'Too big, too slow' to spot the opportunities, says MMO maker

Wargaming.net: Publishers don’t get free-to-play

Traditional publisher don’t understand how to make a success of free-to-play games, says the developer behind MMO sensation World of Tanks.

Victor Kislyi, CEO of Wargaming.net, said publishers have been slow to react to change and grasp the opportunities of free-to-play in the online space.

“The truth is that none of the traditional retail publishers, even now, know how free-to-play works. They are big guys trying to do something like Company of Heroes Online, which went nowhere,” he said, speaking to Develop in an interview.

The Belarus developer, that recently won a Develop Award for its online efforts, explained that it met with many online and retail publishers before decided that it would self-publish.

World of Tanks launched officially in April 2011 and has since attracted over 20 million players worldwide.

Kislyi added: “The big companies are too big to be democratic and too slow to react to the reality, and these things are moving really fast. The medium online publishers are probably not very powerful and could not provide enough marketing and PR muscle.

“So we said ‘we’re doing it on our own’. The good news for us is that as soon as it was launched in Russia it exploded. We started to have a very healthy revenue stream, so through the development and hiring and updates and patches, it all became possible.”

However, publishers such as EA and Sony have been making moves into the free-to-play space with reasonable success. Sony’s child friendly MMO, Free Realms, is reported to have reached 20 million users in autumn 2011 across PC and PS3, while EA has experimented with free-to-play offerings for Battlefield, Dragon Age and Warhammer Online.

Wargaming.net is now expanding its roster of MMOs with World of Warplanes and World of Battleships. Last month, it also acquired MMO middleware provider BigWorld for $45 million.

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