-so-appealing concept the most addictive strategy game on the market. When you have someone at the forefront leading the charge, according to Nicolas, it makes all the difference in selling a quality product to a cautious audience.

“Victor would say, ‘I believe the concept of our game and I believe it’s going to be massive,’” explained Nicolas. “And that’s why we rolled it out.”

Tankin’ it in Down Under

Aussie gamers are often complaining about something: prices, censorship, late release dates, slow internet speeds. Rightly so, it’s a community frustrated at the sometimes lacking support from international games companies.

Wargaming, however, acknowledges the passion among the community down here. Nicolas says that the typical Aussie gamer’s ability to stick it out, despite the frustrations, is enough to justify Wargaming’s push south of the equator.

“Australia has always been very open about participating in the beta service in North America, when play conditions were at 400-milliseconds, up to about 800-milliseconds. At that point nobody would play in that condition, would they?”

“Australian gamers have stuck with it [poor internet]. We recognise the fact that Australians deserve better” – Wargaming’s Jasper Nicolas

The online lag — the rage-inducing internet roadblock that’s been frustrating Aussie gamers for years — is a big part of the shifting Wargaming philosophy: it wants to reinvigorate the sentiment towards online competitive gaming.

“Australian gamers have stuck with it,” Nicolas continues. “And two years hence I thought, now is the perfect time to showcase it and give back to the Australian playing audience that World of Tank is here, Wargaming is here, and it’s here in a very clear and fully supported way.”

One of the biggest stories to come out of PAX Australia was the announcement of local servers for Wargaming’s titles. The company plans to have its own servers in Australia — “in whichever state is best suited” — because the current infrastructure isn’t good enough to keep the local (and passionate) gaming community on even footing with other regions.

“We recognise the fact that Australians deserve better,” Nicolas said.

If you’re online, chances are you’re part of a community. You may not even realise it. Even if you play Call of Duty predominantly alone, you’re part of that community of players: you each shape the way the game is played, relative to the skills of the opponent.

The online community philosophy, something we’re seeing both Microsoft and Sony push hard on with their next-gen consoles, has existed far longer in the PC landscape. It’s also why we shouldn’t disregard the importance of community in an online environment because it’s part of the push to get Wargaming down here.

“You guys are a great community, you deserve triple-A content, you deserve full support, you deserve to have all the things we do on a global scale be done here,” Nicolas said.

When you’re working on eight different countries, as Nicolas is, the differences in how gamers approach a game like World of Tanks shine through. Each country behaves differently in the online space, shaped by different cultures and understandings of the world. While Australia is “unique” and “independent”, its isolation makes it especially appealing.

“There’s no limit to what we can do as a community. Because as an independent company, we can do more than what governments are able to do. So I’m really glad about that. I’m glad to showcase Australia as the piece to the rest of the world that, despite its isolation from the rest of the world, it yet can be connected online and into the Asia-Pacific community.

Off to console we go…

Last month at E3, Wargaming announced World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition. While hardly a surprise — war games have helped define the Xbox brand for more than a decade — it seemed like a tough transition for a series so firmly embedded in PC game design.

However, Wargaming has acknowledged the differences in PC and console gaming, according to Nicolas, and they recognise the changes that needed to be made to the wider experience.