World of Tanks, the Belarusian arcade tank simulator in the historical setting of World War Two, is among the world’s 5 most successful MМО games. How was it developed, and what did it take to conquer the hearts of 130 million players in over 7 years after the World of Tanks was launched?
Bilderlings Pay went behind the scene of WoT in Minsk, where it was developed back in 2010, to get to know the game’s design, marketing and payment solutions.
It is obvious that the Belarusian IT cluster is far in advance of those of the neighbouring Eastern European countries. The Minsk High Technologies Park, home to Skype programmers, the place where the Viber messenger, which also offers some functionality as a payment service, was created and is now maintained, the birthplace of many other software products, has an annual turnover of over a billion dollars. The same figures are demonstrated by the Wargaming Company, which has a staff of 2200 employees, occupying a 16-storey building on Partizanskiy Avenue in Minsk.
One billion in Minsk
Victor Kisliy, a physicist from Minsk, the developer and main owner of the arcade tank game WoT, with an audience of 130 million users, founder of the Wargaming Company, has joined the Bloomberg Billionaires Index in 2016. His company, which also operates the conceptually similar MMO games World of Warplanes and World of Warships, provides its services to about 180 million gamers, and the value thereof was estimated at 1.5 billion dollars.
The beneficiary says he lives in an unpretentious way, but the phenomenon of the game deserves a more detailed analysis. The company’s owners stay in Nicosia, Cyprus, where the corporate headquarters of Wargaming Group Limited are situated.
The company operates over 20 more offices in different regions of the world, but Minsk, the place where it all began with an idea in the crisis-struck setting of 2008, is where all maps, tanks and other aspects of this military and historical virtual reality are developed.
The game’s BigWorld engine now offers over 450 tank and SP artillery models, dating from the beginning to the 20th century to the early 1960s. The game is free and available on any platform – most of all, of course, on desktop computers, mobile devices and consoles, which allow users to do battle with comfort.
WoT can also be downloaded to mobile platforms free of charge, through the Google Play and App Store markets. The arcade is run using the business model free-to-play and free-to-win, that is – a player does not have to pay for gaming time or for victories over the simulated enemy, unless he chooses to pay, willing to speed up his progress.
Most of the player audience, regardless of their country of origin (WoT is rated 12+ in the CIS countries and 7+ in the West), consists of people aged slightly above 30. These are dozens of millions of adult men, who make premium-class purchases, which substantially ensures monetisation of the game. Users gain experience and “credits” that they invest in improving their combat vehicles.
“Credits” are spent to repair damaged tanks, purchase ammunition, consumables and additional equipment; these are also used to purchase upgraded systems and new combat vehicles. Unnecessary equipment, tanks and ammunition can be sold for half of the initial price thereof.
Most players (men of the focus group “over 30 years of age”, who have better income than 12 year-olds) prefer purchasing a premium account, which speeds up the progress of the game. That is to say, a premium account grants a bonus of +50 % to experience. Annual subscription to such account costs 95.99 dollars, monthly subscription – 10 dollars, 24-hour subscription – 1 dollar.
The world of mini-transactions
‘The most expensive premium tank I can remember off the top of my head is the heavy tank WZ-111, developed in the early 1960s for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in reliance upon the Soviet IS-2 and IS-3 tanks; however, it never went into production,’ says Ivan Zhivitsa, the Senior PR Manager of Wargaming.
The total audience is comprised of 40 million players from the CIS countries and 70 more million gamers from elsewhere. Wargaming publishes its product all over the world, expect for the People’s Republic of China.
– We provide every possible user-friendly transaction opportunity: of course, a customer values the speed and safety of a payment solution above everything else. The Wargaming Group did not make an IPO; I may not disclose any financial figures, but I can say that these did not suffer any decline – after over 7 years of expansion in the global market, we have reached a stable position in terms of the number of new customers.
There are no negative dynamics, no recession. Considering our formidable presence in the CIS market, our business strategy as of today is to work with the current audience and stimulate the return of ex-players, through attractive offers, aside from other measures.
Payment solutions in “World of Tanks” depend directly on the development of the entire payment service industry in a specific jurisdiction where customers, i.e., players are located. These are bankcard payments, mobile transactions, payments through payment terminals (official partners have a designated WoT button) and online payment services, including PayPal.
Of course, these methods differ radically in terms of speed of transactions and lucrativeness for the customer, but the choice is as broad as it can possibly be for the total audience of this tank arcade, which is greater than the combined population of France and Spain.
A WoT player can access his personal account at https://ru.wargaming.net/personal/. This is where all the currently available functions for managing an integrated Wargaming.net account can be accessed: changing the user name and password, binding an account to a mobile phone. Apart from that, there is a unique Wargaming.net ID, which can be used as an Open ID identifier for accessing fan resources and partner websites.
The service strives to be as user-friendly as possible, offering integrated secure authorisation: a user can log in to just one of the game’s official resources (portal, forum, website of the user support centre) and then navigate freely across all of these online platforms, becoming automatically authorised at each one.
Online fraud challenges always retain major importance – in this instance, the basic scheme is as follows: a player pays money to a swindler who gets the player’s account paid, often using a stolen bankcard (carding). Then, in about a month, this payment is withdrawn.
By the way, the rate of in-game gold remains unchanged – 250 units per 1 U.S. dollar, even for the 4500 employees of the Wargaming Group.
All those proposals on message boards, offering to buy gold at 50% of the price are mere bluff, as there are no altruists; no one is going to just give money away. Another widespread fraudulent scheme implies paying with one’s bank card and then withdrawing this payment due to alleged failure to receive the requested services – this is a gross violation that results in blocking the respective account, regardless of however mega-premium it could be.
Ivan states that the company is very serious in its efforts as pertains to fraud prevention. – We warn and inform our players that they must never give their access credentials to anyone else, brief them on the risks of phishing. Premium tanks and in-game gold can only be purchased through our official Premium Store.
There are no bonus code generators, no ways to multiply one’s in-game gold reserves, experience or credits, “company employees” do not sell any unique tanks, and so on. The audience of the console game consists of people aged 30 and above, whereas the mobile version has a younger audience, which tends to grow continuously: players switch from their Nokia 3310 to a smartphone and add the new Android or iOS application from the app market. The game enjoys extreme popularity in the CIS countries, from Russia to Ukraine; there are many “tank” enthusiasts in Germany, France, Sweden, Poland as well.
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