Two weeks ago, Wargaming held its first World of Tanks Grand Finals competition in Warsaw, Poland. Esports is a new venture for the company, so we sat down to talk about it with Wargaming's Director of Esports North American and Europe, Mohammed Fadl.
Examiner: During the press conference you mentioned Wargaming's new partnership program. How will that function exactly?
MF: We're kicking it off this year. We looked to the community and a lot of small developers who create a lot of things which we can't create no matter how hard we try. We have millions of people out there and they have crazy-good minds. We learned that if you trust the community, if you give them a system they can work in, a playground, they create things which are stunning. We thought, 'how can we bring this passion into our universe?' The idea is to use the full potential of the community, not to limit ourselves to our own vision. If you listen to the community and you're honest with each other—I mean, I can't bring you a unicorn, but I can bring you my ears and my open mind.
We have to create something that benefits the whole gaming industry. Ask me next year what's happened with it. For right now it's the kick-off, it's a beautiful dream.
Examiner: There was mention that Wargaming would be sponsoring professional players. What's that all about?
MF: We're contracting certain players and key community members to sit down with them and get feedback. Honestly, the customer has an idea what they want entertainment-wise. Now it's time for all of us to listen. We have to take their feedback very, very seriously.
Examiner: Do you say World of Tanks changing to accommodate e-sports? Or what about World of Tanks Blitz? Could that ever become part of the e-sports initiative?
MF: I would never say no. I'd be stupid to say no because everything's possible. I would love to expand the e-sports universe overall. That could mean possible new game modes, adjustments, sure.
Examiner: World of Tanks is skewed thus far toward Europe and Asia. How hard has it been to crack the U.S.?
MF: Yes, it's very different than Europe. It's very focused on the entertainment factor. Shiny, massive big things. There are certain expectations of quality among e-sports watchers that we have to do to fit their profile of being e-sports. There's a different kind of audience we're bringing to the gaming universe. There are games out there now that are touching people that were never touched by games before. Never. People in their 50's and 60's are playing it. We just have to present this game that we love in just the right light and it will be just the beginning.
Examiner: How do you know World of Tanks e-sports have brought new players to the game?
MF: We can see a growth in participation in e-sports tournaments. We saw the first year in some regions 40 teams. A year later, 1,000 teams. We had a massive growth.
Examiner: Any projections on how many spectators might be coming to view the Grand Finals?
MF: I can't give you a number but the community has again showed us that they want this right now.
Examiner: Do you have a favorite team? A certain team you hope wins the Grand Finals?
MF: Let me say it like this. All of the teams are champions. All of them. I would love to see one of the underdogs. We've seen some teams winning we didn't expect and we see people going crazy - this is what we do this for. Six months of work is worth it for this one moment.
Examiner: What's been the hardest thing about starting up an e-sports division?
MF: The hardest things is to reach expectations. Players put us where we are. They made us who we are we have to return and give back what they expect and that's massive pressure. A passion, a love, a dedication to give back the highest level of quality so we can say, “This is for you—you asked for this.”
For more information about World of Tanks, visit the game's official website.
For more information about Wargaming's e-sports league, visit the WGL web page.