The Present State and Future of World of Tanks and Wargamming (Part II of II)
Part II, “Free Fall”
In Part I, “Lipstick on a Pig,” we discussed why World of Tanks is failing. There were several reasons which mostly revolve around the MM, non-competitive games, and low player retention rates. Too many drastic changes were made to the game in the past year and it doesn’t play the same. Being “eternally bottom tier” doesn’t help either and has players up in arms.
Part II, “Free Fall,” will be shorter and focus on Wargamming’s (WG) three main games: World of Tanks (WoTs), World of Warships (WoWS), and World of Warplanes (WoWPs), and also briefly discuss Master of Orion (MOO). We will look at population numbers, create a timeline of events, and predict the future for each game and WG itself, and try to have fun while doing it. I would also like to add that I don’t want to see the company fail, I just think they need to seriously get their act together. IMO, they can achieve this by forgoing number crunching and instead focus on adding value to the game.
Get out your crystal balls (no, not those balls)…
Increasing Worldwide Tensions with Russia
With recent tensions between the US, EU and RU, there is a likely scenario of additional sanctions against Russia, which could possibly cause changes to the Cyprus banking system. Russians rely heavily on Cyprus to bypass sanctions and move money as we learned in the series “Wargamming, From Banks to Tanks.” WG owns part of Hellenic Bank, so they will be directly affected by any negative changes and might have to relocate their headquarters, or worse, get entangled in any mess at the bank.
Prediction: 25% or less chance of the above happening in 2018, but Cyprus’ banks will be raided in 2019 or 2020 and financial records seized or they may be removed from the worldwide banking system if this crisis escalates. The banks will be found to be insolvent and Cyprus will no longer function as a money laundering entity.
Master of Orion
WG acquired the MOO franchise in 2013 from the Atari bankruptcy and has created the fourth game in the series called “Conquer the Stars.” A good deal of money was spent on this game, but it failed to catch on and so far is roughly $20 million USD in the hole.
Game Release: February 2016
Prediction: There will not be a part five in the series unless WG sells the franchise to someone else. Until that time, they will milk the franchise for whatever they can.
World of Warplanes
This game has less people in North America playing right now than have visited the local McDonald’s in the past hour. A game that is only being kept aloft because it is running in the same server room as WoTs or WoWS.
Game Release: November 2013
Game Population Feb 2018:
NA 413 players
EU 514 player
Total players = 2,813
Prediction: The game will be shut down in 2019. At least half a dozen players will stage a protest and be arrested outside of WG’s NA headquarters. Two of the six will be released quickly when authorities realize they aren’t protesters, but instead thought that WG’s NA headquarters was still a dentists office.
World of Warships
This game is WG’s second biggest money maker and it grew in popularity quickly, mostly due to already having a player-base familiar with the company and this at least ensures some of them will give it a shot because it plays like a WoTs and isn’t as slow paced as WoWPs.
Game Release: September 2015
Game Population NA Only (peak hours):
2018 12.5k (prior to May)
The NA server seems to be holding fairly steady after an initial drop in population from 2015 to 2016. This was most likely due to people trying the game and realizing it wasn’t for them. However, the game has lost roughly 50% of its player-base logging in from Steam since its release there.
Prediction: an accelerated population decline worldwide per year until 2021, when the game will require a server consolidation. The game will remain afloat until 2025 when it will be shut down due to a lack of players, which will only reach 5k worldwide. A decision will be made to pull the plug to focus all resources on WoTs.
NA only (peak hours):
2018 10k (after May)
2019 8k (American’s fear of anything water related will escalate due to out of control shark attacks caused by global warming. It will get so bad that people will even be afraid to drink water).
Worldwide (highest daily):
2025 5k (accelerated population loss due to long wait times and burnout)
World of Tanks
WG’s prized gem. The game that put them on the map and still remains their top money maker. None of their other games come close. The “eternally bottom tier” MM changes, “casino slot-machine RNG,” rigged MM and the lack of competitive games are driving people away. The graphics update in 2018 has seen a slight rise in numbers, but will it last?
