Wargaming Corporation: how Vladimir Kisly's tank army conquered the world

Thanks to the game World of Tanks, Wargaming company has evolved into an international corporation with revenues of about $600 million.
11.05.2016
RBC
Origin source
Transformation is not easy: the founder of the "Tanchiki" Victor Sour launched a business restructuring.

"Oh my God, I Wargaming» - with these words began about 80% of interviews that are held by the company, says Anastasia Blokhin, director of the organization of events for the players on the territory of CIS countries. Adherence to the game in the "Tank Battle", the name of World of Tanks her fans, and nurtures leadership within the company. With the recruitment of any employee in the game to create an account and accrue bonus points on it, and every employee in the department Blokhina should spend per day on average, eight tank battles and mandatory testing of all outgoing updates.

Since the birth of the idea of ​​the game about tanks in 2008, Wargaming the number of employees has increased tenfold - from less than 100 to 4 thousand in 15 offices (at the beginning of 2016).. One of the largest developers in the world, the company Activision Blizzard, - about 7 thousand full-time and part-time employees in ten offices..

"I feel a citizen of the world - on virtually every continent, I have an office where I can go,and I'm happy to be there. It's exciting, "- he says in a conversation with the founder of RBC Wargaming Victor Sour. Some of the phrases he says in English, then, as if recollecting himself, picks up the Russian equivalent. For several years, Sour lives with his family in Cyprus, in the same place in 2011, is the headquarters of Wargaming.

In mid-April, with 60 managers Sour flew to Stanford University - to study specially designed for them week course on leadership "in a rapidly changing world of innovation." The new-made billionaire is trying to instill in their offspring "manners" of effective corporate and learn to take advantage of the difficulties.

The first of the CIS

In 2016, Bloomberg for the first time included Sour in its "Index of billionaires", assessing business Wargaming of $ 1.5 billion For comparison -. Swedish programmer Markus Persson deal to sell the cult game Minecraft Microsoft Corporation earned $ 2.5 billion in 2014 Sour -. First billionaire gaming industry in the CIS, says the founder of entertainment internet portal "Kanobu" Haji Makhtiev.

Sam Keyshonest about the financial side of the business are reluctant to talk - not ready to "reveal all the cards in front of competitors." He says only that the company's revenue is measured by "hundreds of millions of dollars." According to Bloomberg the assessment, on the basis of Wargaming in 2015 received $ 590 million in revenue, the same amount counted experts research firm Newzoo. If Wargaming shares were traded on the stock exchange, the developer would have entered the top 30 of the largest gaming companies, says marketing director Newzoo Emma MacDonald.

In August, Wargaming will be 18 years, but the company made a breakthrough only in 2010, by launching World of Tanks, MMO game (Massively Multiplayer Online, a massively multiplayer online game). To date, the number of registered players in the "tanks" of more than 110 million worldwide (40 million - from the CIS), out of which almost 97% - men aged about 30 years. For comparison: in the popular South Korean shooter Cross Fire game (in Russia it produces Mail.Ru Group) registered nearly 400 million users. At the same time none of the Russian game has not yet reached the size of an audience of 110 million.

Sour player calls "the main boss and Investrum ". World of Tanks, which accounts for over 80% of revenues (based on data Superdata Research), monetized by the model free-to-play - the game can be downloaded free of charge, while the game itself has a built-in payments. About a third of fans of tank battles for 550 rubles., Or $ 10 per month (the company has a fixed exchange rate) to buy a premium account, which saves the player time and accelerates its development in the game. Most of the revenue is the sum of the payments for premium access. Yet about a third of the users pay for additional options - for example, for a premium, ie the maximum pumped from the point of view of the characteristics of the tank can lay from 143 to 2640 rubles.

Now World of Tanks can be played on almost any of the existing platforms - in addition to personal computers on consoles Playstation 4, the Xbox 360 and Xbox One (game did different studios that Wargaming either bought or been building from the ground) and smartphones - version of World of Tanks Blitz. Mobile version of the game in 2015, has become the number one in terms of revenue in Russia, McDonald counted, without disclosing exact figures. In terms of mobile revenues is the third volume of Wargamingthe highest grossing mobile publisher in Russia in the last year, she specified.

