What's the best game of the year? Depends who you ask but for me it was definitely World of Tanks. The novelty of the concept, the great gameplay, the vast number of tanks and maps, the endless ways in which a battle can take happen, the infinite replayability, the pseudo-realistic mechanics and physics and, why not, the free nature of the game conspired to make it one of the best games I've played in years.
Of course, not everyone is sold on it. Some people don't like the shooter genre. Some don't like tanks or the WWII setting. Some don't like playing online against others. And on and on. But from what I gather, World of Tanks has a huge worldwide gathering, especially in Russia
One of the reasons why World of Tanks is so popular is the freemium business model. While other MMOs have started with a subscription model and then switched to freemium when they realized not a lot of people were playing them, World of Tanks was built around the concept of "free" from the get-go. In this aspect, my humble opinion is that it is really well designed. As a free player you have access to all the tank tiers (from 1 to 10) and all the maps. Other freemium games impose certain restrictions on how high you can go. Not this game. While paying customers can reach maximum level much faster, a free player can also get there, through patience and perseverance.
But here's the thing. There's a big chance that if you start out as a free player, even if you intend never to spend a cent on this game, you might find yourself voluntarily shelling out some cash at some point. The very thing happened to me. Though I spent a puny amount compared to hardcore players, I did show my appreciation to the developers by spending some money in the game. This is a good thing. A good game deserves compensation. The more people pay for it, the better the game becomes.
Let me tell you a story that enforces the above.
I'm an European living for many years in the US. I don't have any friends here who are gamers but back in Europe I know a bunch of hardcore nerds, just like me, who love PC games. One of them is a really good friend and we share a lot of interests but these aren't all the time identical. For example, we both love WoW and Diablo but he also likes games such as Dragon Age, The Witcher, Mass Effect. I don't like those but I like Borderlands and Glitch to give a couple of examples.
When I went to my home country on vacation last summer I demoed World of Tanks to my friend. It was easy: download the ~2GB client (very quick at European broadband speeds), install it, login with my username and password. I played a couple of battles for him and he showed some mild interest. I wasn't expecting him to really get into the game.
A few days later he told me that he had created an account and was now playing the game. I was like, woot! He had some initial frustrations with some of the gameplay but ended up being hooked by it. After I got back to the US he told me he was obsessed with the game. He'd even bought a subscription to it and had advanced along the American tank destroyer line farther than I had. Of course, I have a lot more tanks spread across many different lines but still...
So you see, World of Tanks can really grab you hard when you least expect it and it won't let go easily. There are, of course, players who have quit the game in frustration over one aspect or another. One of the main factors of contention is the matchmaker system which sometimes can pit you against tanks 3-4 tiers above you, where you don't stand much of a chance. I admit that the game is not perfect. But you know what? The version number says it is still in beta (currently version 0.6.7) and the devs are continually working on it, fixing bugs, improving mechanics and adding new tanks and maps.
I am not as obsessed with World of Tanks as I was at the beginning. These days I fire it up once every few days, or maybe a couple of times a week. Then again, I'm mostly playing Glitch. But when I do play it, it's almost therapeutic. I just love this game in so many ways. Even if I get raped two minutes into a battle, who cares? I will just load up another tank and perhaps win the next battle with 5 kills.
If you are undecided, if the genre mildly appeals to you, I urge you to try this game. You won't regret it and you might even end up addicted.
In closing, here's a screenshot of a recent glorious battle I fought in. Our team steamrolled the adversaries, with 13 kills on our side, 2 suicides on their side and 1 loss for us. My "Easy 8" Sherman was hanging by a thread at the end.