Employee Spotlight: Aleksandr Nikolaev, Regional Publishing Director, World of Warships

Discover how the publishing team continues to improve the services in World of Warships to keep players engaged.

To start, what do you do at Wargaming?

I work as the Regional Publishing Director for World of Warships, Americas. I’m responsible for regional product performance, execution of publishing projects, quality of publishing services, operations with local vendors and business partners, and the team I work with also contributes at a global level.

For example, the North American World of Warships Publishing team oversees the game’s social media channels in English, which engages with players worldwide. We design engagement and win-back campaigns to be scalable and some of them end up executed globally, if other regions opt-in. We also assist with development by sourcing blueprints from the relationships we’ve built from naval museums and archives. That’s what my team does in the grand scheme of things across the globe and here at Wargaming Austin.

How did you start in the video game industry and how did you become the Regional Publishing Director for World of Warships, Americas?

In 2013 I actually moved to the United States to get an education, a master’s degree in business. So, I spent two years in Michigan, and when I moved here, I already knew what I wanted to pursue as a career- I wanted to work in video games.

My previous background was not in video games. I did some IT consulting and project management work, and when I was getting my master’s degree, I focused all my efforts to get into the video games industry. I made sure to choose all my academical projects to be related to video games and applied to networking and internship opportunities within the industry as much as possible. Through this, I had a chance to intern at a couple of different places like Riot Games and Activision-Blizzard. It was a great experience for me because I was able to tangibly contribute to those businesses even though I was only there for two months.

In 2015, I attended GDC in San Francisco and dropped my resume off at the Wargaming booth- that’s how I pulled my lucky ticket. When I joined Wargaming, there wasn’t a specific position I was being brought in for, so I joined as a Project Manager because of my experience. I started out managing different publishing projects, and over time I became a producer on World of Warships- transitioning over as the Publishing Director for World of Warships, Americas.

So why were you so passionate about joining the Video Game Industry?

I worked in B2B [Business to Business] in my previous career, and I felt like this was something I didn’t want to do for the rest of my life. I wanted to work in B2C [Business to Consumer] because I wanted to work with actual consumers. Also, I was personally very passionate about video games-I was a hardcore gamer.

Additionally, I saw a lot of innovation potential in the video games industry back in 2013. The viability of the free-to-play business model was on the rise and it was growing exponentially. I felt like I wanted to be part of it.

How did you professionally grow in Wargaming?

My first initial step was to meet people and learn about the different processes and products across the company. Once I got settled in my role, I volunteered for different projects, and I was particularly interested in working on World of Warships because, at the time, it was a relatively new product, and it was just about to go into open beta.

For me, it was the opportunity to experience what the World of Tanks team experience many years ago, and I felt that I can’t miss this opportunity- to be part of the next big thing Wargaming had to offer to the world. We needed to be more agile in our decision-making process when building up campaigns for our region, so the company moved to a product structure. When that change happened, I transitioned from being a Producer to overseeing publishing for World of Warships in the Americas.

Could you tell me about the World of Warships Team?

Sure. As of now, we have 14 roles on my team, and 10 of them are currently staffed. We’re currently looking for 4 more people to join the World of Warships, Americas Publishing Team. We have people that handle community, production, operations, customer support, regional marketing, and content. We also have a team in Minsk that work on the customer support tickets. 

So how I would characterize the culture of the World of Warships team? We have a culture of getting stuff done. We prioritize reliability on the team. We want to make sure that whenever we assign someone a task, they have a great work ethic, and if they experience a blocker for their tasks, we like to over- communicate so the team is synced up. The people on the team are reliable.

On our team, we treat Wargaming as if it’s our own family business in every way! Each of us has a strong intrinsic sense of ownership and passion for whatever we do, and we cultivate an attitude to think thoroughly, act fast, and see every task through to the end without shifting responsibilities or making excuses. We rely on people who inspire confidence and can make unprecedented things happen.

Even with the success our team has experienced, we cannot rest on our laurels. We always strive for continuous improvement. It’s never enough to just finish a task – there is always room to streamline, optimize, and create more value for the business and the players. We believe that half of the success lays in informed decisions and the other half is in finding a common ground with our team. On the World of Warships publishing team, we have our truths and core values - analyze the data, listen to the team’s voice, follow common sense and be confident in your decisions.

