Q: Easy question first! Tell me about bringing World of Tanks over to the PlayStation 4.
Jeff Gregg: It was about time, right? We had it on Xbox 360 first as we were working with Microsoft, and then the Xbox One just because it's the natural evolution of the ecosystem. But we always knew we wanted to reach as many people as we possibly could with the console version of the game. So once we finally had everything lined up and we could finally work on the PS4 tech, we hit the ground running with open beta and it’s finally great to have it out.
Q: What's the reception been like for World of Tanks on PS4 so far? There certainly seemed to be an itch for the game to make its way to the console, eventually!
Jeff Gregg: Really positive – I would almost say overwhelmingly positive! It's really exciting to see, and the numbers just keep growing. But then again, that's just like math, right? Getting the forums to be really active, and starting to see people ask questions giving feedback about what's cool and what’s not...all that stuff. It’s what World of Tanks is - it's players giving us feedback, talking to each other, and planning the game, and then us continuing to evolve the game. And so it's been really gratifying to see that happening with a whole new band of people.
Q: How tough of a challenge is it to market a free to play title on console?
Jeff Gregg: Free to play on the console was actually a huge challenge. I think a lot of people didn't fully understand it – and I'm not trying to bag on our audience or anything – but they were like, "What is this? Some kind of demo?" and it's like, "no, just play...go ahead!" Then they'd follow up with, "well, when do I pay for it?" and we’d retort, "never, if that’s your choice!"
Jeff Gregg: Even on top of that, I think there's a certain type of stigma attached to free to play. Some people go in with the thought that within five minutes of game time some pop up is going to come up asking for money to continue playing or, contrastingly, those people are going to like the game and then somebody - aka a wallet warrior - is going to come through and absolutely destroy them because they've paid for extras and such. So, in the end, we need to make sure people understand that World of Tanks will never have those pop ups and everything that can make a difference in the battlefield also has a silver equivalent, which is the resource you earn by playing the game.
You never have to give us money if you don't want to. And so it's kind of a three-tiered initiative. When you boot into Tanks we don’t actually jump into any of those tendencies that could just make you throw the controller away and delete the game.
Q: What are the limitations and challenges associated with bringing World of Tanks to so many different platforms, including mobile and the console market?
Jeff Gregg: With the PC, you're fairly close to the screen, right? And you have a keyboard and mouse which, effectively, has unlimited inputs. Then you look at the console space. Taking into account that people usually have a widescreen about ten feet away while they're sitting on the couch playing with a controller that has around 14 inputs and two analog sticks... you've got to shove all of that in there and make sure that all of the depth is still there. You can't rob the game of all of the details and the depth.
So what we display to you and how you interact within the world and with tanks, it's a big learning process that we’d worked through a lot before we released. We had to make sure that we never removed any data that you needed, we asked about the best way to display the data, and we had to figure out how we could fit everything you could do on the PC version into the console version without having to plug in an external keyboard and mouse – which is fairly impractical. That was the hardest part.
We had to make sure it was still World of Tanks, but it was for the console audience and we had to look at those limitations. And that specifically took a lot of user testing. And we're going back to the 360 days where we looked at the baseline stuff, and then we've been evolving it from there and adding new features but making sure that those features don't make new players feel instantly overwhelmed. So it's a constant juggling game.
Q: What's the plan for the next six months of Tanks across all platforms?
Jeff Gregg: We're constantly trying to put out new content for the consoles. There are going to be console exclusives from time to time, too, and we're trying to give them parity as quickly as possible as that's the fairest and the most fun and, to be completely honest, the easiest from a developing standpoint.
We're looking into the future, at a lot of the social aspects like eSports, tournaments, improving clan functionality, and even the team training room and that kind of stuff. At the end of the day people are playing Tanks because they're fighting each other and with each other, so growing that community and making it easier for them to do community things is in everyone’s best interest.
Q: On the topic of the future, technology consistently changes, and the debut of VR this year is going to change things up a bit. Where do you see Tanks and Wargaming in a couple of years time? Do you look that far ahead?
Jeff Gregg: Well, the team's completely committed to World of Tanks on the consoles and that's the case for the foreseeable future. For Wargaming as a whole? Honestly nobody's come back to me and asked "What's our future?" However, what I would do if you gave me a magic genie and gave me one Wargaming wish – as cheesy as that may sound – is something that expands on what we were talking about before with community and tech. I would love to see a world, and let’s just say World of Tanks for this example, where you're holding a phone, and I'm sitting at home playing on the PS4, and I'm in Chicago and you're in Australia and we just want to play. And it doesn’t matter where we are or what we're doing, it’s all just a socially connected thing in the ecosystem.
I would love for this world to exist, and I know a million barriers to this world exists, but it's something I certainly think we're all cumulatively taking steps towards with technology. The more we can remove the barriers to play and the more we remove the barriers to being socially connected, the more of a community we'll have. And World of Tanks is a great starting point for that, and it'd be great to see it go into World of Warships too – even if it happens at all, right? This is all so hypothetical. But that's where I think the future is. Giant, socially connected games with as little barrier to entry to play as we could possibly allow.