E3 2013: Gameplay and open beta details for World of Tanks, the free Xbox 360 MMO

Microsoft has historically been less than enthusiastic towards free-to-play Xbox 360 games.  They did allow Japanese developer Toylogic to release Happy Wars (a 15-vs-15 multiplayer action game) last year. But here we are one year later and  hardly any free-to-play games have followed it. And yet things are starting to change...

During Microsoft’s E3 Media Briefing, the publisher revealed that popular PC Massively Multiplayer Online game (MMO) World of Tanks would receive an exclusive console version called World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition. Console gamers could be forgiven for not knowing this, but Wargaming.net’s World of Tanks is actually one of the largest and most popular MMOs in the world. The 360 port just might prove to be a big deal.

This week we sat down with Microsoft and Wargaming to learn the ins and outs of World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition and then shot a video with Associate Producer Olga Zinoveva as she played a multiplayer match on the E3 2013 show floor. Watch it after the break!

Tank on tank violence

Another little known fact: much like cats in the wild, tanks don’t like other tanks. Wargaming has captured this intrinsic conflict in a game of multiplayer tank battles. Two teams of tanks enter an map and battle to either complete objectives or destroy all of the other side’s tanks. Objectives vary by game type and can include capturing the enemy flag, taking over the enemy base, or capturing a neutral base before the opposing team.

World of Tanks is a strategic and deliberate game. Tanks move realistically across varying types of terrain and can even run over trees (though the loss of cover can make a tank easier to spot for the enemy). The various tank types have different movement and firing speeds, but generally it takes several seconds to reload between each shot. Getting the jump on another player from a distance, strafing to avoid his or her firing range, and/or ganging up on enemies as a team are all important aspects of combat.

One interesting aspect of the gameplay is that tanks that die during a match can’t be used again until the entire match ends (up to 15 minutes). If you bite the bullet, you can choose to stay and watch the results or return to your garage. Players can actually build their own fleet of tanks, so when one tank is out of commission they can just switch to another and find a new game. The defeated tank will still receive rewards after the match ends.

Tank types

Even though World of Tanks is more approachable than a full-on simulator, its tank designs are certified to be as historically accurate as possible. Players can pilot hundreds of different tanks used by the Soviets, Americans, British, French, Germans, and Chinese (hate to think of what China uses tanks for) during times ranging from WWI through the 1950s. Wargaming plans to add tanks from more nations and new game types in the future.

Tanks come in five types:

  • Light: Fast but with very little armor and firepower, light tanks act as spotters for the team. Once enemies are spotted, the rest of the team can see their positions for a brief time.
  • Medium: General purpose vehicles that can hunt down light tanks or act as support for heavies.
  • Heavy: Strongly equipped and well armored, heavy tanks aim and move much slower than light and medium types.
  • Tank Destroyer: These act as snipers thanks to their strong and extremely long range guns. Weakly armored in the back, they are vulnerable to sneak attacks.
  • Artillery (Self-Propelled Gun): SPGs have the longest range and their shots rain down on targets from above. Their armor is just as weak as light tanks though.

Free to play, not pay to win

Win or lose, players earn credits during matches. These credits can then be spent to unlock many, many new vehicles and upgrades. Tanks come in different tiers, so you’ll have to work your way up before you can get some of them.

Being a free to play game, World of Tanks also allows players to make In-App Purchases with real money. As far as tank purchases go, you can use IAPs to buy high tier tanks and equipment early. Bundles will offer groups of equipment at a discount. Other IAPs include double XP time and various boosts.

All that said, Wargaming is adamant that IAPs don’t give players significant advantages over others. The most important weapons and items have to be earned through gameplay, not bought with money money. I haven’t played the PC version just yet, but I doubt it would be so popular worldwide if it just let players buy their way to the top.

From small screen to large

Xbox 360 Edition comes from Wargaming West, a developer formerly known as Day 1 Studios. You might remember them as the studio who created Mech Assault on the original Xbox. When development started in secret back in March 2012, the team faced two chief adaptation obstacles…

First, console gamers play while sitting much farther from the screen than the PC master race. To make sure everything is readable for couch-bound players, Wargaming adjusted various UI elements. Tank stats are represented by meters instead of numbers on Xbox 360, for instance. That said, I still found some of the text slightly too small as we watched the presentation. An option to toggle between different sizes would help.

