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As an admittedly old-school gamer, I sometimes have a hard time grasping the appeal of modern video games designed with light users in mind. Lining up sparkly jewels in Bejeweled? Growing tomatoes in Farmville? Where’s the excitement in that?

Likewise, the trends of modern anime can be difficult to understand, with a glut of shows lacking any discernible concept beyond “cute girls hang out together, and occasionally participate in school club activities.”

If you ask me, both of these entertainment fields could do with a lot more stuff blowing up. Thankfully, that’s just what we can expect from the new collaboration between online game World of Tanks and anime franchise Girls und Panzer.

Created by Belarusian developer Wargaming.net, World of Tanks is one of the world’s most popular online multiplayer games, boasting over 70 million registered accounts. It’s tempting to dismiss this number as inflated, since the game’s free-to-play structure means some users probably have multiple profiles. World of Tanks’ popularity is genuine though, as the title has set multiple online gaming records for having the largest number of players simultaneously signed in to a single server.

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World of Tanks owes its success to two key factors. The first is the game’s extremely simple control scheme. Players use the W, A, S, and D keys on their keyboard to rotate their tank and move it forwards or backwards. The mouse is used to aim the tank’s cannon, which is fired with a left click. That’s all there is to it, and anyone can be blasting away in a matter of seconds.

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Second is World of Tanks’ egalitarian pricing system. Savvy gamers know that “free-to-play” is often just video game industry code for “pay-to-win.” You may be able to get started for free, but in many games the best powers and character upgrades are only available by spending real money, so to stay competitive, or at least spare yourself a lot of grinding and frustration, you have to fork over your hard-earned cash. If you insist on playing for free, you’re basically playing as target practice for other users who bought their way to the top.

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World of Tanks takes a far more egalitarian approach. Yes, Wargaming.net is happy to take your money if you want to buy extra parts with which to customize your tank, but even then the game is balanced in such a way that players who haven’t purchased any upgrades at all still have a fighting chance.

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Although gamers around the world have been enjoying World of Tanks since its launch in 2010, it was only this month that a localized version was made available in Japan. In celebration, Wargaming.net has teamed up with anime franchise Girls und Panzer for a series of crossover promotions.

Broadcast last year, Girls und Panzer is set in a high school in Japan’s rural Ibaraki Prefecture. The protagonists spend their hours after class engrossed in their extracurricular activity: holding group tank battles with teams from other local schools, all with adorable names such as the Duck Team and the Angler Fish Team. Hitting the anime trifecta of cute girls, earnest sporting activities, and detailed military paraphernalia, Girls und Panzer was one of the most popular series of the Fall 2012 season.

In order to help new World of Tanks players get started, the cast of Girls und Panzer are appearing in a free online manga to explain the characteristics of the game’s extensive tank roster. The first issue is viewable now, and new installments will be uploaded periodically, so fans will want to check back at the comic’s index page often to get the scoop on some of the game’s 300-plus tanks from the US, UK, USSR, France, Germany, and China.

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The World of Tanks/Girls und Panzer synergy will continue at Tokyo Game Show 2013, which kicks off tomorrow in Chiba Prefecture’s Makuhari Messe convention center. Voice actresses from the anime, including Mika Kikuchi, Mami Ozaki, and Ikumi Nakagami, will be on hand to greet guests on September 21 and 22. As always with the Tokyo Game Show, expect huge crowds and lots of standing in line. Please be patient, and remember that should the mass of humanity pressing in from all sides start to get you riled up, Wargaming.net has a nice, free stress reliever waiting for you in the form of World of Tanks.

Images: World of Tanks
Related: World of Tanks/Girls und Panzer Tokyo Game Show Carnival
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