Gaijin Entertainment Plans To Release Five Major War Thunder Updates Per Year

Each of these updates has more content than a full-priced game.

Story Highlights

  • War Thunder — officially released in December 2016 — has been receiving frequent updates to this day.
  • The game has accumulated over 75 million registered players.
  • We interviewed Vyacheslav Bulannikov, the Game Director of War Thunder, over email.

War Thunder initially came to life as a “flying simulation game” named War Thunder: World of Planes, which was later dropped due to its similarity with Wargaming’s World of Warplanes. The game contains many vehicles that excel in aerial, terrestrial, and naval combat. These are either inspired by or accurate depictions of vehicles ranging from pre-WWI to the modern day.

The game has been alive for over a decade and has thousands of vehicles, each with a rich history. Although War Thunder has received frequent updates since its release, the question of how long that would be the case has been in the back of our minds. With that and many other queries related to the current content, we spoke with Vyacheslav Bulannikov, the Game Director of War Thunder, over an email Q&A session.

Read ahead for the full interview.

War Thunder
War Thunder – via Gaijin Entertainment.

Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your role in the game?

Bulannikov: Hi. My name is Vyacheslav Bulannikov, the Game Director of War Thunder.

Congratulations on the recent 11th-anniversary milestone. Did you always think the game would thrive for this long? And for how long are you planning to support the title with active updates?

Bulannikov: Obviously, almost any online game developer dreams that their project will live long and prosper. It’s something you’re trying to achieve, but that never comes easy. We have to continue working hard to keep the game relevant to modern gamers and bring new experiences to both existing fans and newcomers.

We’ll continue supporting War Thunder as long as people play the game. As the player count only grows each year (the latest record set in February 2024 was over 250 thousand people playing War Thunder simultaneously (CCU) across all platforms, and the total number of registered players is way over 75 million), War Thunder is the most popular military action game on the market and is one of the most popular online games in general, the future looks quite bright for the time being, I believe.

We plan to continue releasing at least five major content updates per year (each of them has more content than many standalone full-price games), as well as special events. We do not disclose exact plans, as guessing what comes next is a favorite hobby of our players, but new content means new nations, new vehicles, new maps, new gameplay mechanics, new graphics features, new collaborations with famous franchises, and more.

War Thunder
War Thunder – via Gaijin Entertainment.

Since its release, how would you say War Thunder has evolved in terms of the scope and overall content, and what have been some of the changes to Gaijin's approach with the title?

Bulannikov: War Thunder started as a WW2-era plane simulation game only, and now we have military aircraft, ground vehicles, and naval vessels starting from WW1 and going all the way up to the most modern prototypes. Now, we have more than 2500 distinctive machines of war in total.

The game evolution followed our long-term plans most of the time, as having air, naval, and ground vehicles in one game was something that we intended to do from the beginning. There were some key decisions that we made later. For example, at first, we were not sure about adding modern jets and high-tech weaponry, but eventually, we found a way to make those fit into War Thunder gameplay.

As you can see, we’ve become the all-encompassing military vehicle simulation game that covers most aspects of combined arms warfare (except infantry). We’ve seen reports of the real militaries and servicemen using War Thunder to train, and that says a lot about the game.

We’re also updating the game visuals to make War Thunder stay as good-looking as any other modern titles.

Do you have any plans to change or improve the map designs? Despite being rich in details, they appear smaller than one would hope for, with some of them having exposed spawn points.

Bulannikov: Well, a significant part of our players say that our maps are too big. It depends on which vehicles players are using, what their playstyle is, etc. It’s good that we have over 100 maps and a feature that allows people to blacklist maps they do not like, so each player eventually plays on the maps that they like.

We know that some of the maps are less popular than others, and we study player feedback and game statistics data to understand what is wrong with these maps. Fixing some of the least popular maps was one of the key features in our 2023 Roadmap, and we made significant changes in many maps. Some maps were completely reworked – like Kursk or Kuban, and we’ll continue improving the maps. So we encourage your readers to go and see for themselves what we changed.

As War Thunder is constantly growing and evolving, adding new content means that we have to rebalance and update older content as well to make sure that all aspects of the game work well together. That’s why we constantly check player feedback on the maps, check the gameplay data, and improve the maps whenever necessary.

War Thunder
War Thunder – via Gaijin Entertainment.

One thing that many players would like to know is the source of T-90M's armor as they believe that the team drew inspiration from non-governmental and unreliable sources.

Bulannikov: Our team studies all sources, both primary and secondary, that are not classified or restricted. We’re also checking the photos from real-world conflicts, including those showing damage inflicted on the tank armor. We’re trying to be as open as possible and explain our logic to the community when the sources contradict each other or look suspicious. In case of doubt, we use science (including rocket science, yes) to deduce the parameters of a vehicle based on data known to us. Sometimes, we get new information and change the vehicle parameters based on it.

Our players are quite passionate about their favorite vehicles, so they would like to see them as powerful as possible, and they also want us to nerf the vehicles they do not like. It’s understandable, and we welcome any meaningful discussion (that does not involve posting classified information) that might make the game even more realistic.

Obviously using official government sources is quite difficult in the case of the most recent vehicle designs, especially when we’re talking about modern MBT armor performance. It’s probably the most complicated and controversial area of knowledge about military hardware produced in the past 10-20 years. The problem is not only the lack of reliable declared data on MBT armor but also the complexity of analyzing the information since different countries use different testing methods for armor protection and ammunition, and they are often difficult to combine into a single system.