Second, the controls needed rethinking in the transition from mouse and keyboard to control pad. Microsoft’s playability lab proved instrumental in achieving natural and efficient controls. One cool new addition is a set of messaging shortcuts. Holding the Left Bumper button brings up a menu of six phrases such as “Attack!” and “Affirmative.” By using these shortcuts, people who play without a headset will be somewhat less useless to the team.

Free to play games and MMOs thrive in part thanks to their frequent updates and additions of new content. Xbox Live is not exactly known for being friendly towards repeated title updates. However, Microsoft sometimes grants eased updating restrictions to specific titles. Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition and Happy Wars both come to mind. World of Tanks gets the same privilege. It won’t be updated quite as frequently as the PC game, but will still get plenty of fresh content as time goes on. Wargaming plans to have double XP weekends and other special promotions as well.

Beta coming soon!

World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition will launch sometime later this year. Wargaming couldn’t say whether an Xbox One Edition would follow, but let’s hope so. The Xbox 360 game will be free to all Xbox Gold members while Silver members get a seven day trial. Free games like this should prove an attractive incentive to pick up a Gold membership – keep them coming, Microsoft!

The Xbox 360 Edition of World of Tanks will have an open beta for residents of the US and Canada soon. You can sign up today by going to WT360E.com. We’ll see you on the battlefield!

