World of Tanks (WoT) is a game that I had dismissed a couple years back, based on hearing from other players and Tobold the blogger that it was a P2W (pay-to-win) game. As it turns out, it’s a shame I hadn’t tried WoT earlier – it’s a fantastic game.
As a new player, I was very curious to see whether a new player could be reasonably competitive without spending any money. Therefore, I did not subscribe with a Premium account ($15 USD per month) and I did not buy any in-game gold.
After playing 775 battles up through Tier 5, here’s my take:
- Gold ammo, which you buy with real money, definitely gives a huge advantage. Gold ammo will penetrate (i.e. punch through armor to deal damage) almost any target you’ll face. However…
- Individual player skill matters more than anything. No amount of gold ammo or having a Premium account will enable a player to aim effectively, understand how to counter opponents, and work effectively with other players. WoT is a very high “skill cap” game
There are a few things you should I should mention, to contextualize my experience as a WoT noob:
- Prior to playing the game, I had not read up on the game (e.g. I didn’t read the excellent Wiki, any guides, etc). The only thing I watched was a video by SideStrafe, which got me interested in the game in the first place
- I have not played a PC-based FPS (first person shooter) since Quake, back before 2000. So I’m not an experienced shooter
- Over 80% of my matches to date have been as a solo player, not as part of a platoon (premade group)
So I basically went into WoT cold, without any meaningful knowledge about how the game worked, without much experience with shooters, and playing on my own.
Gaining experience without Premium is a slow process, and this in turn impacts the rate at which one can research / upgrade / level up tanks and crews. So without Premium you extend your window of being “undergeared” relative to your opponents. Would this be gamebreaking?
The easiest and most objective way to evaluate performance in WoT is to look at the rich statistics that are publicly available and the ratings systems created by the community.
In general, a player’s statistics tend to improve :
- As they climb up the learning curve for the game, which includes understanding how to aim, where to aim, how to control their tank, how to use terrain, how the maps work, what the capabilities of tanks are, strategies and tactics, how to coordinate with their team mates
- Upwards as they research and buy upgrades (guns, turrets, engine, suspension) for a given tank
- Upwards as they mounted equipment for a given tank
- Upwards as they level up the training for their crew to 100% for a given tank
- Upwards as they level up skills / perks for the crew for a given tank, which are available for a crew member once their training level reaches 100%
Not surprisingly, new players tend to perform statistically poorly compared to more experienced players who have better tanks and crews, and I was no exception.
Here’s a screenshot from NoobMeter.com of my performance up through today:
You can see that there are 4 rating systems (NoobMeter’s Performance Rating, Efficiency Rating, WN6 Rating, and WN7 Rating). I won’t go into detail about the differences between the ratings systems, but what is clear from looking at my stats is that there has been significant improvement when you compare the Overall column with the Last ~7 days column:
- Performance Rating: from 1502 (Good) to 1801 (Great)
- Efficiency Rating: from 890 (Below Average) to 1050 (Average)
- WN7 Rating: from 762 (Bad) to 1097 (Average)
You can see in the Recent column that my ratings dipped a bit over the past day, and this was likely due to my unlocking the Churchill 1, the Tier 5 British heavy tank. I played a few dozen matches with that tank before I was able to unlock the engine, suspension, turret, and first decent gun, and it was brutal. Prior to fully researching the tank, even when I was winning games my contribution was low from a numerical standpoint. For the Churchill 1 crew, I did acquire a 100% training level tank commander for 200 gold, as all players who changed their password were given 300 gold. I figured this was acceptable to use on a commander as that free gold was available to all players.
The most simple stat to look at for performance is Win Rate. According to WOTLABS.net, the average Win Rate is 49%. That makes sense, when you consider that that means the average Lose Rate is 49%, and that leaves 2% for Draws. One in 50 battles ending in a draw sounds about right to me. I did not cross the 50% Win Rate until ~620 battles, because I lost a lot of my first 200 battles, and even when I got the basic mechanics down, I was dealing with leveling up tanks and untrained crews at each new tier. My recent Win Rate has been ~56% for the 3 tanks I’ve been playing the most
- Tier 4 M8A1 tank destroyer (215 battles, 51.2% Win Rate)
- Tier 4 Matilda medium tank (191 battles, 56% Win Rate)
- Tier 5 Churchill 1 heavy tank (67 battles, 56.7% Win Rate)
My guildees and I have been discussing what % of the player base has Premium and what % of the player base is using gold ammo. Opinions range all over the map. My guess is that fewer than 25% of players are using Gold ammo. I would assume that a significant % of the opponents I’m facing have fully-upgraded tanks and 100% training level crews, and I’m still winning at a rate ~7 percentage points higher than average.
I understand that at higher tiers, the extent of grinding to fully research and upgrade tanks increases, so that factors such as Premium do matter more. That said, I do believe based on my experience that while paying customers have an advantage, non-paying customers can still perform effectively. So it’s safe to say that this isn’t a P2W game.
If you’re just starting WoT and can afford to a Premium account, it’s worth it to speed up the leveling process. But if you don’t want to pay and just want to play, you’ll be fine without it.
P.S. here’s a screenshot of my 27 battles from last night. This was a particularly good series of games for me, grouped up with Sujitsu (WoT: L337Zeon) and Trajan (WoT: TrajanMVN) and running solo. My Churchill 1 crew’s training levels are 100/87/87/87/87, and I’m turning the corner with that tank. The crews for my Matilda and M8A1 are at 100% training level and just starting to work on their first set of skills.
- Performance Rating: 1890 (Great)
- Efficiency Rating: 1810 (Unicum)
- WN7 Rating: 1749 (Unicum)
P.P.S. I’ve answered for myself the question of whether non-paying customers can compete – they can. As I plan to continue playing WoT but want to reduce the grind, I went ahead on May 1st and purchased a Premium subscription.