Game Developer Spotlight: Paradox Interactive

Game Developer Spotlight: Paradox Interactive

  • By: CM Boots-Faubert
  • Posted 25th Sep 2011


A Sense of History

Paradox Interactive did not simply spring into existence overnight -- it had previously existed as a division of the LA-based IP development firm Paradox Entertainment, owners of properties such as Conan the Barbarian, Bran Mak Morn, Kull, Solomon Kane, Mutant Chronicles, Warzone, Kult, and Chronopia, which is licensed out for development with independent game studios. When Paradox Interactive split from Paradox Entertainment in 1998, the division was intended to insulate it from the legal issues being faced by its former parent organization, the principal goal being to strengthen its ability to pursue and develop its own projects.

The lead game programmer at Paradox is Johan Andersson, who prior to coming to Paradox was a programmer at Norwegian video game developer Funcom, where he worked on the Sega Mega Drive console developing the games Nightmare Circus and NBA Hangtime. When he came to Paradox it was with the announced intention of furthering a personal design philosophy that was oriented "to create believable worlds," and his first project with the new company -- Hearts of Iron III -- upon which he served as the lead designer, illustrates his success at attaining his goal.

Current CEO and designated torch-bearer Fredrik Wester admits that when they took the company off on its own and decided upon its new direction and focus on PC-based gaming and digital distribution as the primary focus for games publishing, they were blazing a path that much of their own industry initially thought rather crazy.

Putting his money where his mouth is, Wester worked diligently to create GamersGate, and the result has been a slew of copy-cat companies banging the digital distribution drum for PC gaming; results that Wester views simply as proof that when they originally set out upon that path they were right, in spite of the critical view offered by the other established players in the industry.

While historical RTS has been the bread and butter for Paradox as it established itself, the company is not a boutique offering according to Wester, which is why over the course of the past few years it as been expanding the games and genres that it publishes, taking up the banner for the long ignored Windows PC centric genre of simulation gaming with a vengeance.

Wester was originally recruited manage and build the publishing side of business at Paradox, coming on board in 2003 as a VP, but in his current role as CEO, Wester is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations at Paradox as well as guiding its strategic growth, and that means expanding its offerings to other platforms.

"We are known for our PC-based strategy games, Wester explains. "We are developing partnerships that will take Paradox to the next level and continue expanding our user base. The machine where you play your game is the least important aspect of gaming, and we are in the process of evaluating how our games will play on console," he admits, though he stopped short of confirming plans to move the current library of games onto other platforms.

The future of Paradox Interactive according to Wester includes a number of roads -- both old and new -- but it begins and ends with maintaining the quality of the RTS and simulation games that has become the company's identity in the marketplace. There will be more Free-to-Play games in the future, there will be new platform releases as the company evaluates the different consoles, and there are plans to expand its digital distribution agreements, adding new partners and new games to their already tremendous library.

The most important lesson that should have been learned by the industry according to Wester is a simple one: Windows PC gaming was never dead, it is not dying, and the future of interactive gaming is certain to include the PC as a major part of its foundations.

"2011 is going to be one of the greatest years in Paradox's history," Wester declares. Citing titles like Magicka, Cities in Motion, King Arthur II, Salem, and Pirates of Black Cove as a few examples of the new direction for games, with each title offering something unique in its approach.

Magicka takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the traditional magical fantasy game that is almost a spoof of the genre, while Salem offers a fantasy MMO experience in which death has actual and real consequences for the player. Supreme Ruler: Cold War is another example of the value that the company places upon history and historical accuracy, but when those focus points are combined with a true 'what if?' approach, Wester believes that the potential payoff both for gamers and the company in terms of entertainment and profit is simply huge.