You’ve probably never heard of Fredrik Wester or the studio he’s CEO of, Paradox Interactive. It operates mainly out of Sweden, a country slowly starting to exert more and more influence in pop culture. And, as Wester points out in this 26 minute talk entitled Using an Axe to Carve a Niche, Paradox Interactive makes games for nerds. Which is why it’s the leader in the grand strategy game market, and why it’s gone from six employees to around 255 across the world since Wester took over in 2004.
If this talk had come out in 2010 instead of 2013, it should’ve been required viewing for the EDC.
Everything about it is the counter example to the 38 Studios deal. Don’t make what the big studios are making, those require experience and resources you don’t have. Identify your market, identify your audience, and saturate it (Wester discusses wanting to sell his game to all of the subscribers of World War II Magazine). Avoid the typical marketing strategies; instead of an expensive 3D animated trailer, Paradox released one for their flagship Europa Universalis game suggesting “this game probably isn’t for you,” defying the customer to prove them wrong. Don’t leave a game incomplete.
In many ways, it’s the opposite strategy that the states here have been pursuing. Right now, we’re seeing strategies focused around “economic competitiveness.” But of course, the way to be competitive is to just throw gobs of cash at a company; witness North Carolina pulling in MetLife jobs with a $96 million payoff or our own success of attracting business with 38 Studios. Or how CVS demands money to stay in the state, even though it’s been very successful.
Rhode Island simply can’t compete with states like California, New York, or Texas. We can’t even compete with Massachusetts or Connecticut. But even though we’ve consistently failed trying to play this game, that’s what’s being pursued by our so-called leaders.