Free Shells: Wargaming.net Scrap Pay To Win

By Adam Smith on June 4th, 2013 at 8:00 am.

Wargaming.net believe that war should take place on a level playing field. Money may make the world go round but it won’t buy you any extra-powerful rounds for your weaponry, whether those weapons be attached to tanks, planes or automobiles ships. In an interview with Gamasutra, Andrei Yarantsau, VP of publishing at the Belarusian behemoth, stated that the World of Tanks and other forthcoming titles, including World of Warplanes and World of Warships, would operate on a ‘free to win’ basis. This seems like good news.

Specifically, what this change means is that any items that provide an in-game advantage will now be unlocked using experience, while real world cash will only buy cosmetic items. That means people who devote a lot of time to the game may well be at an advantage, accruing a useful stock of boosters even if they spend most of the time losing and generally being rubbish. Still, if Wargaming can continue to post impressive takings with this new policy, it could draw the attention of other developers of free-to-play competitive games, but the transition may only be possible when a huge audience is already captive.

Whatever the wider considerations, the policy also forms part of an attempt to create a larger impact in the e-sports market: “Professional sport–and gaming is no exception–is about fair competition. The introduction of our new free-to-win system will really help facilitate the development of World of Tanks as a true eSports discipline.” I’m not interested in sporting tank warfare but ‘free-to-win’ immediately makes me twice as interested in the games as I was before, even if it’s a very silly phrase. Also, not that I’ve actually typed out ‘sporting tank warfare’ I realise that I’m extremely interested in it. I’d watch Robot Wars if the robots were full-scale remote control tanks, although they’d probably have to build a bigger arena.

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51 Comments »

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  1. odgaf says:

    3 cheers for spray to win {copyrighted}
    i really like this company, what they do they do really well

    • Shinikake says:

      Yes, they are quite good at failing to make a proper physics engine and let alone a working matchmaker.

      Despite all this, it is still fun to play… :D

      P.S. Hopefully GPG will make things better; but for now, ramming speed #1!

  2. FrostySprite says:

    That sounds good. I might actually play some of their games, now.

    Nice image of War Thunder, by the way.

    • Mattressi says:

      I thought that image looked familiar! I was initially thinking “wow, WoWP finally doesn’t look terrible and possibly even has a damage model!”.

      I wonder if Wargaming are doing this “free to win” thing because of War Thunder’s soon-to-be-released ground forces (including tanks) update? WT doesn’t have premium ammo or silly things like that (it still has premium planes though), so perhaps Wargaming were starting to worry that the “cheaper” game would start to take over?

      I’m interested to see what happens between WoT/WoWP and WT. On one hand, WoT is very popular and already has a large player-base. On the other, WT aims for historical accuracy (which also means no stupid vehicles which did not exist), balance in factions, has an excellent damage model and flight model (not as good as IL-2, but still good), a focus on both casual players and hardcore sim-ers (separate game modes, unlike WoWP which is just arcade crap) and many other great points. Clearly I favour WT, but I really wonder if the superior game can win out over the (currently) more popular game.

      • MellowKrogoth says:

        I don’t know why people are freaking out so much about “vehicles that didn’t exist”. Some of those prototypes like the French tanks in World of Tanks were frickin’ amazing, and it’s great to see them modeled in a video game since we’ll never see them in real life.

        Besides people seem to miss the fact that Warthunder can’t possibly have realistic armor battles since it won’t include infantry, that main enemy of tanks, in its battles.

        • Mattressi says:

          I imagine most are “freaking out” about WoT including vehicles which didn’t exist because they would like a game about WW2 tanks, not a fictional tank game with a WW2 theme. It gets even worse with WoWP, where around half of the entire German tree are completely fictional. Some of the Wargaming vehicles were conceptual, but never made it past the prototype stages, whereupon it was realised how terribly the design performed, with no way to fix it. Some of them are conceptual vehicles which were never made and would never have flown (presumably no prototypes were made because they so obviously could not work that there was no point). I hope that in the next war, one side will spend most of its time coming up with insane vehicles (“hey, let’s make a tank with a 4000mm diameter turret, with 5857372 horsepower and diamond armor. Also, it will look like and be as fast as a Boxster”).
          It just seems absurd to me that WoWP would have a handful of actual used-in-WW2 aircraft and have at least half of the aircraft be stupid conceptual designs. Why bother with a WW2 setting? Why not make Nazi mechs and UFOs?

