My apologies for the flood of posts, but somehow there are a lot of news this week. The game I am currently playing the most is World of Tanks, and they just announced "3 million players". Of course that number means absolutely nothing. The one thing the raving WoW-haters out there are good for is to constantly remind us that "a million players" means very little without looking at how much money each of these players pays. In the case of World of Tanks there are thus two major caveats: Only 1 million of these players are on European and North American servers, and of course WoT is Free2Play, thus the large majority of players pays absolutely nothing.
On the other hand the 3 million number actually appears to be underreported, as the other 2 million are said to be on "Russian servers". That leaves out the Chinese, where World of Tanks is distributed by KongZhong. And as luck will have it, KongZhong just published their Q1 2011 results, attributing a 53.3% increase of revenue to $6.3 million of the Internet Games business to "the strong initial performance of WoT or World of Tanks, which was launched commercially on March 15th." If a release mid-March can increase revenue for the whole quarter by two millions, and that in China, we can be pretty sure that World of Tanks is overall quite profitable.
And that isn't a surprise to people who play World of Tanks: WoT is an excellent game, the balance between what you can play for free and what you can get for paying is well done, and it is one of the most balanced and fairest PvP games I've ever seen. That is not to say that it can't be frustrating to end up with the weakest tank on the battlefield, with your shots bouncing off the armor of much heavier tanks. But you still get some experience points if your side loses horribly, and in the next battle you might be the strongest tank. Yesterday I played my tier V tank destroyer in two battles in series, losing horribly the first battle, and then having an incredible 7-kill win streak in the second. Getting 7 kills in a 15 vs. 15 battle means you killed nearly as many tanks as your 14 team mates together!
Not only does World of Tanks have those ups and downs, preventing you from becoming frustrated from permanently losing. It also offers weaker tanks in a battle the opportunity to do something useful, like "lighting up" the enemy for your artillery, and rewards you for these other activities. Yes, its hard to kill a heavier tank of a higher tier, but if you do you get a lot more xp than if you are in the bigger tank one-shotting the weaker ones.
One interesting development to further improve balance and fun for the more casual players is that Wargaming.net is working on a Clan Wars feature where powerful clans battle over a map of Europe. This removes the most powerful and organized players from the random battles, thus keeping them more balanced for the lesser mortals. Of course the downside of that is that if you don't have a very high tier tank, and strong committment, and are willing to install voice chat, you won't get an invite to a clan partipating in that Clan Wars. On the other hand that might just be as well, as the average player with a medium tier tank wouldn't last seconds in a hardcore clan battle.
So even as a not-so-hardcore player I am currently having a lot of fun in World of Tanks. There is a "double xp for your first victory" feature for every tank which helps people like me who rather play lots of different tanks with different roles instead of heading straight for the highest tier of a single tank type. And with the patches adding new maps and new tanks, I'm not yet growing bored of the game. Of course the combat being a lot more interesting than that of a MMORPG helps a lot here. So count me in among those "3 million players", and even among the minority who actually gives money to Wargaming.net.