Wargaming’s World of Tanks debuted on the PS4 on 20 January, and Stevivor had the chance to sit down with Lead Game Designer Jeff Gregg to discuss its latest version and ecosystem as well as plans for its future.
World of Tanks is no stranger to consoles, having launched on both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Now that the PlayStation 4 version is available, there seems to be no stopping this free-to-play phenomenon. After being available for only a single week, Gregg revealed that over one million downloads had already taken place.
“We’re super happy with that,” he said, unsurprisingly. One million downloads in the space of a week is an incredible success, but according to Gregg, getting World of Tanks up and running on the PS4 was something of a challenge.
“One of the biggest hurdles with PSN was getting our server architecture on there. It came from PC and was then custom rebuilt for Xbox Live. With PSN it was a pretty big challenge because it was something that hadn’t really been done on PSN before. It was right down to the wire, but we got it done.”
World of Tanks is one of the biggest games in the world right now, but different consoles have different audiences, player bases and communities. We asked Gregg if Wargaming was nervous about whether the players would be there and while he agreed that there was some initial nervousness, after the first beta it seemed like a sure thing.
“Before we even turned on the server we could see players knocking on the door, trying to get in,” he revealed. “From then we knew we had an audience, which was a great feeling.”
While there have been attempts at free-to-play games on consoles in the past, nothing of the scale of World of Tanks has really been tested. Free-to-play is right at home on mobile and even on PC in a lot of cases, but console gamers are more wary of microtransactions, pay-to-win and generally being ripped off. When put to Gregg his response was simple. Make the game fun and people will play. He believes that if the game is fun enough people will pay for the experience.
“Some people think free-to-play and they think it’s garbage. There’s this stigma, but on the other hand once you get into the game we have to try and satisfy players and get the system working so we can stay in business, pay the rent and keep the lights on. I think people will play and see that it’s fun and whether they give us money or not is up to them. The key is to make sure they have fun.”
It’s been two years since World of Tanks launched on Xbox 360 and a year since the Xbox One launch, so some players may have already tried the game and moved on. We wanted to know how Wargaming was hoping to attract players to the PS4 version and keep them there. Gregg said that the social and Esports aspects of the title were crucial and that Wargaming was heavily investigating and investing in this, but while that was still at pen and paper stage, simple things like exclusive content were available to attract old and new players alike.
“On the PS4 there are two exclusive maps right now. One of those is Scorpion Pass and that’s actually the biggest map ever in World of Tanks,” he said. “It was a risk, because we didn’t know if bigger was better and took a lot of playtesting to get it right.”
Gregg said that eventually all content will be available across all of the title’s versions, but for now, only PS4 players have access to the game’s biggest ever map.
Additionally, PlayStation Plus subscribers get added bonuses simply for having the subscription. “If you’re a PS Plus member you get an exclusive tank. You don’t actually need PS Plus to play the game, but we’ll reward you if you’re a member. You’ll also get 3-days of premium time with your PS Plus subscription,” Gregg said. “Premium time is a multiplier. Think of it as making playtime more efficient. It multiplies your experience and your silver. So it won’t make you win more, it will just make you earn more for whatever you do.”
The more players earn, the more they can level up and the better equipment, tanks and the like they can unlock. It does seem to give an advantage, but only for those players who both pay for premium time and put the time in with the game.
Having such a broadly played and widely distributed title we were curious as to whether there were any plans to ever merge the communities and ecosystems and have cross-platform play. Gregg was quick to shoot this idea down saying, “The official Wargaming line is ‘No there’s not’, but the Jeff really likes to make games line, ‘I would love to hypothetically talk to you about that until we’re blue in the face’, but there are no plans right now.”
In the same vein, if players do choose to spend money on the World of Tanks experience, purchases are not transferable between their accounts. Gregg’s advice? “Go where your friends are.”
We asked Gregg what next for World of Tanks and he was excited for the potential the future holds. His passion for the title is palpable as is his desire to understand how Wargaming can lead the way in creating a console Esports community. In the immediate future though, Gregg’s plans are, “To bury the game with as much content as we can. As many maps and tanks as we can build, as fast as we can build them,” which can only be good news for the hardcore and the dedicated.
World of Tanks is available now for PC, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.