The success of "tanks" Sour forced open company offices around the world, and, in his opinion, has such a large number of people "doing Wargaming corporation." If at the start of the entire account owners were on their own, but now "boring things like paying taxes" in Wargaming engaged in highly paid specialists, says Sour. Chief Financial Officer of the company with Belarusian roots in September 2015 was the former chief operating officer of Barclays Bank Andrew Tinney. In addition, despite the difference in salaries of IT specialists in the United States and Belarus, the level of training required to create the game tanks, involves "a significantly higher salary" and the Belarusian developers.

How to create a "tanchiki"

The first office was located in the apartment Wargaming Victor Sour in Minsk - he and his brother Eugene moved into one room, the other was released to work. The first online game developed students of Belarusian State University, where he studied himself and Sour. EYu became a turn-based strategy Iron Age, a paper version of which Victor and his brother came up with as a child.

For the first time Victor saw a computer in a laboratory, where he worked for his father: a simple game on a gray-green screen hit him. "I realized that this piece of iron is smart, she plays against me, and makes me think," - says Sour. Prior to launching World of Tanks his company released a game DBA Online, Massive Assault, «Operation" Bagration "," Inhabited Island ". In December 2008, Sour and his colleagues decided to do a MMO game about tanks - in this niche there was no popular products. About a year before this point, the company was working on an online game in the fantasy genre, which was to become a competitor has promoted World of Warcraft - role-playing game about the world of orcs and elves from Blizzard Entertainment. Since early 2009, the designers and programmers have been actively working on future World of Tanks, and in May of the same year they released their first video game in which Orcs are fighting with the elves, as they moved the tank. A few months later, the first test of the game, which was attended by friends Wargaming staff. Since spring 2010, World of Tanks moved into the open modeETA-test, and in August, the game officially launched in Russia.

But last year, Sour I realized: a large number of people - not only the key to success, but also a problem. The company grew quickly and is not always effective, acknowledges the founder of Wargaming, so in 2015, management approved the restructuring plan. In February, the company came to the new head of HR-department - Jerry Prochazka, former director of the US talent Riot Games, the creator of the game League of Legends. It tells Makhtiev in Riot Games «mirror" approach to hiring people, compared with one that has so far been adopted in Wargaming: the number of interviews for the candidate is often more than a dozen, and the company's head of office in a new country can search for 2.5 years.

Since the end of March Wargaming goes to the so-called distributed development structure - on a project can work employees from different regions, and as a result some "pieces" of the game created in different parts of the world. The game World of Tanks Wargaming founder compares with Airbus A380, which meets in Toulouse, and the details to him being taken from around the world - from China wire chairs from Italy, etc. The buildingstve games, it looks about the same: find a video director and artist "desired level" is easier in California, where a number of Hollywood than in Eastern Europe. Sour recognizes that such reform will complicate the work of business process: employees need to "become more disciplined," and management - to look for new ways to manage. Nevertheless Sour resolute: given the current business scale restructuring makes sense.

The company did not disclose the amount of income, but Sour claims that most of it goes to development of the business: he calls it "harsh reinvestment". In 2010, when World of Tanks «shot" in the market of the former Soviet Union, Wargaming almost immediately took up the development of two games - World of Warplanes ( «aircraft World") and World of Warships ( «World of ships"). Creating new games took an average of three to four years and required the efforts of 200-400 people, he says Sour. Investments in these games, he did not disclose. CEO and founder of developer Nival Sergey Orlovsky estimated the expenditure at the time of launch of World of Warplanes and World of Warships to $ 20nH and $ 30 million respectively.

The strategy of "severe reinvestment" of such amounts does not always produce results. Released in 2013, the game World of Warplanes has not become a successful project, he recognizes Sour. "Man by nature tend to walk on the plane or at the most to climb a tree, but did not fly in three-dimensional space at a speed of 400 km / h and at the same time to shoot", - he gives an explanation Sour failure. Videobloger Pavel Sukhanov, which makes World of Tanks reviews on YouTube, says "not taken off", "aircraft" historical peculiarities: "If the Russian player's grandfather had fought, then, most likely, was a tanker, much less - flown or sailed. In England or the United States on the contrary - grandfathers flew and swam. Therefore, our national mentality about tanks, and in the world -. About the ships'

The number of registered users of the game World of Warships, which was released in September 2015, reaching about 7 million - "a remarkable pace," says Sour. But the "aircraft" and "ship" hard in the shadows held fellow, he goes on: one game "eats" another. The audience is so immersivewife in the tank battles that time for other types of battles they have little or no choice. But close World of Warplanes Sour is not ready - it "will make unhappy" albeit small, but formed the nucleus of players. Global corporations are not always so kind to their projects: for example, the company Electronic Arts in July 2015 announced the closure of several not receive proper games popularity - Battlefield Hero, Battlefield Play4Free, Need for Speed ​​World and the FIFA World.

