Posted October 30, 2017 by Adam Ghiggino in Feature

PAX AUS 2017: Wargaming locks its sights on growing the Australian community (Interview)

It’s been seven years since Wargaming first launched in Australia with World of Tanks. In that time, we’ve seen huge pushes to grow the player base, such as floorspace at PAX for several years, community gatherings and even charitable contributions including bringing a real Sentinel tank home to Cairns. However, it was only in the last few weeks that Wargaming has finally launched a dedicated ANZ server, hoping to deliver a more stable and responsive experience for local players. We had a very honest discussion with Wargaming Australia New Zealand Country Manager, Travis Plane, Jungwon Han, Wargaming Asia-Pacific General Manager and Alexander de Giorgio, World of Tanks Regional Publishing Director, to talk about how Wargaming is looking ahead to its future in ANZ.

Rocket Chainsaw: Thanks for speaking with us today! Since Wargaming first came to Australia seven years ago, how have you seen the player base grow?

Jungwon Han: I think it’s been a steady growth, but not a huge growth so far, to be very candid. Obviously, with the fact that we haven’t had any local presence here and now we do. So, we’ve seen a much stronger growth in the recent year ever since this man [indicates Travis Plane] has joined. It’s been positive, but not incredibly positive, and now I think we’re with the initiatives with the servers and with the local team we’re actually very optimistic and we’re happy with where we’re going right now.

Travis Plane: I think what’s been interesting from joining in May and diving into the business and understanding where it’s been. You know, we’ve had a hell of a lot of people play Tanks and a hell of a lot of people churn from Tanks. And a big reason for that, you know when we really delved into the players and what drove their reason to churn, the number one reason was the lack of infrastructure and the lack of a server. So, that was our number one priority when I joined, because really for us it’s about understanding what do the players want and what do they desire, and trying to solve that. A big part of our communication piece, when we announced and the trailer that we made and everything was about trying to re-engage those players who had played World of Tanks in the past to sort of come back and try it again, because that big issue of server latency should now be resolved. The whole ‘Get Back in your Tank’ campaign is all based around a way to re-engage the community specifically.

RC: Well, speaking about the new ANZ server – what can fans expect from the launch?

TP: First and foremost, they-

JH: They’re going to miss their targets.

TP: [laughs] They’re going to have to re-look at how they play the game! When you are sitting around sort of 150-200ms ping, you have to compensate for that and I think people, especially guys who have been playing for a long time, have to adjust the way they play to compensate for the latency. So, once you take that down to under 50, they’re going to have to re-adjust a little bit. Obviously, we hope that that’s a positive thing, rather than a negative one! But I think, first and foremost, players will see a real difference in the way the game is played.

JH: And obviously with the recent cable issue, we’re not going to have those kinds of impacts anymore. That cable is not going to impact players’ experience.

RC: At the moment, the server is running at ‘Primetime’ hours, do you foresee it expanding out to full-time and when ANZ fans could see this happen?

TP: We would love to. So, when we first looked at how we bring this server to life, we wanted 24/7 – everyone wants to be able to jump onto a server at any time of the day or night and be able to enjoy a great matchmaking experience. But the numbers just aren’t there, to be really honest with you. You know, at 4:30 in the morning we just don’t have enough concurrent players online to get 15v15 across the right tiers, and it just isn’t there. So, what we did find when we delved into the numbers is that 6pm-12pm on the east coast of Australia, obviously different for different time zones, but at that time right now we have enough concurrent players to do that. That’s why we’re launching at those hours, I mean if we get more players coming in and excited and playing outside those hours, and we can easily see those numbers with the way that we’re set up, then we’ll definitely re-arrange those hours to accommodate that.

RC: Wargaming has been keen to foster the local community in the past with player gatherings. In the last week, there have been a few more parties celebrating the launch of the ANZ server in Auckland and Melbourne – how has the response been to those?

TP: I joined in May and I didn’t really understand what that community was like. I think it was my first month I travelled to Wellington and we had a gathering there, and that was where I got my first taste of the community, and just the passion, the knowledge of the game is just incredible. You know, guys playing 20, 30,000 battles is just mind-blowing. I got that experience out of Wellington then went to Auckland last week, got the exact same experience. There were guys from that Wellington event who travelled up to Auckland. There was one teenage boy who got his mum to drive him two hours there and back, just to come to the event. So, the passion from the young all the way to the old for this game is there. You know, Melbourne two nights ago was another level again, we had over 100 players there, and not just on tanks but there were a lot of people there who were proudly saying they were Ships players, and quite a few saying they’re already up and running on Planes. The community’s incredible and the passion and excitement they bring to the product is amazing.

RC: The console and PC versions of World of Tanks seem to be diverging more and more in their own directions – so much so that the console versions now have exclusive content like War Stories. How do you view the different platforms, and how do you see World of Tanks developing further?

Alexander de Giorgio: Well actually fundamentally from the get go, the idea around the console version vs the PC version is that they’re two completely separate entities. And also on our other platforms, like World of Tanks Blitz on mobile. Each of those has taken on their own character, their own identity and that was something that from the get-go we wanted to do. And so now, as you mentioned, for console we introduced War Stories and we’re going to continue to do that and for PC as well we’re looking at potentially if there are good ideas from our ‘siblings’ as we like to think of them, and whether we can look at introducing them, and whether we can bring our own concepts to the table as well. So, I foresee us continuing to build our own identities as they’ve been doing, because the platforms are different, the userbase can be different and the expectations around what type of gameplay and game modes they can have is different. And that’s as it should be, we want to offer the best experience on each platform..

RC: Do you see a greater userbase on PC or console in Australia?

TP: Still definitely PC. You know, console in Australia is a really strong platform and it’s a real strong focus for us, but PC is still the dominant platform.

RC: Update 9.2 came out last month delivered two big things players had been after – more tanks and bigger battles with 30v30 players. Are there any fan requests you think haven’t been addressed yet, that future updates could look at tackling?

AdG: There are always fan requests!

[all laugh]

AdG: And I hope there will always be because that’s what we need, we always need that feedback process to go on. A lot of what we’ve been doing this year and actually since 2016 has been focusing on wanting to build up the game and wanting to continue to bring new content but also wanting to focus on ‘Hey, this is a title that’s been around for seven years, you know there are some things that players have been looking at and giving us feedback on for a long time. Let’s fix those things, let’s improve them.’ So, you know we have a lot of requests around matchmaker and improving matchmaker, which we did and we continue to do, and will probably always be doing. And tank balancing, that’s just a big thing as we continue to add new content which continues to add new challenges to balancing all those tanks on the battlefield. Our players are fantastic, they give us the real essence of how these tanks are actually balancing, we can look at the data and we’re a very data-driven organisation, but fundamentally we see how players interact with the tanks and when they’re out on the battlefield, and that’s when we say ‘OK, how are these tanks really working against each other?” That’s all the ongoing work that we do to continue to make sure the game plays as it should.

We have a bunch of new things which our players have been also asking us for which are in the roadmap for next year, but we can’t really say what they are at this stage. But, just to say that 2018 roadmap looks very exciting and I think there’s going to be a lot of very happy players next year with some of the things we’re going to bring.


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Adam Ghiggino

Owner, Executive Editor of Rocket Chainsaw. I also edit TV, films and make average pancakes.