There’s a lot going on in Sweden these days, at least in gaming. DICE is helping out Visceral with Battlefield Hardline, Notch is dodging questions on Minecraft servers and Paradox Interactive is quietly joining the console fray with Magicka 2. The wider world was introduced to the little publishing company based in Stockholm during the Sony E3 2014 Press Conference with the quirky live-action trailer, but I’ve been watching Paradox grow over the last few years. They have transitioned from a niche developer and publisher of PC strategy games to a leading force on Steam with unique action titles like Magicka and amazingly successful games like Crusader Kings II. CEO Fred Wester has hinted that the company was looking to transition even further for a long while, and now it seems the transformation is complete.
Now is the time of Paradox.
Getting Paradox games on consoles like the PlayStation 4 may not seem like a big deal. But for a company that’s heavily entrenched in PC development and distribution, the chance to sell to a whole separate market of console owners is huge. There’s a lot of risk, too. But Wester is confident adding PlayStation games to Paradox’s portfolio is the right move.
“There’s always a risk,” Wester told me outside a press conference at E3. “We have to make sure that we capture the audience and that we support the game. We’re in for the ride, long term, like we continue to patch the game. I remember when we released Europa Universalis 4, four weeks before, we released a patch for EU3 and that was six years after the original release. We were still patching and updating the game.”
And it is Sony’s commitment to allowing that kind of support in this console generation that let the leap for Paradox’s many, many patches to make sense. During the PS3 era, the process was not very, shall we say, easy. Patching on last gen involved a check for $40,000 and a first-born child, we’ve heard.
“The older generation was like it was guarded,” Wester said. “It was really hard to get in there; you had to beg for patches at some point. It was not really friendly to independent companies like ours. It was more skewed to big, triple-A releases.”
So what changed? “The discussion started two and a half years ago when Sony explained their new strategy for the console,” Wester explained. “Triple-A games that cost $60, there is so much more to the market than only these games. There’s still a big impact every time a new GTA or a new Assassin’s Creed is released, but there also other games that can make an impact in the market. Sometimes from out of nowhere. If you look at Minecraft, for example. That is probably the best example. Came from nowhere.
“Now I think that [Sony] sees that a game like Magicka that sold 2.8 million units on Steam so far can really make an impact,” said Wester. “Sony’s been really helpful and it’s a really good cooperation. The idea for us now is that we sign a handful of games to be out for the PS4 and the first one that we’re announcing is Magicka 2, then we’ll have a few other ones as well. I hope down the road we’re going to release a grand strategy on PlayStation as well.”
Europa Universalis 4 on a console? How would that work? “We just need to find a way for the font to look better.”
Having played EU4 on a Steam machine controller back the Paradox Convention in January, it is totally possible to play without a mouse and keyboard, enjoyable even as I soon had the Ottoman Empire marching on Greece.
Microsoft’s Xbox One wanted to tout their independent games at E3, and had a strong showing from Ori and Blind Forest. Wester admitted that both manufacturers courted his company for this generation, so why did Paradox decide to go with Sony over its competitor?
“I really like the Xbox One and its offering as well,” Wester said. “It was a really tough call for us but in the end it was a gut feeling that we had, like, where do we think our target audience would want to play this game most of all?’ Because we didn’t want to go on both platforms at the same time with the technology risk and the limited experience that we had with releasing multiplatform games, when it comes to different consoles. So it was basically a gut feeling and a little bit of chance. Sony was a bit more aggressive as well.
“And now afterwards as well, I think Sony sold a bit more than Microsoft, so that feels good, too,” Wester said with a laugh. Yeah, you backed the right horse there.
For now, Paradox is starting with a title seems custom-fit for console play, the wacky coop and sometimes competitive play of Magicka. If you’re unfamiliar, Magicka puts up to 4 players in wizard’s robes and sends them on a tongue-in-cheek adventure. The unique gameplay schtick is that the wizards can mix and match 8 different elements like fire or “shield” to create any number of magical spells in combat. “It’s more action-oriented at the moment. Better for the format, so some co-op games,” Wester said. “We are working mostly with already well-established developers.”
The development of Magicka 2 will not be by the original group who designed it, but another studio called Pieces Interactive. Pieces is no stranger to the franchise though; they’ve worked on numerous expansion to the original game and will bring the humor and gameplay for which Magicka is known. And there’s a healthy respect for the game in the Paradox offices, and not a few original team members.
“We have a few guys from the old Arrowhead team,” Wester told me. “The brand manager at Paradox was one of the founders of Arrowhead, so we carry the same Magicka tradition. Of course, when we produced Magicka, Paradox was heavily involved in everything like making the game ready for the market.”
What Wester would love is if there would be some kind of Magicka ecosystem between the PVP-centric title of Magicka: Wizard Wars and the sequel on the PlayStation. “What we want to do is tie in Magicka 2 a bit with Wizard Wars as well. Like you buy a robe here, and maybe you can use it there, see what we can do between the brands. If we can have one team working on both games going forward after we’re releasing the game. That’s an interesting thought.”
For those of you worried that Paradox is abandoning the PC, don’t be. Wester was adamant in stating that the PC gaming market is the focus for the company and they would not be pulling resources from any of the PC development teams.
The future is wide open for Paradox on the Sony PlayStation. There are a few games in the pipeline that would be great to put on the console, like the RPG Runemaster from the internal development team and the game they are publishing for Obsidian Entertainment, Pillars of Eternity (check out our E3 preview). Will we see PoE on the PS4 soon?
“It would be great if we made a game together with Obsidian for PS4, but that’s not in the pipeline for now,” Wester said.
Well, a guy can dream, can’t he?