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DDay at Wargaming Berlin

Another RIT/University of Paderborn visit was to Wargaming's office in Berlin. Some interesting discussions around game balance and the companies broader activities ensued.

In a strange twist of fate we visited the Berlin office of Wargaming, famed for World of Tanks, on D-Day. The Berlin office is a business and communications office and so we met Tom Putzki, the Head of the Berlin Office and Director of Communications Ingo Horn, Senior Communications Coordinator and Rico Nemetz, PR Manager GSA.

Putzki is a legend in the German Game Industry. Horn started as a game journalist and then moved into PR and communications for a number of majors over the years like Atari, Interplay CapCom and others. Nemetz is the young gun, hired fresh out of the German Games Academy by Putzki, who had known him from game communities since Nemetz was 16.

Wargaming has exploded in the past two years, growing over 10 fold. They’ll have a 10,000 square foot booth at E3 this year with, of course, a tank. The scrappy free-to-play start-up from Belarus now has 15 international offices, 1500 devs and 1500 employees in other roles. In a free-to-play world where conversion rates are generally 2ish%, Wargaming’s numbers are around to times that with roughly one hundred million players across all titles.

In an internationally divided world tank fanatics know no boundaries or politics. In the recent game wide 2.5 million dollars tournament where 12 teams fought for the position of top clan, the winner was ½ Ukraine and ½ Russian.

The company will soon cover three of the four elements, Earth, Water and Air with world of Tanks, World of Warplanes and World of Warships. The three games won’t share the same world though, the issues of scale and play style are incompatible.

As Putzki described the challenges to us, he had us imagine that World of Tanks battle occurs in a one square unit space (mile, hectare, whatever) Play is strategic and players are well protected. Putzki and Horn both describer it as “Call of Duty” type play for middle aged players, slower and surrounded by tons of steel so they don’t get taken out with a headshot in the first 5 seconds. Tanks in the game are roughly from the 1930s-1950s, still relying on lines of sight for combat.

Now add in Warplanes. They’re constantly moving in dogfight mode, an entirely different playstyle than the tanks, in a 16 x 16 grid at speeds many times higher than the tanks (and there are currently no anti-aircraft tanks). The tanks are sitting ducks.

Insult to injury comes with the Warships. A more tactical style of play than Tanks, and with ammo ranges of 25 x 25. Tanks are now obliterated by an act of God they never see coming.

What the three PC games will share is an economy. Loot and experience acquired in one game can be transferred back and forth between all three. The XBOX game lives in the Microsoft world and is a separate entity as far as that goes. The iOS game will also be kept out of the shared economy, at least initially.

Soccer/Football mode doesn’t enter in to discussions of balance or economy, its just for fun. (FIFA might wish differently. With all their recent negative publicity and the protests, they might want a couple of tanks.)

With all their revenue, Wargaming has been able to pursue a number of side projects. The company is a big supporter of the War Child charity. They also helped establish the USS Iowa Education Center and other museums. They recently helped recover a German WWII airplane from the English channel that’ll be exhibited at the Royal Air Force Museum in 2015.

That charitable impulse also lives within the German office. Because the German industry is comparatively small, Horn compares it to an extended family where everyone knows each other. (Horn and Putzki even played together in the German Division US Football league when it was running) Several medical crisis of “family members” inspired Horn to start the “Gaming Aid” foundation less than a year ago. It’s now a German Legal entity able to collect funds to support game developers and others in crisis. Horn pitched it to the audience at the Computerpreiss awards this year.

According to Putzki, once Earth, Air and Water have been conquered the company may look beyond this planet. The company purchased the Masters of Orion and Total Annihilation licenses and Chris Taylor and his team are part of the company.

 

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