World of Tanks. It’s in the name, really. Wargaming's free-to-play behemoth is exactly what you'd assume; a whole world devoted to tanks and the things they can destroy. (That'd be other tanks and parts of the scenery in case you were about to ask.) The game's title makes it sound incredibly niche – something for obsessive tank aficionados rather than general shooter fans – but that's far from the case. If you caught any of the recent Wargaming.net League Grand Finals in Poland you'll know how easy it is to pick up what's going on and how quickly tactical ambling can give way to surges of explosive action.
Still not convinced? Here are World of Tanks' vital eSports statistics that’ll change your mind and get you hooked.
There's gold in them thar tanks
The prize pool for the Wargaming.net League Grand Finals came in at $300,000. While still modest in relation to League of Legends, whose Season 3 World Championships prize pool nudged over the $2 million mark and Dota 2's The International which offered upwards of $2.8 million, it's still one of the largest prize pools in the world of eSports – joint eleventh place with the Halo 4 Global Championship, in fact.
The matches themselves
You can pick up a lot of tips which will help you improve as a player by watching the pros, as well as listening to the match analysis after the event, but one of our favourite parts of any eSport is watching a team or player flawlessly execute a plan. Tank tactics can be fascinating and watching experts positioning their vehicles around the map has a peculiarly balletic appeal. Then there are the frantic hunts for a single remaining tank as it hides in a building hoping to take the match to a draw, or sudden surges of activity as the timer ticks down past the two minutes remaining mark. It’s a change of pace to the flash bang light speed action of a MOBA, but every bit as cerebral.
The playerbase is already huge
As of April 2014 there were 80 million registered players on Wargaming's tank-shaped books. Early in 2014 the game also broke its own record for concurrent players. Over 1.1 million were online at the same time on the Russian server cluster in January. Finding fellow armchair experts to indulge in pro-tank strat chat (try saying that one quickly) should be a breeze.
It's only getting bigger
In 2012 around 30,000 pro players took part in 120 tournaments. 2013 had 200,000 players competing in more than 1,000 tournaments. As for the recent Grand Finals? According to Wargaming CEO Viktor Kislyi, they were the culmination of a number of events involving 40,000 teams. That's more than 300,000 players overall.
In fact, the surge of interest in World of Tanks as an eSport meant that Wargaming invested around $8 million in developing its eSports strategy in 2013. The results were encouraging enough that the company upped that budget to $10 million for 2014. Speaking to Gamesindustry.biz, Kislyi explained the work of the dedicated eSports team, saying that the demand for World of Tanks to be developed as an eSport came from the fans rather than from Wargaming.
“They take care not only about game features to cater to spectators, but also about the physical organisation of the tournaments. In the beginning, it was not so much us who wanted to introduce World of Tanks to eSports, it was the players themselves who wanted to be more competitive.”