If the launch of new games is difficult, the advertising and marketing strategy Wargaming rarely causes criticism.
Big sport

Over the past three years spent at Wargaming professional cyber activities $ 32 million.

"You saw the last fight?" - Asks Sour. We deal in the middle of the tournament for World of Tanks - Wargaming.net League, which is in its third year is held in early April in Warsaw. Behind Wargaming founder - a huge screen, it is being broadcast battles. Businessman can not be present in all the battles of the tight schedule of meetings, but following the change in the standings.

In the last fight Sour finals still comes to a hundredion sports complex Torwar Hall and lost in a crowd of five thousand. spectators. If you do not look at the stage where the players sit in headphones for computers, what is happening in the stadium can be taken as a classic football game: there commentator, in between battles invited experts to discuss team tactics, highlights of fighting "scroll" on the screen. The audience - mostly men and young people - wrapped in scarves with symbols of favorite teams, each projectile hit on the tank, they are greeted with a loud roar. The name of the winning team - Navi - stadium chanting standing: very acidic so loudly welcomed the champion that lost his voice.

In addition to the international tournaments organized by Wargaming events "on the ground" - only in 2015 and only Russian company held about 35 offline activities (for example, in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and Yakutsk). In such an event the players go to their families: while the husbands are busy fighting tank, the wife in a specially equipped areas can do make-up, manicure, or visit the barber's, and children - to draw or play a game, Blokhin said. The budget for the "local" CELEBRATIONtions in Wargaming not disclose. Blokhin said that local companies help to organize tournaments volunteers who have Wargaming in every city in Russia, and some of the necessary equipment (eg, computers) roams from region to region.

One of the biggest events organized by Wargaming in 2015, was the celebration of Victory Day: the company leased SC "Olympic", inviting cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, a group of "Chizh & Co" and "the MTV Russia" general director Jan Churikova as the lead. "I is not with motor skills and with the speed of reaction," - admitted at a press conference Churikova that while preparing for the event for the first time tried to play "tanchiki." Wargaming tries to choose for conducting major events celebrities who are already familiar with the game and are able to joke about it. The budget of the Victory Day celebrations was $ 300-500 thousand.

How many Wargaming Russian players and how much revenue they bring to the company, did not disclose the Sour. But the company has not opened a full-fledged office in Moscow. From 2013 to 2015 in the capital Wargaming worked about 25 cheloveHe recalls one of those employees in a conversation with RBC. First of all they were doing forging links - with museums, government agencies and private businesses. Wargaming is working, for example, with the Military-historical museum of armored vehicles in Kubinka, conducted joint activities with the Ministry of Defense and Uralvagonzavod. In today's world, everything can be done remotely, the more Moscow - not the cheapest city is responsible Sour to the question of why the company does not have an office in the capital. At the same time Wargaming in St. Petersburg have Lesta Studio, which is developing the World of Warships, a full-fledged business unit opened in Tokyo, Chicago, Paris and other large and not the cheapest cities in the world.

The total budget for the promotion of Wargaming does not disclose. Sour specifies only that this item of expenditure is among the three largest for the company. Now the businessman puts on a mobile version of "tanks" and intends to actively promote it. "Global competition Wargaming spend a few million dollars a day for the purchase of advertising and literally rake all Usersfirs - says Sour. - Therefore, even if the game is very good, this is not enough, you need to have comparable budgets. " In the US, for example, for several years, developers of mobile games are advertised in the breaks between matches finals football Super Bowl, that is the most "delicious" advertising time and they produced videos worthy of the international festival "Cannes Lions," enthusiastically explains Sour. "We do not yet fully unfolded, ready" - promises founder Wargaming, without going into details.

Active gaming investment company with Belarusian roots soon really need: competitors are not willing to put up with the total domination "Tanchiki."

The struggle for the player

"Tanks" greatly expanded the gaming market - began to play those who had never sat down to this end for the computer, explains Makhtiev merit Wargaming.

