Most people will know Paradox Interactive from their extensive catalogue of strategy titles. But what made Paradox the company it is today? How was it formed and what does the future hold for them? Find out the story of this fascinating company in our interview with Fredrik Wester, CEO of Paradox Interactive!
Could you tell us a little about how Paradox Interactive started? Where did it all begin and how did the company end up with such a strong focus on strategy titles?
Fredrik: Paradox started as a management buy-out of a company that was originally into pen and paper roleplaying games and family games but it was not until 2004 you saw the foundation of what is Paradox Interactive today. Paradox comes from a core of titles like Europa Universalis (1999) and Hearts of Iron (2002) and from this we have grown our worldwide fanbase. For us it was natural to continue publishing titles of the same genre as we already knew, thus a heavy focus on in-depth titles in our catalog, mostly strategy and RPG.
What sets Paradox Interactive apart from other publishers? What is the company’s vision or mission statement?
Fredrik: First of all I think a big difference is that we haven’t set a mission statement; this is something that is generally done to please the shareholders of a company but we are just trying to make good games, that’s all.
You joined Paradox Interactive in 2003 – what made you decide to go into the gaming industry, as your background is strong in Economics and Commercial Law?
Fredrik: I did have a business background and was a bit sceptical about joining the games industry, something I saw as a business that wasn’t really serious. Initially my idea was to make Paradox a “turnaround case” and then move on, but over the years my view of the industry (and of Paradox) changed and I can now honestly say it’s great to be a part of the industry and the CEO of Paradox Interactive.
Many readers will wonder what it is like to work for a reasonably large publisher. What does an average day in the office look like?
Fredrik: Depending on what you do in our office I guess it is very different; however I start my day with music. It might be opera, heavy metal or metal-inspired jazz, just to get your mind started. Of course you discuss a lot of games internally, you play some games, but a large part of my job consists of reading contracts, making sure everything runs smoothly and of course planning ahead.
Paradox Interactive has historically quite strongly focused on PC Gaming – even though you have started to release games on consoles as well. What do you think about the state of the current PC Gaming market?
Fredrik: I think PC, through the digital distribution opportunities is getting in a really strong position. Indie developers are of course seeing the opportunity with the platform and creating something without being controlled by someone else, which is a great feeling. It’s like the last form of free culture in a way.
There is a lot of controversy around digital distribution platforms (especially Steam) recently – with some UK retailers threatening to stop stocking games which use the Steam technology. What is your take on this?
Fredrik: Retailers in the UK have hated the PC platform for many years, so I don’t see why they should suddenly start feeling love towards it!
What other challenges do you believe the PC Gaming industry is facing at the present? And where do you believe the real opportunities are?
Fredrik: I think opportunities are in a lot of places, but mostly in doing stuff that is new and fresh. For example, our upcoming game Magicka has a spell system no other game has provided before. It’s small things that makes a lot of difference to gamers.
Even though traditionally you have released games mainly in the strategy genre, your games have recently started to include a lot of RPG elements. Mount & Blade, Magicka and even games like Lionheart have strong elements of the genre. We can only encourage that as strategy games really benefit from some RP elements – can we expect this trend to continue?
Fredrik: I think RPG and strategy mix very well together and can learn from each other. Not only can you expect it to continue but we also look to increase the number of RPG/Strategy mixes and influences. Why not?
What is Paradox’ view on the effect development for consoles has on in-depth PC titles – is there a risk of games getting dumbed down too much? We’re particularly concerned about Strategy and RPG titles in this regard.
Fredrik: I don’t think there is a big risk of the in-depth titles disappearing; the growth of digital distribution has taken care of that problem. On a positive note, a lot of games (like our own) have been forced to become more accessible, and by this I mean explaining to gamers how they work, rather than being dumbed down.
You have some really strong titles lined up for release in 2011. We particularly look forward to Magicka, but you’ve got some other strong contenders as well. Could you tell us a little about what other things we can expect throughout the year?
Fredrik: We have a lot of things planned for 2011-2012 and specifically I’d like to say that Paradox Connect, our online service for gamers, is the most interesting news we are presenting. At the moment it is only achievements for the games supported that are included, however we are looking to expand the service of Paradox Connect in the coming years.
One aspect that is a mystery to many gamers is how a publisher decides to get involved with specific games. Could you explain how this process usually works?
Fredrik: We have several people looking at games before we decide to get involved or not. Some games are signed at concept stages, some quite late but normally we are looking for that little “extra” that makes the game stand out.
What would you say to readers that have a fantastic game idea – or indie developers who are close to completing a game?
Fredrik: Make a prototype. A game idea on paper will almost never make it if you’re not a proven developer.
We’d like to thank you for taking the time to answer our questions and look forward to what Paradox Interactive has to offer in 2011!
Fredrik: Thanks, happy to answer your questions.
And that’s it from Fredrik Wester – some insightful information on a company which is doing a lot of good to the industry, especially in the strategy genre. We look forward to their upcoming titles!