          I was under the impression that it was the other way around – tanks were the main enemy of infantry, with other tanks and tank destroyers being the main enemy of tanks. Perhaps in city fights infantry became more dangerous, but in open fields infantry were much less useful against tanks.

          • Rognik says:

            There is not exactly a strict divide between truth and fiction in this case- it’s more of a continuum. If a plane existed in exquisite blueprints, but was never actually built, isn’t it still real in some sense? Similarly, there’s a big difference between historical fiction and science fiction. “Nazi mechs and UFOs” would be science fiction… and you’re also using a weird slippery slope argument. Finally, the fact that a lot of them wouldn’t work well is entirely the point of the game’s tier system. Old and ineffective designs are generally tiered lower.

            I for one love being able to play with tanks that never saw combat and perhaps were never even built. It’s an amazing “what if” experience that’s not far outside the bounds of reality. For example, the T92 HMC is one of the largest self-propelled guns ever made with its 240mm howitzer, but it was never used. If nuclear bombs had not been dropped on Japan, it probably would have seen combat during the invasion of Japan. It’s pretty cool to finally see this monster in action.

            If you want to play a realistic World War II game with tanks, it should be very obvious that World of Tanks is not that game. After all, you have German and American tanks fighting on the same team, and there’s no infantry in sight. It’s a game about putting a lot of cool, realistically-modeled tanks in a big arena and slugging it out. They’ve stuck with a (mostly) World War II era setting because tanks were simultaneously simpler and more varied back then, making for a better game.

  3. Grey Poupon says:

    I’ll believe it when I see it. They’re racking in so much money with the premium tanks and such. Gold ammo might get scrapped, but being only able to buy cosmetics? That’s not the Wargaming.net I know.

    Edit: “Revenue will come from sales of non-advantageous content, such as premium vehicles, personalization options and the like.”
    Figures. IMO premium vehicles can be seen as giving an advantage. They’re not all underpowered. Guess it’s a very small change in the end with a lot of marketing.

    • Jaks says:

      The premium vehicles are balanced with other vehicles in their weight class. They are just in most cases cooler. And you can get one faster by buying one. In almost every class there is a tank you can buy with points you earn playing that are better.

      The gold ammo is something that is just straight up pay to win content. I am guessing that wargaming.net looked carefully at how much they make selling gold ammo (probably not much, people tend not to buy it) with the customers they drive away with real or perceived pay to win perceptions. I know a lot of complaining goes on when some sucker gets owned and complains in chat about gold ammo “cheaters” the same people probably bitch about it on their exit surveys.

    • pupsikaso says:

      Nothing about premium tanks that gives them an advantage. Well, as long as we’re talking Tier8 tanks. A fully upgraded normal tier8 tank has a much bigger advantage over a premium tier8 tank. The only difference is that the premium tank inherently gets more xp, cash, and crew xp for every battle. You could say that is an advantage, yes, but it doesn’t help you blow up tanks on the field with that tank.

  4. Hunchback says:

    Hell, it was about time! Not that i care anymore, i stopped playing their game precisely because it is pay-to-win, but i guess that’s good news for the current and future players.

    Can’t understand why it took them what, 3 years? to grasp the idea that selling ACTUAL boosts for money is low, nasty and just plain stupid? Valve and Riot are swimming in cash by selling cosmetic stuff since over 9000 years ago, and Wargaming still chose to go the wrong way till now.

    TBH, i would even consider paying something little for a free-to-play game that only sells cosmetic stuff and keeps the actual game on a leveled field, but i’d never in hell pay some greedy bastards who exploit a freemium model. (At some point we calculated what it would cost to play World of Tanks “properly”, by paying for premium subscription and stuff, the result was something like buying at least 1 full-scale 50 euros game per month. And that’s WITHOUT any cosmetic stuff, just paying to be on an even level. Quite expensive for a “free to play”)

    • honuk says:

      one would imagine that most of Riot’s money comes from selling new champions, not new skins. they are firmly pay-to-be-competitive if not outright pay-to-win

      • Hunchback says:

        Not at all. New champions don’t mean they are actually any good or better than the old ones. They also add the new champions to the free-list one “list switch” after they are released so people can try them out and buy them or not. Also, the most expensive champions used to cost some 6k ingame points, which is totally not hard to “farm”. Also, since only 1 person can have a given champion in a given game, having the exact champion is rarely an advantage. Not to mention that LoL is a MOBA game, if you suck even the “best” champion won’t help you.

