Wargaming forced to apologise after YouTube takedowns

Wargaming has officially apologised for its actions over the last week. In what was a story that only seemed to get worse for the World of Tanks developers, they decided to stop the madness. Posted on the official website, Wargaming acknowledged their mistake and have noted how they will not repeat it in the future.

While this story only really got going last week Friday. Each new update brought a whole new low for Wargaming and especially its PR department. What started as a copyright strike led to an outcry from fans of World of Tanks and caught the eye of other gaming communities and media.

It is not a new phenomenon that a disgruntled developer decides to abuse YouTube to curb criticism. YouTube’s system has for years been subject to criticism for the lack of protection YouTubers have against companies enacting petty revenge for opinions. Yet the recent debacle with World of Tanks developer Wargaming was a bit of a surprise.

Often when these outbursts occur, those holding the tantrums are smaller indie developers. Usually these stories are relegated to those whose effort into game creation matches their level of talent. Wargaming however, is an oddity. The reason why most bigger companies would never dream of doing this is due to the negative press and fan reaction. Wargaming learnt very quickly what happens when you start following the examples of the likes of Digital Homicide.

This all started with World of Tanks own follies in relation to its free-to-play model. World of Tanks is an online multiplayer shooter in which players take control of tanks. Slow and methodical, the game has amassed quite the following. It is difficult to provide an actual number but World of Tanks has had a steady and growing player-base for years.

World of Tanks is a free-to-play online game. Anyone could hop in and try controlling some large vehicular war machines. Yet World of Tanks had some elements that went against the free model and the core concept of balance. World of Tanks started to go into the “Pay-to-win” realm with players able to buy premium tanks with high stats, and premium ammo for more damage.

On May 18th, a YouTuber named SirFoch uploaded a video giving some harsh criticism to Wargaming. Wargaming had released a new premium tank called the Chrysler K Grand Finals which cost a whopping $80 (R1,051). SirFoch was not feeling the new tank as it seemed impenetrable. The video can be found below via another channel and it provides a lot of the nuanced details. In simple terms, the tank was a powerhouse with few weaknesses and was a pay-to-win mechanic.

Not only was SirFoch a notable member of the World of Tanks community, but he was also a member of Wargaming’s “Community Contributor” Programme. A member of the community who was given special perks as being part of the promotion cycle with early access to upcoming features. So when SirFoch gave Wargaming a piece of his mind by calling the studio “greedy f*cks”, it did not look good.

As such, Wargaming decided it would be best to take down SirFoch’s very opinionated video. Not only was the video removed but SirFochs was swiftly removed from the programme. Right after the video was taken down, Wargaming’s Community Manager Ph3lan took to the forums to try and do some damage control. They claimed in a lengthy Q&A that SirFoch’s video was not taken down for criticism, but instead for what they considered offensive content. The Q&A does very little to help Wargaming with each new section and explanation never really dealing with the issues.

The most glaring is how SirFoch’s video was not out of the norm for his personality. He has sworn and made such gestures before but for Wargaming it was now a problem. They try and clarify that they were aware of his “salty” personality but that in this particular case he went too far. They claim he went into “defamation territory” with his video. It was because of this that even though he was removed from the programme, Wargaming still wanted the video to be taken down. They requested via Discord to SirFochs that the video be removed (which was all screencaptured). When SirFoch refused, they decided to lay a copyright claim against the now former community contributor to get the video down.

Kotaku was one of the first notable outlets to run with the story and Wargaming was only doubling down on the situation. Wargaming continued to play the victim, claiming defamation for SirFoch’s video. They later went on to claim that SirFoch’s content was hate speech littered with homophobia. Wargaming knew of SirFoch’s style well before he was made a notable member of the community. Although now when it went against Wargaming it was problematic. SirFoch uploaded another lengthy video yesterday going more into detail about the pay-to-win model Wargaming was starting to implement.

The lovable Jim Sterling uploaded a video taking Wargaming to task. He is well versed in YouTube’s failures and defamation claims.

Finally yesterday Wargaming gave up trying to fight what was an already lost battle. SirFoch’s removal and the attack of the YouTube video seemed like the last straw for many fans. The apology went on to confirm that Wargaming will never take down another video featuring criticism for released content. They also apologised for insinuating that SirFoch used homophobic language in his video criticising the company, noting that it never happened.

This entire fiasco could have been avoided if Wargaming had just taken some time to think, which they do acknowledge. Taking SirFoch off of the Community Programme would have been one thing, they took it too far by taking down his YouTube videos. There are many important lessons that could be learnt from this but the most glaring comes from abuse of YouTube’s copyright claim for taking down videos and how to handle criticism.

Hopefully Wargaming’s missteps will be something not only the company takes to heart, but other companies can learn from. Handling criticism with false claims and accusations helps no one. While it is good Wargaming has seemingly learnt of its error, other companies should pay special attention.

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