It’s no secret that World of Tanks is one of the biggest eSports out there. It may not challenge the likes of League of Legends in the west, but in Eastern Europe it is one of the biggest games available. When we went over to Russia to experience Wargaming Fest, a massive celebration of all things tanks, the company touted stats such as one in every five Russians have played at least one Wargaming title and that Russian viewers watched an average of 80 minutes of the World of Tanks Grand Final in 2016, which is an impressive figure.
With World of Tanks on PC ticking away nicely as a competitive game Wargaming now has its eyes set on the rapidly growing mobile eSports market. They hope to turn World of Tanks Blitz, the mobile spin off of the main PC title, into the biggest mobile eSport in the world, beginning on that journey late last year with an event in New York and an invitational event at WG Fest.
In order to get the lowdown on the company’s plans for Blitz eSports we had a chat with Arnaud Jacob, the European publishing producer for WoT Blitz.
eSports Pro: What are your basic plans to grow the World of Tanks Blitz eSports scene over the next year?
Arnaud Jacob: “For Blitz we actually have two plans. The first one is going really big in eSports with offline events. The first one happened last November with the Twister Cup, which was happening along the Challenger Rumble [a PC World of Tanks tournament] in New York. It was the first offline eSports finals for Blitz, so that was pretty cool for us. The concept was that we first did some qualifiers online and the best teams from each region were invited to New York to participate. For us it is really something we want to push in 2017, so that is the first part, big offline eSports events.
The other focus is competitive gaming for everyone. That's what we want to add to the game and it is being progressively implemented in 2017 step by step, we don't want to rush it. Ultimately the goal is to have tournaments almost all the time, for all players, of all skill levels. So if you want to join the battle and its 1am in the night and you want to play a tournament hopefully we can make that happen. If you want to play a competitive game, even if you don’t have friends online you should be able to. That's the plan, it will take a while, but that's where we want to be.”
eSports Pro: You mentioned that you want to do a lot more big offline events for Blitz. Does it being a mobile title present any logistical challenges that you might not face with its PC counterpart, especially when you start to scale up the size of the competitions?
Jacob: “Actually we ran into some issues in New York. It is true that during the Twister Cup there was some technical hiccups, there was a lot of WiFi issues as it was shared. Things should have been organised better, but we learnt the lesson and all the mistakes we learnt in the Twister Cup, they will be fixed when we do the next event.
To be honest we know that we want to do something with the same scale and coverage as we did with the Twister Cup last year, but we don't have any exact plans. So when you mentioned how we plan to manage things on the bigger scale, it is not something that we can go into detail about. But it will probably be the case that we expand and if we do we will try to anticipate these issues. We need to avoid having ping issues because of shared WiFi, so we will focus on the technical side and make everything as smooth as possible for the players.”
eSports Pro: Do you think pushing World of Tanks Blitz as an eSport will cannibalize the PC World of Tanks eSports scene?
Jacob: “I do not think that Blitz will have any negative impact on the WoT eSports scene because both games are complimentary. They have players on PC only, we have mobile only and there is a lot that play both. And the games themselves are actually pretty different in terms of rhythm of playing. The game play is even different, these aren't the same game, they are very different.
Actually something we noticed during the Twister Cup is that you have a different audience. If you look at the teams that were there in New York they were very young players. Most were under 20 and some were minors. To be honest I don't know the exact ages of all the WoT pros as I am more focused on Blitz, but there is a difference in age. So a big difference is the audience that is involved.”
eSports Pro: Realistically how big do you think World of Tanks Blitz eSports can be?
Jacob: “I think it would be over ambitious to say it can beat League of Legends or something like that. We plan to make it bigger, we plan to at least become really huge in the mobile eSports scene, like some other games have done. We need to work on competing with them first.”