Paul Acevedo

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  • What about XBOX One? :o
  • Addressed within the article, my fast commenting friend. :)
  • Haha, thanks :D Fast reply from you, too :)
    But I remember reading a listing about all E3 2013 games, which listed that World of Tanks was already confirmed for X1? I'll check that though, and pass the link for ya soon.
    (btw, sorry for my bad english :D)
  • Found the list, but it doesn't even have World of Tanks (has every else game though)... Guess I need some sleep, it's 3am here at Finland.....
  • Happens to me too sometimes.
  • XBox One? What about them smokin babes on that tank?
  • Tank? what tank.....
  • Girl with tank top tanking on the tank. I think he is talking about expo pics.
  • What if one of those pretty little girlies slipped off that big scarry tank and busted her sweet little head open?.. That would be sad.
  • Sorry for OT, but has anyone else the problem that the notifications and especially the lock screen counter aren't working correctly?
  • That is beyond off topic. Something like that belongs in the Forums. Try there and keep comments on posts on topic. 
  • Looking forward to this, signed up for the beta Also Paul, don't forget  that Killer Instinct will be F2P as well, albeit only with Jago to start.
  • True! KI is only coming to Xbox One though, isn't it? And boy, I wonder how well that weird F2P approach (essentially a demo) will go over with the masses.
  • Not a demo at all. Free to play everything except the characters. And you just buy the character you want instead of paying 60$ for a fighting game that comes with every character, but you only use one.
  • Yah,  and they said that a seasons pass will be available if people want all the characters as they come up, and there will be a seasons pass plus, with some sort of bonus content. As long as the seasons pass with all the characters are $60 or less then no one is being ripped off like some of the other freemium models. If it is cheaper then thats great :). The only way I see it being a huge issue with people if all the characters are more than $60. People will probably be skeptical at first because of experiences with other F2P games that are just loaded in microtransactions and are essentially like you said just Pay 2 Win. And yes, I believe KI is only on Xbox One. 
  • That still sounds a lot like a single-player/multiplayer demo to me, unless there's some wealth of game modes to use that one character in. But MS wasn't giving presentations on KI at E3 so I'm not super well informed on it. Buying characters individually could be a great value for people who only play one or two characters. Me, I would have to have them all for a better local multiplayer experience.
  • No EU or UK beta? :(
  • Crash Course 2 is f2p that came out after Happy Wars. Few more f2p games planned as well.
  • We don't consider all free games to be free to play... It's a specific business model involving getting users to make repeated IAPs over time. In fact, Microsoft listed Happy Wars and Karaoke (which I don't count myself) as the only other free to play 360 games during our meeting.
  • Strange that they didn't mention Crash Course 2 in the meeting. I wouldn't count the 1st one as f2p, but CC2 is f2p. You have to unlock levels/powerups using ingame currency from playing or you can buy the ingame currency with Microsoft Points to save time.
  • You got me there. I was just going by what the presenters said as I'm not much familiar with Crash Course 2.
  • Enough with the E3 news already!! Why don't you guys get closeup shots of the girls?!?!... Lol!
  • Sweet, just signed up for the beta, thanks
  • Know nothing of this game but tanks are cool so I'm in.
  • Its not even a real tank. Its made of celery, cheese, and waffles.. Those girls are just blowup dolls. And the background is painted canvas.. They just don't make cheese wiz like they used to, and the other day I had to take a train to my closet to get a fresh pair of socks.. Anyways, its 2am and the suns coming out, so its time for me to go sleep upside down on my ceiling.. I can't wait to try this game..
  • But do the ladies come with the
  • " people who play without a headset will be somewhat less useless to the team"
  • Really looking forward to this.
  • Seems nice enough. I'll give it a try! :)
  • Good article overall, but I want to correct a major point: World of Tanks isn't actually free-to-play, though it cleverly masks that fact.
    First things first: the statement "I doubt it would be so popular worldwide if it just let players buy their way to the top." might be true, but that doesn't mean a game is F2P. F2P means that you don't get any gameplay advantages by paying real money, you only get cosmetic stuff or, at best, convenience purchases (such as extra mastery pages on League of Legends).
    In World of Tanks you cannot indeed buy better tanks with real money, but you can buy better ammunition with real money. This "gold ammo" makes a huge difference. For example, typically, two heavy tanks that go head-to-head will have problems penetrating each other's front armor with normal ammo, but will be able to do so with gold ammo. Therefore if I have gold ammo and you don't, I can stay back near my team hitting your front armor, whereas you'd have to circle around me, go into the middle of my team, to hit my side or back armor.
    This is aggravated by the fact that, at higher levels, you need a win percentage higher than 50% just to keep a top-tier tank repaired and buy its ammo after spending it. So, if you don't buy gold ammo, not only will you have a gameplay disadvantage, you will also have to grind lower level matches where profit can be made even if you lose games consistently.
    Most players don't mention this fact simply because they never played enough to reach the higher levels.
    I don't want to give the wrong impression here -- WoT is a fun game, a FPS with much less emphasis on quick reflexes and much more on thinking and teamplay. And it's free, so it costs zero to try it out. Just don't forget that it's a cleverly disguised pay2win model.
  • I play fine without resorting to gold ammo, however the model has changed recently in that gold ammo can usually be purchased by credits so even that aspect has changed. Where I do agree is that on the higher tiers typically tier 8 and above it can become a chore to keep the credits rolling in and a 50% win ratio is probably a fair reflection although I have not figured it out.
    I did purchase a premium tank in the early days a T34 which I do use to build up credits as the credits bonus is about 30% and the repairs a lower but I could and my son does proceed without this it just becomes much slower. Most folks are inpatient so the temptation to buy you way up a tier or two is strong and this is the clever part of the model.
    Also the premium account which you find on the PC model also makes a big difference and certainly most people who reach tier 8 and above have all made the commitment to premium accounts. However by that time most people have decided that WOT is worth playing and I think most people understand that free is never really free and somebody has to pay along the way.
  • Thanks for the extra info! I disagree about your definition of free to play; World of Tanks easily falls within WIkipedia's definition of the term.
  • It may well be a FTP model but the fact is I have spent more money of WOT than I have ever spent on COD. That said technically it is possible to play without spending money but the model is cleverly crafted that to proceed with pace you need gold and gold needs hard cash to obtain.
    However it is not a Pay2Win model you can win fine without spending a dime you just will progress slowly. I for example have purchased Gold tanks and I use the Gold to unlock the XP that gets locked into Elite tanks and it is the locked XP that is the clever part of the model and certainly on the PC it is the reason I spend cash. However that said I am far more happy spending the money on this model within WOT than I am on buying countless map pack add ons.
    Horses for Courses as they say.
  • I mean, it's cool as a diversion and all but I kind of prefer to play my AAA titles and I'd rather pay for them. *shrug* That may just be me, I actually like Happy War but given the choice between playing that or Metro Last Light I pick the latter.
  • How many AAA tank combat games do you know of? The delivery method isn't important. It's the concept of the game and how it plays. IMO indie and more offbeat games can be much more interesting than the sci-fi and military shooters that dominate the AAA landscape. Not that I avoid AAA, but I find a good mix is the way to go.