Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Trying Out The 'Free' in FTP World Of Tanks

In my last World of Tanks post I stated that I was dropping my premium account. Besides the excitment of 'slumming it' (much like the time I took the train to Livingston, Scotland, just for the craic and almost ended up buying real crack) I was protesting Wargamming.net's blatant cash grabs. I was also frustrated with the game's payment model which I felt held me back from truly enjoying the game on my own terms. I felt as though Wargamming.net was holding my fun hostage.

So I needed a break- I'd free myself from the shackles of the grind. I bought and/or maxed out every tank I was interested in and dropped the premium. I was free! FREE! The result?

I learned two things from playing with a standard (free account):

1. I didn't like it.
2. You can still Rock in America.

Okay, that isnt' actually true. Not #2 as I'm sure you can still rock in America- or at least you could the last time I lived there in 2003. It's not that I didn't like playing World of Tanks anymore, it's just that I felt like my play options were restricted and you could argue rightfully so. If you're playing for free the company has to create incentives for you to pay. It's a simple matter of economic survival.

In any case I did play for free for a couple weeks, and I did have fun. I focused on the lower tiers with a few high-tier battles thrown in. These higher tier battles were few, however, as the credits lost when you lose (and often with a win) was too much to take. I used my T-59 Premium tanks to make up the losses but it started to feel like a game of accounting instead of a pvp game about tanks. I started to feel somewhat frustrated that I couldn't just play my IS-4, or my E50 whenever I wanted, without worry. I felt like I was missing out.

At the end of January Wargaming.net announced a week long special with a lot of tier 5 tanks, and all equipment half off. Note that this involved in-game money, not real money or gold. I felt that this was a good special, unlike a few of the previous ones, and decided to put my money where my mouth was, and 'reward them' for taking the community's wishes into account (well, at least the NA community as the EU community got a shitty, gold-focused special at that time which enraged them to no end ). I put $30 dollars worth of gold into my account to expand my garage so I could buy some of these half-priced tanks. I had wanted to try a few of them for a while. My garage now holds 35 tanks....and its full!

I also thought that I would 're-sub' so I could play my dusty high-tier tanks, train some crews for the new tanks quicker, and re-stock my dwindling supply of silver (as premium earns more credits per match). I have to say that I am a bit disappointed with my re-sub. Part of that is my fault. It's not a big deal- it's $10 bucks- so I'm not stressing. I'm glad I spent the money overall, but I can't help but come back to my original point in that the pricing model is problematic and that it will hurt the player base (and eventually the game) in the long run. I don't want to be overly negative (lest I get hit with a Hammer) but the same thoughts and feelings keep coming up every time I play my higher tier tanks and few of them are positive.

Here's my point. I was playing the game for free because it's fun and I enjoy it. Score one for the developers. I ran in to some roadblocks in the enjoyment of the 'end game' or felt I was unable to progress without spending some money. Score two for the developers. I bought a premium account and played my high tier tanks, but it did not result in any more fun. Score one for no-one. This doesn't make me happy, so I'm not the winner here. It means I'm less likely to pay again which doesn't make the developer happy. It's a lose-lose.

The problem, overall, is that the higher tier tanks aren't any more fun than the lower tier tanks and they are financially (in terms of in-game currency) not feasible. There are entire threads about 'how to play for free' and use high tier tanks, but what's the point? I've played several games in my IS-4, and E50, with premium, where I lose credits. Other than 'wanting to try' some of the high tier tanks, and the 'my gun is bigger than your gun' e-peen motivation why would I continue to stress about high tier tanks while paying to play them?

The answer, ultimately, is I won't. This doesn't mean I won't pay again, but the premium model, as it stands, doesn't suit me. I drive the IS-4 because it's big, it's heavy, and I feel powerful when I play it. I can drive the Tier II 'Mini-Maus' or the Tier V KV and have the same experience with more kills and no worries about cash. Incentive to sub= none.

I will continue to play (and subject you to posts about it) and will, on occasion pay. I like a lot of the low-tier, cheap ($5) premium tanks and enjoy playing a variety of them so I will 'collect' them as I go. I will also, on occasion, use free experience (which costs real money) to unlock tanks and equipment. I know I will continue to feel the urge to play higher tier tanks and the fact that I can't do so, on my own terms, even while paying is a major failing of the game in my opinion.

Wargaming.net has got a lot of things right, don't get me wrong. 5300 battles in 600+ hours (over two weeks my WoT dossier tool tells me) of game-play surely proves this. My future posts, then, will focus on the game itself (tanks, maps and perhaps strategies) as I think I've made my point (ad naseum) about the pricing model and until something changes....well, it'll stay the same, wont it?


  1. Gank, don't want to hijack your blog, but its a fun topic for me and its nice to have a discussion about it with someone who has a different opinion and can actually express themselves. I've commented a couple times with why I disagree with you superficially so no need to revisit that, what I'd like to see is where you are on a couple questions:

    1) What pricing model would you prefer?
    2) If we're not talking about traditional subscription models, how would you tune the pricing structure? i.e. are you tuning this so that anyone can log-in with a premium account, contribute nothing to a battle, and make a sustainable credit/exp income so that they can research/buy whatever they want with minimal involvement?
    3) You're also a fan of hardcore RPG sandboxes like Wurms (and I've really enjoyed following those adventures). Is it purely that WoT is primarily an FPS/RPG lite that people seem to vocally resent any "grind". Given a sandbox title, the amount of progress you can make in WoT over the same time period seems pretty good compared to what you could do in Eve, or Wurms, or Darkfall.
    4) Is there some level of "progress" that you expect or would prefer to see for premium members? Just trying to quantify the scale/system that you would implement.

    I'm in the midst of "grinding" up 6.1M credits to buy my first tier 10 the T30 so I've been playing pretty exclusively tiers 5-7 as those are my primary credit earners. Statistically I'm a pretty average player and I'm doing well enough with the mid tiers that I'm steadily earning credits and I'll probably have my T30 money within a few weeks. Especially with the upcoming US tank tree changes, I personally feel like wargaming has been pretty generous and I'm excited to see how I do with the free T34 premium I'm going to be getting. If it earns anything like the 59 or Lowe, I have a feeling I'll be set for the rest of the game.

  2. Hey Stormtrail,

    You're not 'hijacking' anything! I enjoy the debate as well. I'm going to turn this into a post in the next couple days. Need some time to formulate a good answer as I've been thinking about alternative pricing models.

    Grats on the upcoming T30!