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Paradox Interactive Interview: Answers from Shams Jorjani, VP of Business Development

Paradox Interactive Interview: Answers from Shams Jorjani, VP of Business Development

Interview - posted by Trash on Sat 16 March 2013, 09:57:25

Tags: Paradox Interactive

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Paradox Interactive is the studio that's been bringing us classics like the Europe Universalis, Crusader Kings and Hearts of Iron games. The last few years they went from simply making grognard wargaming and strategy titles to launch their own digital distribution platform and publishing a broad selection of other niche oriented gaming titles. All that was enough reason for us to try and get someone to talk about how the heck a small Swedish studio could grow into this behemoth and what the plans for the future are. Shams Jorjani, VP of Business Development made some room in his busy schedule of trying to take over the world to talk to us for a bit.

Paradox Interactive has been around since 1998, right? That’s quite a legacy for a developer. One that has also been more and more successful during these last years. Could you tell us a bit about where Paradox Interactive comes from and where it is heading?

Paradox started off as most developers do - a small team with a weird little game that few others understood. At that time, the company worked with other publishers for marketing/sales/distribution of our games. After a while we realized they weren't really "getting" our games and were pushing them in the same way they would other mainstream titles. So when we finally had a bit of money and could hire another team member the dev team screamed for a new AI programmer. Fredrik Wester, now our CEO, overruled them and hired a marketing person. The devs were naturally fuming and uttered what since has become historical words at Paradox: "who needs marketing - a good game sells itself".

Well, that day Paradox became a publisher and things have pointed upwards ever since. It turns out that understanding what makes a game different from the competition allowed Paradox to better market the games. As they grew as a publisher, they had to start small and publish other 3rd party games that also were "niche". All the games weren't good - but once in a while they made enough money to snowball into bigger and better projects. Thanks to a few runaway hits (and a few solid ones) Paradox today is in a position where we only do projects we really believe in - if it's something we'd enjoy ourselves as niche gamers we know that our crowd will probably like it as well. Going forwards Paradox will continue what we've done all these years - we'll make smart, different and challenging games that demand a lot from the gamers - who in turn demand a lot from the games.​

Read the full Paradox Interactive Interview: Answers from Shams Jorjani, VP of Business Development



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Thanks for doing this interview with us. Could you tell us a little about yourself and your role at Paradox Interactive?

My name is Shams Jorjani and I like to play games. I quit my job at Avalanche Studios in 2009 and moved over to Paradox and haven't looked back since. I'm in charge of finding/signing new games and ensuring the concepts are as good as they can be before we start production on them.

Paradox Interactive has been around since 1998, right? That’s quite a legacy for a developer. One that has also been more and more successful during these last years. Could you tell us a bit about where Paradox Interactive comes from and where it is heading?

Paradox started off as most developers do - a small team with a weird little game that few others understood. At that time, the company worked with other publishers for marketing/sales/distribution of our games. After a while we realized they weren't really "getting" our games and were pushing them in the same way they would other mainstream titles. So when we finally had a bit of money and could hire another team member the dev team screamed for a new AI programmer. Fredrik Wester, now our CEO, overruled them and hired a marketing person. The devs were naturally fuming and uttered what since has become historical words at Paradox: "who needs marketing - a good game sells itself".

Well, that day Paradox became a publisher and things have pointed upwards ever since. It turns out that understanding what makes a game different from the competition allowed Paradox to better market the games. As they grew as a publisher, they had to start small and publish other 3rd party games that also were "niche". All the games weren't good - but once in a while they made enough money to snowball into bigger and better projects. Thanks to a few runaway hits (and a few solid ones) Paradox today is in a position where we only do projects we really believe in - if it's something we'd enjoy ourselves as niche gamers we know that our crowd will probably like it as well. Going forwards Paradox will continue what we've done all these years - we'll make smart, different and challenging games that demand a lot from the gamers - who in turn demand a lot from the games.

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Paradox games usually need at least a glance at the manual

In the early years Paradox cemented its reputation by specialising in historical strategy games. Why did you choose this genre and was this always the goal?

It was what the dev team did best - back then (and this still holds true to an extent) there were very few hardcore strategy games. The devs were all history buffs, and "do what you know" is a smart mantra.

In 2006 Paradox Launched the digital distribution channel Gamer’s Gate. It’s gone independent by now but seeing a small independent Swedish developer attempt to branch out and take on the likes of Valve’s Steam is quite amazing. What sparked this move?

That digital distribution was the way of the future was abundantly clear to us in the mid 00's. The idea was not necessarily to compete with Valve (back then Steam wasn’t the behemoth it is today) but rather to offer new ways for customers to get our content.

Since then Paradox itself has also moved away from solely being a developer to becoming an actual publisher. You’ve recently even opened your own digital store. Why this shift from developing to publishing? Could you tell us a bit about that transition?

As we started marketing our own niche games we noticed that we were pretty good at publishing titles that no-one else understood. We started getting approached by developers with similar niche titles so it was a natural way to expand our business. Becoming a publisher was Fred Wester’s original vision all along.

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Games like Sengoku seem to be smaller projects released in between the big hit series

Paradox Interactive always focused itself on the PC market. Even when many other publishers jumped to consoles and seemed to treat the pc platform as second rate at best. Is Paradox interested in moving into the console market? How do you see the future of PC’s?

We're not sticking to PC because we love tinkering with hardware, fiddling with drivers or like multiple monitor setups so much - we're PC (Mac and Linux included) because it allows us the greatest degree of freedom when it comes to releasing games. We more or less have full control over every aspect of the games - when we release, how, for how much, what kind of content, how often we update the game etc, etc. We feel this kind of environment is best for us as content providers and the consumers, as well.

We're always interested in other platforms as long as they enable this kind of openness - rules, regulations, certification and red tape make it harder for us to give the gamers what they want. Historically consoles have not been able to match the PC platform in regards to making life easier for publishers/devs.

Paradox Interactive initially made its name with intricate strategy titles like Crusader Kings, Europe Universalis and Hearts of Iron. Since then however you moved towards a much broader scope in genres. Is this the new Paradox, a publisher that publishes all sorts of games and not just strategy?

We will always do those hardcore historical strategy titles, but you will see us branch out to other genres/markets from time to time. Still, I think (at least I hope) that you see a few common denominators among the 3rd party titles we publish. We choose games that are unique compared to what everyone else is releasing, they emphasize replayability, and they all have a hardcore aspect to them - to name just a few key elements. Our company tagline used to be "Strategy is our game". We're still looking for a new one. My suggestion is "smart games, for smart gamers". We'll see what we end up with :)

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The move from solely developing to also publishing saw releases like strategy/rpg hybrid King Arthur see the light. Not bad.


The road so far hasn’t been without bumps. What happened between Paradox and the Magna Mundi team comes to mind. Has this changed Paradox Interactive’s attitude towards modding? Has it caused you to be more involved with fan development teams and what they’re doing from now on?

Mod teams are a passionate bunch. They rally together for a very specific cause fueled entirely by passion for the project. Harnessing all this when one transitions to a formal business relationship is notoriously very hard. Polygon published a great article about the trials and tribulations of going legit with a mod team. We love modding and it's a top priority for a lot of our upcoming games. By making modding easier there will hopefully we be more mod teams to work with in the future.

Can you tell us a bit about what Paradox Interactive will have in store for us in the future?

The core titles will be better and more polished than ever. The 3rd party titles will be a mixed bag of innovative niche indie games and bigger games that sport a distinctive Paradox twist to well known formulas.

Thank you for your time!

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