        As someone said here, in WoT you can actually buy gold ammo for ingame cash now, but it’s so fuckinng expensive that it’s ridiculous. And that’s the only premium feature you can unlock with ingame cash. I know that in LoL you can also buy an booster, but the impact it has is nothing compared to the premium account in WoT. It’s just Riot’s game is not a grind, whereas WoT is probably the worst grind after EVE Online i’ve EVER seen.

        IMO the most “correct” way to run a free-to-play game is to keep everything accessible to everyone, except cosmetic stuff and maybe add some booster-kinda features that allow you get stuff faster, but not THAT faster. It’s just a matter of fine-tuning and how greedy you are, i guess. But that can change the whole meta-game feeling from a horrible grind to a challenging experience.

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        darkChozo says:

        I can’t speak to the relative profit of skins vs. champions for obvious reasons, but it’s pretty evident that Riot makes a ton of money off skins. LoL skins are amazingly common when you consider that they’re pay-only and moderately pricey. It’s not at all uncommon to see half of the players in a game with skins, at least at moderate to high skill levels.

        Pay-to-be-competitive is debatable; the general consensus among the LoL community is that the best way to do well is to main and get good at a few champions (and/or play whatever’s FotM, but I digress). Diversity is less important than in something like DotA because of the lesser emphasis on hard counters – most LoL matchups are within 60-40 or so, which means that playing a champion you’re good with is probably better than playing ten champions and choosing one based on the game.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      I expect they were only concerned about income. I’d be surprised if this change of heart was about anything more than declining revenue.

      • MellowKrogoth says:

        Boo, hiss, nasty cynic. Actually by all accounts they are making more money than ever, and it’s precisely this huge player base and revenue that make them feel more free to remove cash-generating pay-to-win aspects from the game.

  5. Curry the Great says:

    Isn’t War Thunder (the image) by one of Wargaming’s competitors?

    • Hunchback says:

      Wargaming are also creating “World of Warplanes”, which looks more-or-less exactly like Warthunder. So it might be a screencap of WoWP, not Warthunder. *shrug*

      • r8response says:

        World of Warplanes and War Thunder look nothing alike.

        That is indeed War Thunder. WoWP doesn’t have that detail in the damage modelling.

        • Jekhar says:

          I have been playing War Thunder for a bit lately, how does it compare to World of Warplanes?

          • BwenGun says:

            World of Warplanes is largely terrible. The flight mechanics are horrible for most of the planes, made worse by a finicky and irritating control scheme and a graphics engine that doesn’t look very good. Though I think the most egregious problem I have with it is that it doesn’t model damage anywhere near as well as War Thunder. You’ll never get the satisfaction of blowing the tail section off a bomber or breaking one of the wings. Instead you whittle away at a health bar.

            War Thunder, for all it’s problems , is better.

          • Jekhar says:

            Well, it seems i made the “right” choice then. By the way, is WT in any way related to the old IL-2 by chance? It feels awfully familiar in some ways.

          • botty says:

            Well Gaijin did develop an IL-2 game, that’s why :P

          • Jekhar says:

            Yes, they did Birds of Prey and Birds of Steel, i played BoS on the toybox. WT is a direct descendant of BoS, that much i know. But i was thinking of the original IL-2 by Maddox, published by Ubisoft. Is there still some original code in the newer titles? That’s what i was wondering about.

          • Mattressi says:

            Jekhar, I don’t think there’s anything directly copied from IL-2 (if there were, I imagine it would be infringing on copyright/IP law), however a lot of the flight models and physical aircraft models seem to be based on IL-2. Just as a small example, the Fw-190s in IL-2 all incorrectly had a large horizontal metal bar at the bottom of the front windshield. It was so big that much of the holo-sight covered it, making aiming hard. This same huge bar is in WT, despite being small and out of view IRL. It’s clear that they based the Fw-190 models on those from IL-2, since I haven’t seen this in any other combat flight sim (not that there are many modern contenders).

