World of Warships Developer Talks About the Past, Present, and Future of the Game [Interview]

GR: You said you were never going to do submarines. What changed your minds?

Nikolaev: We realized that we needed more historical content to mix it with some less historically significant ships. [Within our ship production pipeline, we already have future plans for what we believe to be all major naval nations. However, these plans have not all been released yet. The bottom line: we will have all major nations soon, but not right now.]

We didn’t know World of Warships would be so successful. At the beginning, when Warships was introduced, a lot of people internally thought that we might face the same destiny as World of Warplanes. Like we will be released, stick around for a year or two, and then be very small. But this didn’t happen. We sustained a stable audience. Even in North America, we grew after our Steam launch. Because of that, we needed to plan further ahead.

We don’t like the scenario in which we finish releasing French nation ships then we will do Italian and that’s it. After that, what else do we do? All the ships we would introduce are already much less historically significant than the ships we already have like Bismarck or Belfast.

[This also lacks proper context. What is meant is that we believe in telling people about the history and engineering marvel of naval combat in the XX century, inside as well as outside of our game. This is easier achieved based on ships that really existed, so adding subs will allow us to do that for longer, as well as cater to a part of naval warfare we’d left so far untouched.]

We want to plan ahead and have an endless pipeline. So in order to extend this pipeline of historical content, we need to have another class. With submarines, we are already confident that we will have plenty of content for years.

GR: Submarines seem like they’ll change the game a lot. It’s a big thing to put in there.

Nikolaev: Yes. The submarines will literally add depth to the gameplay so it’ll be less two-dimensional. Initially, when we released Warships, people were saying it was just Tanks in water. Ships are very different in some positive ways and in some negative ways. One of the positive [he originally said “negative” here] ways about Warships is that, unlike tanks, they do have three dimensions.

world of warships

GR: World of Warplanes wasn’t as successful as Tanks or Warships. Why do you think this base has stuck with this game for so long?

Nikolaev: I think I’ll answer why Warplanes wasn’t successful. Aside from a lot of technical difficulties that we had, the biggest issue was that warplanes were just not fun to play. Even our competitor, Warthunder, is not as big as Warships. It’s very difficult to play in three dimensions. But at least in World of Tanks and Warships, the gameplay is very slow. Warplanes is very fast.

Another problem is that warplanes are very far from each other. On the screen, you see them as little mosquitos. You shoot at this little flying pixel and you don’t have fun when you destroy it. In Warships or Tanks, you shoot it and you physically feel the explosion and you get satisfaction. With Warplanes, it’s not like that because it is very hard and fast with a very high learning curve.

GR: So since it has been three years, where you do see the future of World of Warships going?

Nikolaev: Right now we want to fix the gap between classes by reworking carriers, as well as introduce submarines. We want them to be all equally interesting to play and popular so the gameplay should be more diverse and replayable. So that is the core problem we want to fix now.

Next, we want this game to have a competitive element. We want to build a spectator mode and develop the competitive aspect because we already had some grassroot tournaments. They were casted on Twitch and players loved them. So there is potential for that.

Originally, even World of Tanks was developed in esports in mind. We wanted to make a similar game as a Counter Strike but with tanks. Same with World of Warships.

[This phrasing is too final—it’s definitely true that both Tanks and Ships were always being developed around a core PvP gameplay experience, which in this type of game is competitive by nature. Even though, it was never meant to be an esports game, though we would certainly love it to eventually be seen as an esport game. We will certainly commit resources that support the development of competitive play and competitive communities, but we also believe evolving the game into a sport will not happen through our decisions, but through the continued growth of a community who wants to play the game at that level.]

We want to cater to casual and competitive players. We want to cater to console players who don’t usually play on PC to mobile gamers because it eventually feeds into the main title as well.

As for us, Wargaming in Russia is a very unique business case. Here in the United States, you have many successful video game companies. Not in Russia. For us, it’s national pride. It’s our video game developer that gained global success and became capable of publishing itself without any support or backing by investment banking from big experienced publisher. We were able to build this by ourselves. We are all curious about where we will end up and what will be next.

[Despite directly transcribing what Nikolaev said, there were a few times where he misspoke and/or wanted to add more context to what he said after the interview went live. To maintain full transparency, we have left the original interview as is but have added in more context in italics.]