Sour The company was the first who made the popular game about tanks: competitors are not even six years left to hope to win this niche. In September 2015 the game about tanks - «Armored Warfare:« Arm Projectata "- launched Mail.Ru Group Corporation, whose annual revenues of multiplayer games is almost 9 billion rubles. Mail.Ru Group made a project about modern tanks, where one of the main "heroes" was the T-14 "Armata" - the newest tank, which first appeared in public at the Victory Parade on Red Square in Moscow only in 2015. The mention of "Almaty was" in the game holding the title had to be coordinated with the Ministry of Defense and the manufacturer Uralvagonzavod tank.

Games about tanks COO Mail.Ru Group Vladimir Nikolsky refers to a category of slow shooters. "There are many people who want to play, but they can not quickly push the buttons, as required, for example, Counter Strike, - and it is for them left the game World of Tanks, and« Armored Warfare: «Armata" project continued this series "- explains Nicholas.

"The market for entertainment is arranged so that each year there are new items on it, whose purpose - to entertain and amaze users" - responds to a question about competition in the roar Nicholas. In the "Project" Armata "tanks drive faster and more dynamic, in-game pricesKupka lower by about 20%, Mail.Ru Group list in the benefits of the new project. Nicholas refused to name the exact proportion of the players, which the company plans to pull out of "tanchikov» Wargaming. High-quality clone of the game, which was released to the market within a short period after the original, has a chance to drag 10% of the audience of the main project, said Orlovsky.

In Armored Warfare registered more than 5 million players and audience capacity for the company is now more important monetization quoted Mail.Ru Group General Director Dmitry Grishin in the last statements of the holding. The Russian company has already started a massive advertising attack: in one of the rooms of the newspaper "Kommersant" the whole band took the slogan Make Love Not WoT. The company has translated it as "make love, not here." WoT - the usual abbreviation for World of Tanks, but Mail.Ru Group insist: it is about the expression of a sustainable Waste of Time ( «waste time"). A little later, Mail.Ru Group has launched a promotion for which the existing World of Tanks players when in the "Armata" registration get game bonuses, and have the ability to "hold a contest at any level of the sixth technique."
Sour Bites Mail.Ru Group sees no particular emotion: "When you do something right, you definitely start to copy." By the possible loss of the audience and to the wrong steps businessman psychologically ready. In October 2015, the first Wargaming has announced a major update (patch) "Rubicon", which planned a number of improvements - the tanks had to learn to roll over, to find a new sound palette, etc. To launch the company was preparing for several months, but after a month on Wargaming site. sour appeared appeal, in which he apologized to the players for "unjustified expectations." The new update has not changed the game as it waited for the user, so the players have reacted very sharply, says Sukhanov.

But in recent years, Sour seem to learn how to handle problems in their favor.

Foreign markets

In 2013, Wargaming has become a shareholder in Cyprus Hellenic Bank, together with two other large investors. Wargaming and US investment fund Third Point received 30% of the shares, paying by € 40 million investment fund Cyprus Demetra Investment - 15% of the € 20 million at the end of 2014but game developer and Third Point spent more for less than € 45 million to purchase 20% additional shares Hellenic.

Wargaming Become a shareholder of the bank was forced circumstances: Cyprus financial crisis, the bank froze the money of investors, the company's was among them (the volume of stranded assets it does not open). Today Sour calls acquire Hellenic «a good financial investment." Cyprus showed extreme discipline in the political arena, he continues: all the requirements of the "troika" - the European Union, the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund - have been met, and a few months ago, representatives of these organizations have left the island.

"Now we as a country look to the future with confidence" - enthusiastically tells Sour, a "we" referring to the Greek.

Sour decided to withdraw World of Tanks outside the CIS even before the official start of the game. In 2010 he gathered in a suitcase sets of brochures «Tank" and went to Shanghai. The laws in China are strict: any developer has to work through a local publisher, and in the game itself almost inevitably comesI make changes. For example, instead of a Soviet flag in the Chinese version of World of Tanks used visually similar.