            I think the main thing is probably just that it has a realistic(ish) flight model, which few other WWII sims have. The damage models, too, are quite realistic. I guess if everything is modelled for realism, the two are bound to feel similar. I still notice quite a large difference between WT and IL-2, though, but the difference is reducing almost every patch. For all that I’ll complain about design decisions Gaijin make, they really do seem to be trying to get as close to historical reality (including real physics) as possible.

  6. Kohlrabi says:

    In World of Tanks it is possible to buy Gold Ammo (which has higher penetration values and/or damage == better performance) for in-game-earned credits for a while now. Only that the price is so high that everyone who does not have a Premium Account or Premium Tanks to farm credits should not use it to not go bankrupt. So technically anybody can use Gold Ammo now, but realistically only Premium users can use it.

  7. mrmalodor says:

    Commendable. I have a reason to go back to WoP again. He’ll, maybe I’ll give the hated WoT another chance too.

  8. Gurrah says:

    … I didn’t mind premium ammunition when it was just available to purchase with gold. It was hardly ever used in public games, but since they made it available to purchase with ingame cash the entire game has lost its balance. Especially on higher tiers there’s no point in angling anymore because the top tier cannons can more or less penetrate everything anywhere with premium loaded. It’s a shame really because I’ve had a blast with the game these last 2,5 years but I hardly ever play it nowadays.

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      Upcoming (8.6) update made those shells more expensive and less efficient overall… of course that doesn’t remove the problem of encountering someone the occasional good player with a lot of cash or credits who just wants to have a good time and loaded all gold ammo, prematurely ending your tank’s life and your fun.

      8.6 also increases credits income from high-tier tanks btw, making those slightly more accessible without a premium account.

  9. aleksei says:

    Guys, Wargamming is not the Russian behemoth, is Belarusian behemoth. It’s based in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Nothing in common with Russian country. Shame on you. ;)

  10. merc-ai says:

    I’ve always held WoT as a standard on how f2p games should be, because it felt fair and NOT a pay-to-win, compared to pretty much any other f2p I’ve tried.
    Then again, I stopped leveling up by tank tier ~5 or 6, bought myself several nice tanks with in-game currency and just played the game for fun. I can assume the latter part of game plus endgame are\were very grinding-based and therefore are pay-to-win.

  11. Fazer says:

    So now instead of “pay to win” we’ll get “grind to win”. Why would someone who spends more time in the game, independently of his skill, receive artificial advantage over a new player? That is still miles away from a level playing field.

    • Ajsman says:

      Well you cant have it all, can you. Because what you are asking for is a free game, period.

      • Hunchback says:

        You mean Team Fortress 2?

      • Fazer says:

        Clearly, you haven’t seen how Dota 2 solved F2P by selling only items not affecting gameplay: cosmetics, announcers, tournament tickets, HUDs. There is no levelling*, grinding or buying advantages, everyone has equal chances at the start of the match. The only thing that will make a difference are players’ real life skills.

        *To be clear, there is one, but getting levels only gives more cosmetics.

        • Shezo says:

          But that’s Valve, their sheer amount of players, finances and overall scalability due to tons of players, allows them to maintain this kind of system.
          Same goes for LoL, i suppose.
          Not every company can do this.

          • Fazer says:

            I knew this argument would pop out. People always say “You can’t make RTS unless you’re Blizzard, you can’t give stuff away unless you’re Valve.” They don’t realize these companies are where they are today because they made the right decisions along the way – decisions to build great products, gather the communities around them and treat them well.

            LoL and WoT are both fun to play and free, that’s why they managed to get high player counts. Now you would say these companies wouldn’t make a profit if they didn’t sell “golden bullets”. I’ll reply if you create great items that people desire, they will buy it.

            Look at Path of Exile – an independent studio game that already has over 2 million players and received over 2.2 mln $ during closed beta alone. Its business model is not pay to win, you can only buy cosmetics, slots for stash and for characters. The default size limits are enough for normal playthroughs.

            As for Dota 2, a great example would be Bastion announcer, adding unprecedented level of atmosphere with his voice. Another is a compendium for The International 2013 tournament that lets you increase its prize pool, follow the matches, bid for various statistics, gives your team members bonus XP (for cosmetics) and a couple of exlusive items. There is no forcing to buy them to equalize chances in winning, instead they rely purely on the quality.

            I know I’m in the set of players that would play mentioned F2P games if they were fair and offered quality bonus items. I don’t think they would lose players due to equalization of chances. Would they lose profit? Maybe, but the overall community would be healthier and would drive itself into supporting the developer that treated them properly.