Game Release: Russia 2010, NA 2011
Game Population NA Only (peak hours):
2018 21k (until June 2018) 18k (after)
Prediction: Expect to see a lot of promotions in an attempt to keep people playing, including two-week premium tank marathons, loot boxes with rare tanks, and a longer Christmas special. Also, expect a mass exodus as soon as the graphics update boost wears off sometime around the middle to end of May 2018. WoTs will continue to lose players on NA until 2021, when WG will allow transfers to other servers. By the year 2022, the EU server will have roughly what the NA server had in 2016 at peak hours. WoTs will cease functioning outside of Russian and Chinese servers in 2026.
NA Only (peak hours):
2021 9k (account transfers offered)
EU after NA transfers (highest daily):
2025 13k (wait times will increase due to time zone differences)
The gaming market changed from subscription-based, to the FTP business model and WoTs took advantage of this at the right time. There are so many FTP games today looking to cash in on a player’s desire to advance and who are willing to spend more money than they normally would on gaming in the past. When the novelty of playing a FTP game like WoTs wears off, players awaken to the reality that they are spending $50 on a digital tank and buying gold to avoid playing stock and under-performing tanks in that line. At some point they realize how expensive and time consuming it is. All of their games are long, tedious grinds.
You can do almost everything in the game without spending money except buying and moving 100% crews to other tanks, and converting “Free-XP.” If you wanted to not grind a single tank line and instead bought gold and converted it to “Free-XP,” (even with the conversion sale at a 35 to 1 ratio), it would cost roughly $135 to do so for just one line. Multiply that by approximately 40 tank lines and you have a pathetically high cost of $5,400. This does not include premium time or premium tanks either. I would love to ask their bean counters what percentage of players have every tank unlocked. I bet it is less than 1%. This makes zero sense and goes to show you how sad it is that they rely on analytics so much for this game. Their business model is nothing but a fleecing, but this is where the gaming market has gone.
WG has made bad investments and business decisions including buying a 26.2% stake in Hellenic Bank, buying the MOO franchise, investing in eSports, running an expensive Superbowl ad and spending three years on ascetics for WoTs (some might argue this wasn’t a waste due to War Thunder recently updating their graphics). With those bad investments and business decisions they threw away roughly $180 million. A company cannot survive for long losing that kind of money with little to no return.
WG has relied on WoTs to invest in other games. Without WoTs remaining profitable, it will put WG in a situation where they cannot expand and create new games, but instead will have to focus on cost saving and contraction to survive. If WG does not remain profitable, the company will have to abandon their hopes of creating a new hit game that would allow them to prosper again. WoTs will not last forever due to having a low new player retention rate and it is also steadily losing long-time players.
There is a small risk of WG being involved in a banking crisis in Cyprus in the near future. If sanctions are expanded or the banks in Cyprus are raided or restricted from the worldwide banking system, they may find themselves entwined in a costly criminal investigation that is likely to bankrupt the company.
WG will continue to reduce costs worldwide in an attempt to keep expenses below revenue. They will reduce the employee count, slow their spending on R&D, close offices and put a freeze on new game development. WoWPs will be the first casualty in 2019. The WoTs NA server will be shut down in 2021 and consolidated with the EU servers. WoWS will be shut down in 2025 due to low server counts and as a cost saving measure. WoTs will only exist on Russian and Chinese servers by 2026.
The company will continue to lose revenue every year from here on out, as it has for the past two years, at a rate of 8 to 15%.
OK, put the crystal balls away and thanks for reading.
Disclaimer: My name is John Smith but you can call me Bubba. Everything I have said and will say in this series is only my opinion and is for entertainment purposes only. My current location is on a small boat docked next to a small island (not Cyprus) in a yet undiscovered island chain which lies in a large body of water.