Wargaming for work in China in 2011 reached an agreement with one of China's largest developer, publisher of computer and mobile games KongZhong. When the acidic first came to the head of KongZhong Leila Wang, he saw that his entire cabinet piled modelka tank: Chinese businessman father was a soldier, and he was a big fan of history. Wargaming actively promoted their game in China - the company held a press conference in the tank museum, and the sour one of the event sang the "Internationale" in Russian. In 2012, the parties entered into the agreement: KongZhong received the right to produce the first future game developer and Wargaming - an option to buy shares of Chinese companies (5 million American depositary receipts priced at $ 5.94 each).

Wargaming now owns about 10% KongZhong. "I think that we now take for ever: instead of quarreling profitable cooperation, and controversies that always occur between the publisher and developer, to settle," - he added. Chinesemarket among the top three for Wargaming after the CIS (now generates about half of revenues due to the devaluation of the ruble) and Europe, where the greatest interest in World of Tanks show Germans and Poles. More accurate data Sour did not disclose.

Over the past five years, "Tanchiki" also appeared in North Korea, the US, Japan, Europe and Southeast Asia. Global expansion is not only initially laid Wargaming in the development strategy, but also helps to stand on their feet in times of crisis, says Sour. Wargaming competitors, the company Gaijin Entertainment, developer aviasimulyatora War Thunder, the share of revenue from Russia in dollar terms decreased in total from 30-35% in 2014 to 10-15% in 2015, told RBC founder Anton Yudintsev company. In rubles Gaijin Entertainment revenues in Russia continues to grow as increasing revenue and as a whole: according to the results of 2015 by about 20%, he said, did not give exact figures. Because of the crisis the company decided to focus on the promotion of the game outside of Russia - Western markets bring more revenue, says Yudintsev. Most of the revenue Gaijin Entertainment gets in the US and Europe.

atutstvie in different markets makes Wargaming adapt to the tastes of local players and work with them, perhaps, a key part of the company, is recognized Sour. "Americans like to play more relaxed, more to enjoy than to strain and compete. Russian-speaking players, on the contrary, competitive: they need to get to the tank as soon as possible and go into battle, "- said acidic.

When in 2012, Wargaming opened an office in Tokyo, its employees have brought the cat and called it Hellcat - in honor of the anti-self-propelled, which is in the game. Cat sewed special clothing and have an account in social networks for "dialogue" with local players. And for the Chinese players are easily parted with the money in World of Tanks, Wargaming has developed at the request of partners an exclusive "gold" Tank record value of $ 400. This caused outrage speaking players, and Wargaming representatives had to explain the difference in mentality. In the Chinese games, for instance, you can buy the right to "throw" the players of the team, in order to demonstrate their wealth.

unrealistic tanks

Slightly more than 40% of tanks in World of Tanks existed in reality, he told RBC historian and developer Wargaming Peter Bityukov. Another 30% - prototypes, about 20% have been created on paper. About 5% of the cars is completely invented. It was originally planned that the equipment in the game will not be over 50 years of XX century, but because of a lack of prototypes deadline moved to 1965. But even so, it did not have enough machines to equip all "nations".

Developers may be based on a real machine, but modify it continues Bityukov. This happened with a group of German self-propelled units, only half of which existed in reality, and the other half - only on paper. One of the units had to invent. "This is so self-propelled anti-tank broke balance of the game, that it had to redo several times, and the players still remember us, that we introduced to the game miracle Yudo, which nobody has designed" - lamenting Bityukov. Recently, Wargaming German archives managed to find a setup project, which will be replaced by a machine invented, and it will appear soon ingame.

With the expansion of geography and changed the composition of the top management. Esl and initially in the manual were Belarusians, Russian and Ukrainians, now only four Wargaming leaders, including acidic, say in Russian, among others - the Americans, British, Greek, Cypriot, French, Korean and Finn. Sour calls the backbone of the "analog of the Board of Directors." The businessman for several years is not engaged in operational management, but no strategic decision is taken without his participation. One of the personal initiatives Sour - restart Space Master of Orion Strategy assigned to the Wargaming acquired in 2013 and is working on in conjunction with a major Argentine studio NGD Studios.

Like a corporation Apple, which for several years trying to find a revolutionary new product, Wargaming is also looking for. In various stages of development, the company is "a considerable amount of ideas," said Sour, but if any of them and the main breakthrough "secret project" is not recognized. So come in corporations, although the businessman prefers to refer to the laws of show business - before you announceacce, he must ensure that the new idea of ​​"ignite". For Sour has no right to disappoint players.

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