        • Ajsman says:

          I love how they do things and I play almost all of their games, including Dota 2 and TF2. But as Shazo pointed it out, Valve is something different. In the end their main goal is to get people using Steam. Because Steam is by far their main source of income. Not the video games they make.

          So even if you never bought anything in Dota 2 or TF2 store but you got hooked just on Steam Sales, you still made them a profit. And only someone big as EA or Ubisoft can really compare to Valve and try to do the same thing.

          While most other studios don’t have a giant online store to make them money and keep them in business. Games they make have to be profitable. So they force the players to invest ether time or money in their games. That way the people who value their time over their money cover the costs of development by paying for things. And as long as you cant buy power only with money it is a fair trade.

          • derbefrier says:

            except we are starting to see that premise is entirely false. Path of Exile being the prime example of a small studio no one ever heard of that made a F2P ARPG that offers no advantage what so ever with any of their microtransactions yet has raised as someone said above millions of dollars already and its not even out of beta. We need to quit excusing this type of freemium model as if its the only way for a company to survive becasue its been proven entirely false.

    • Pheasant Plucker says:

      Agreed Fazer. I actually don’t mind people paying a bit if they want to. Those people probably have jobs that prevent them grinding a game all day so it’s their way of leveling the playing field.

      Losing to someone who allegedly has an advantage by paying for some better gear, is no different to losing to someone who has another advantage in that they are able to grind for hours on end for better gear.

  12. BrightCandle says:

    WoT has always been one of the few Pay to Win games. The grand majority of the free to play games have the ability to grind out gear rather than pay for it or are based purely on cosmetics. Its nice that they have reformed their ways, but to also call on the industry to also change its ways is a little ironic considering how most of their competitors are not pay to win and that WoT was one of the few games that clearly was.

  13. Malikian says:

    In my opinion WoT is standing somwhere in the borderline of the Pay2Win games. Since you can buy premium ammo for ingame currency it became more ballanced. Until I reached tier 5 it was a pain in the ass, but now I have plenty of fun without shooting my hard earned cash out of the barell. I would say premshell makes things easier, but if you are not carefull you will be masacred in no time, premshell or not.

    This anouncmet is plain marketing from their part. They wont have to work a lot to make these changes.

    However they probably should pay more attention on their Matchmakeing wich sucks hard. What they are doing with light tanks is most times simply BS, and i think they loose many newcomers because of those 100% crew Tier I premium assholes :)

  14. Kerbal_Rocketry says:

    WoT tanks is mixed. On one hand the Premium shells are completely OP, on the other the Primium tanks are fine if balanced, which compared to some non-premium tanks they are. [Insert rant about how Russain tanks are OP and British tanks need a buff].

  15. Vagrant says:

    This is annoyingly ambiguous. What are the changing? You can already buy gold ammo with regular credits, but you will often lose more money than you earned if you’re using it.

    • Smoof says:

      Russian tanks are not even remotely OP; hell, they’re not even viable as Clan Wars vehicles most of the time. The only viable Russian vehicles for CW are the medium, T-62a, Obj 261 and occasionally the IS-4, when you need a tank that can soak damage.

      By and large, the main “OP” tanks which are regularly used in Clan Wars and outclass Russians are anything with an autoloader and the E5.

      British tanks are largely worthless and unused.

      • MellowKrogoth says:

        Clan play and tank companies sounded exciting to me until I realized they only use a handful of “efficient” tanks. Yay, lvl 8 tank company with all IS-3s. I bet they all copy strategies from each other and that only a few people actually experiment with innovative strategies and tank mixes.

  16. Nick says:

    They should just delete gold ammo from the game entirely, destroys balance.

    • Shinikake says:

      What balance? You need to have it first before it can be destroyed…

  17. tigershuffle says:

    War Thunder wins hands down………

    as for WoTanks….I was in the beta early on and was helping to make all the lovely community skins and historical gun sight reticles.

    WG then realised they could make money selling poor quality stuff and shafted its own community imho
    Early on we were promised historical matches………so you could have clans actually having battles with tanks of one particular country, but they made it soo difficult to set up what was the point……..

    They created a huge user base and revenue and bringing a fun game to the masses – brilliant acheivement
    just not what I selfishly wanted and tried in vain with others to fashion …..ho hum