But difficult does not mean impossible, and this is part of the work that we constantly do. In the case of the T-90M, we used a rather critical approach – the armor parameters of the turret and hull are generally considered to be similar to those of the later T-72B and T-90A tanks, which is reflected in the armor model of this vehicle in the game. Reliable data on the structure of the armor protection of the T-72B and T-90A tanks has been available in open sources for quite some time since the vehicles are almost 40 and 30 years old, respectively, and this data is also confirmed by photos and videos of damaged and destroyed tanks. The increase in protection is associated with the installation of a more effective Relict ERA. In fact, the protection of the T-90M in the game is a combination of passive protection from the T-90A and extra protection from Relict ERA, as well as from the spall liner (its existence is confirmed by photos from tank production facilities, by photos of the tank interior, and there is a publicly available patent). We have not changed the passive protection of T-90M compared to that of earlier machines, although some sources do mention such changes precisely because we do not consider this data reliable.

Despite China having more potential vehicles in the ground as compared to others, its tech tree isn't as fleshed out as fans would like. Are there any plans to expand it sometime in the future?

Bulannikov: We’re constantly adding new vehicles to all tech trees, and China is no exception: for example, the latest “Air Superiority” Update brought a VT-4A1 tank, and the “Kings of Battle” update before that added a PLZ-83 howitzer. China has a lot of interesting homegrown designs, especially when we talk about modern ground vehicles and jets. We’re gradually introducing them at the same pace as in the case of other nations to make sure that all players get something new. WW2-era vehicles for China are a bit different story, as the Chinese army used captured or imported vehicles at that time. That mix, though, is also quite unique and interesting in terms of gameplay.

Right now China has three top MBTs with the highest battle rating in its tech tree: it’s more than in the Russia/USSR tree and the same as in the USA tree, even though the Chinese tech tree had been added to the game much later than those two.

War Thunder
War Thunder – via Gaijin Entertainment.

What are some things players can expect to see in War Thunder in 2024? (e.g., new nations, tech trees, sub-trees, highly-anticipated vehicles, etc.)

Bulannikov: We do not usually disclose anything specific beforehand. As usual, we’ll have more than enough new signature vehicles in 2024 being added to the game, but we do not want to spoil any surprises.

You can also check our 2024 RoadMap on the game website with our plans to introduce some features and quality-of-life improvements based on player feedback.

I am curious to know whether you like to play War Thunder (competitively or casually), and if so, what are some of your favorite vehicles and your go-to nation?

Bulannikov: I try to play at least 20-25 hours a month in War Thunder using my personal account. Usually, these are gaming sessions on weekdays after work with colleagues for about 2 hours per session. We do not participate in tournaments or squadron battles, but we usually play at top ranks so experienced players are fighting against us. I play mainly in Soviet vehicles since I chose it at the very beginning of my War Thunder gaming experience, and now I have fully unlocked tech trees of ground vehicles, aviation (with the exception of a couple of planes) and ships. I have also leveled up other nations (Germany, USA, Israel, Sweden) up to ranks 4-6. The most common game modes for me are ground realistic battles (for me it is the most diverse and interesting in terms of gaming experience), air realistic battles, and naval arcade battles.

I remember about a year ago, there was a post on Reddit that made it seem like playing War Thunder would classify you as a national security risk. Although the story was later confirmed to be fake, is there an actual real story you have heard from fans that would be concerning similarly?

Bulannikov: We have not heard about actual stories like this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some military vehicle production company would really start asking questions about War Thunder experience. You see, War Thunder fans love military vehicles, and that means that they would be highly motivated to work at a company that is somehow connected to those. It’s the same as in game development companies: you are better at creating games if you’re a gaming enthusiast yourself. Obviously having a history of intense arguing in the War Thunder forums would not help in any job application to such a company.

War Thunder
War Thunder – via Gaijin Entertainment.

Do you have any other projects at work? If so, could you tell us a bit about them?

Bulannikov: I am busy working on War Thunder, so there are no new projects for me. Gaijin Entertainment in general has a few other titles in production. One of them is Aces of Thunder, a War Thunder spin-off for VR devices, and I’m personally very interested in playing it when it is released.

It was mentioned a while ago that if Gaijin knew the state of Steam, it wouldn't have launched War Thunder there. Does it still hold the same opinion? And will Gaijin Entertainment continue to make its website the main channel for downloading games on PC, or do you have plans to release some of your titles to stores like Epic Games and Steam?

Bulannikov: It’s up to our publishing department to decide, but in general, the Gaijin Store will continue to be the priority. Having our own platform allows us to be in full control of the game distribution and marketing and not rely on any external partners. It’s also important to note that money that players pay via the Gaijin Store comes to us in full, and that gives us more resources to invest in the game and improve it even further.

Is there anything else you want to share? Something we haven't touched upon yet.

Bulannikov: We hope that your readers will enjoy what we have to offer this year, and they’re always welcome to ask more in-depth questions at our official forum. We encourage all players to check our Roadmap for 2024 and leave their feedback regarding the game.

YouTube video

War Thunder is a vehicular combat multiplayer game developed and published by Gaijin Entertainment. It was officially released worldwide on December 21, 2016, and is currently available on PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, macOS, Linux, PC, Oculus, and Vive. We are grateful to Vyacheslav Bulannikov for answering our questions, and to Alec Jagodzinski and Konstantin Govorun for helping with this interview.

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Mudassir is a seasoned journalist with a passion for uncovering the stories behind our favorite virtual worlds. Armed with a trusty notepad and a keen curiosity, he dives headfirst into the gaming industry's most exciting personalities. His knack for insightful questions and his ability to connect with developers and gamers alike makes his interviews a must-read. While on the lookout for the next person to interview, Mudassir keeps himself busy by writing news surrounding the gaming universe. Experience: 4+ Years || Senior Journalist || Education: Bachelor's in Psychology.

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