Other experiments are not faring as well. The company launched World of Warplanes last fall and it hasn't seen the meteoric success that its predecessor had. "I have to be honest with you," Kislyi said. "The reality is that when you compare the numbers, Warplanes is on the same level as Tanks when we launched 4 and a half years ago. But when you look at it compared to WoT now, it is like this." Kislyi put his right hand high up in the air with his left on the ground. In other words, Warplanes might be crashing and burning, but he has a few ideas as to why that might be.
"The plane dogfighting mechanic is much more difficult than a tank, which feels like a car. The 3D environment is not something evolution made man for," he said. And while there have always been flight simulators in video games, he doesn't think World of Warplanes has that same immediate appeal that Tanks did. That could account for the low population right now.
World of Warships might have the same problem, although with different details. "Historically, [ship] battles were really long and boring," Kislyi said. "And we have to stick it into ten minutes of gameplay, fifteen max."
The good thing is that Wargaming can wait. It's making enough revenue from its one big hit that it can invest in buying up studios and iterating on World of Warships without having to worry about product cycles and next-generation speak. "We don't have to launch at Christmas," Kislyi said. "There's no [stock] share price or board that affects our decisions." He won't release the game until it is ready.
We've heard that mantra from game publishers before but when Kislyi says it I believe him. Perhaps it's because he was nursing a terrible hangover from the party his company threw the night before, but Kislyi has an air of earnestness about him. He wants you to love his games as much as he does. "We play all of our games," he told me. "I have more than 13,000 battles logged in World of Tanks."
Being successful in the free to play business model isn't easy. Kislyi told me that 75% of the people who download World of Tanks will never ever spend money in the store. But that doesn't really matter to him because all he wants to do is make something in which people just want to spend their time. Wargaming might now have more than 3,000 employees and studios on 4 continents, but at its heart, well, in Kislyi's heart anyway, is a passion to make engaging, competitive and sometimes beautiful games that people just want to play over and over again.
And that's no curse at all.