While we reward good planning, in a critical situation we can solve a problem by being adaptable- even if we need to fix something through duct tape or grease [laughter]. We’re not a team that cares much for red tape. We challenge established boundaries and tear down blockers that stand between us and our product goals. Like I said, we’re a team of doers and I’m proud of that.

Of course, with a team full of driven individuals, we often engage in heated debates. But at the end of the day, after the decision is made, we all commit to it and remain one team.

What makes Wargaming special?

I think what’s very unique about the company is that regardless of your background or your title, you can start making waves and an impact in what you do. As long as you have passion, energy, and accountability, you will succeed.

You need to be proactive and reach out to people to pitch initiatives, and once you’re able to prove yourself and build that trust, you’ll be able to have more ownership across the company. We have a lot of great things people can work on, and we’re looking for people to rise to the challenge.

What has been your favorite campaign so far as a Publishing Director?

I'm very proud of the Anchors Away Tour that we rolled out this year. This initiative entails organizing and hosting 12 player gatherings across the most legendary ship-museums such as USS Texas, USS New Jersey, USS Hornet, USS Iowa, HMCS Haida, and many others. This was quite a challenging project for us. To give you context, after moving to Austin, we had a brand-new team, very junior, with barely any background in planning events of such scale- let alone running them monthly!

To start, we organized a pilot "Anaheim Anchors Away" to meet players on USS Iowa and then at an e-sports venue the following day. We wanted to improve future events, so we took a survey, and based on the information we gathered, we found out that the highest-rated element of that event was the experience on the ship. Ironically, this was the least expensive element of the event due to our good relationship with the museum management. We realized that this aspect of the experience can be scaled-up, and we expanded it into a "rock band tour" theme. That's how the Anchors Away Tour concept was born.



Now, we expect to meet at least 4,000 World of Warships players in person in 2019! These tours receive high praise from the community. It keeps the players engaged and gives them a stronger sense of belonging, which is great and rewarding! We also discovered that a large number of players travel to these events from remote cities, and some even attended multiple events across the country! We’re so fortunate to have such a dedicated community!

These events are very motivating and rewarding for our team. We have other important tasks every day, not related to the Anchors Away Tour, but it’s important for us to build this relationship with our players across the country. It’s very exciting to see all the players that come out to these events. The success of this tour has inspired our colleagues in Europe and Asia, and they have started similar activities for our players in Amsterdam and Korea.

For an ongoing game like Ships, how do keep our players interested in playing the game?

We continue to improve the game and add new content to keep our players happy. We also regularly gather feedback from the community. For example, they helped us realize that aircraft carriers didn’t fit within our vision for the game the way we intended. The RTS [real-time strategy] gameplay for the carriers didn’t work in the shooter framework of Ships so we reworked them.

It was a huge challenge for the team, and not everything we initially changed worked as we hoped. We had to listen to some well-deserved criticism from our players, and through this continued conversation with the community, we were able to iterate on the rework we did on the carriers. Our team was very passionate about getting it right and wanted to make sure we made responsible changes to the game. Several months after the rework, we got there. We changed the gameplay dramatically, so now when you play carriers, you’re also playing in a shooter perspective, and it made carriers interesting again. We wouldn’t be able to continue improving our game without the support and insight of our passionate players.  

Now we’re adding submarines, a completely new class of vehicles, which will continue to make the game interesting to play. It fits in the game, and we’re seeing some great interest from our players.

On the publishing end, our goal is always to improve the quality of service- to keep the players happy. We will always continuously improve customer and community support. We want to continue growing our channels and better engage with our players to build the community. We want to make sure we have a dedicated player base for years to come. We’ve seen how dedicated our players can be when we organize the Anchors Away Tours across different cities in the United States. Hundreds of players will come to those events to meet each other, and it’s a great feeling.

Why do you like working as the Publishing Director for World of Warships?

Personally, I get a lot of professional growth in this position. I continue to improve my skills at work, and I enjoy challenging the status quo by trying something new. I also get to do things that I’ve never done before in my previous career, and I might not have the chance to do any of these things if I miss the chance right now. I just need to try all these experiences while it’s still possible. I like being able to work on innovative approaches and tactics- pushing the boundaries of free-to-play games. It’s a very unique opportunity to build a tight community of naval enthusiasts. It’s something that I can be proud of for the rest of my life.

Similarly, I enjoy helping my teammates grow professionally around me. I get to mentor people and bring out the best in them. We get to overcome weaknesses together, and it allows everyone on the team to improve professionally.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.