(World of Warships)

“World of Warships,” a free-to-play, naval action multiplayer online game produced by Belarus-based Wargaming, is hugely popular in Eastern Europe and Asia but still relatively new to the North American market. The war-themed game’s developers are banking that a recent partnership with Stanley Cup champion Alex Ovechkin will be embraced by its millions of existing users and simultaneously widen its audience.

Ovechkin was added as a playable character in the October update of “World of Warships," which also includes red, white and blue ship camouflages and a hockey rink animation atop the aircraft carrier Lexington. Ovechkin is available as both a Soviet commander and an American commander, which, in a “World of Warships” first, allows gamers to switch back and forth between the fleets with a single character.

Alena Terekhova, Wargaming’s director of marketing, said surveys showed sports was among the main interests of Wargaming’s users. Earlier this year, the company collaborated with legendary Italian soccer goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon by making him a playable captain in one of its other free-to-play titles, “World of Tanks.” Terekhova considered partnering with another soccer player for “World of Warships” but ultimately decided to contact Ovechkin.

“We knew that he was from Russia originally, but he moved to [the United States] and became a captain of the pretty awesome hockey team, the Washington Capitals,” Terekhova said in a phone interview. “We thought it might be a good shot, so we found his agent and had a conversation with him.”

That initial conversation took place about a month before the Capitals captured the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

“We really believed in him, but we didn’t know that he would win the Stanley Cup,” Terekhova said. “When he won . . . it added more flavor in our discussions.”

Ovechkin, who enjoys playing Fortnite, wasn’t familiar with “World of Warships” when Terekhova’s team first contacted him. After reviewing information about the game and the proposed campaign, Ovechkin agreed to the partnership but said the production shoot would have to wait until after his pregnant wife, Nastya, gave birth to the couple’s first son.

“The agreement was ready, and we were just waiting for the baby,” Terekhova said.

One of the ship camouflages in the latest update of "World of Warships" features an aircraft carrier with a hockey rink on deck. (World of Warships)

Baby Sergei arrived in mid-August. In early September, Terekhova and a production crew flew to Miami to meet Ovechkin for the shoot. Over six hours, the Capitals’ captain recorded voice-overs, posed for photos and filmed a trailer for the game.

“Success doesn’t come easily,” Ovechkin says in the finished product, which features footage of him firing pucks on goal interspersed with animated missiles sinking animated carriers. “In life, in hockey and in ‘World of Warships,’ you have to grind for it. You have to fight for it. You have to earn your greatness.”

“You never know how these types of guys will behave and what surprises to expect,” Terekhova said. “ . . . He was very, very concentrated. He knew he came here for work. From the very beginning to the end, no breaks, no complaints, nothing. Very positive guy.”

While she’s still collecting data on the campaign, Terekhova said she has been happy with the feedback thus far. She also has reason to believe Ovechkin has at least tried commanding a fleet while playing as one of the characters modeled after himself.

“He asked for premier accounts,” Terekhova said. “It gives him all the ships immediately, so he doesn’t have to spend that much time to unlock everything.”

A free idea for Ovechkin’s next collaboration with Wargaming: World of Warsheep.

Alex Ovechkin’s characters in "World of Warships." (World of Warships)

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