Players are value creators - Paradox CEO

Fredrik Wester explains why Crusader Kings II has had a broken tutorial for a year and nobody seems to care

In his talk at the Montreal International Game Summit today, Paradox Interactive CEO Fredrik Wester discussed the studio's reputation for making incredibly complex games that can be daunting to learn, but endlessly engaging for the devoted fans who tackle the learning curve. He also explained why the publisher has left a tutorial in Crusader Kings II broken for over a year.

When Wester raised the issue, he was surprised to learn from the community team that "no one really gives a shit." It turned out that most of the people on Steam learning to play Crusader Kings II were getting the basics from a YouTube series put up by a user named Arumba. Arumba's not alone, either; in total, Wester said he knows of four fans whose main source of income is playing Paradox Games for others to watch.

"So when Nintendo tells people to take down their videos, they're just cutting off the whole value creation from these people who freely market your game and tell people your game is great," Wester said.

The idea of players as value creators for a company was one Wester returned to throughout the talk. Staying on the Crusader Kings II example, he brought up a Game of Thrones-themed player-created mod. According to Wester, 20 percent of Crusader Kings II gamers are playing specifically for the Game of Thrones mod. Kotaku called it "the best Game of Thrones game," even though it was made by a handful of players for free.

When Cities: Skylines launched, it had less than 200 buildings. The closest competition, EA's always-online Sim City, had about 1,000, Wester said. But Cities: Skyline supported a player modding community, while Sim City didn't. Thanks to that decision, within a day of release, Cities: Skylines had more buildings than Sim City.

"That is the real million dollar question... How do you invite people to create value for you? That's something you should go back to your studios and ask yourself," Wester said. "How do we get these 4 million Paradox customers to start creating value for our company for free? Or we could even pay them, because they create so much value."

Full disclosure: MIGS has a media partnership with, and paid for our travel and accommodation during the event.

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Latest comments (1)

Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 3 years ago
Interesting that he doesn't realize he's already paying those customers. Those customers are not doing all that work for free, from their point of view; they're doing it because they're getting something back: not money, but in this case, enjoyment. Paradox is paying them by giving players the platform and environment to be able to enjoy creating and sharing new content.

That may seem a bit abstract, but the same mechanism can be seen more clearly in a lot of F2P MMOs. To attract paying (in cash) players, World of Tanks, as just one example, needs a lot of players on line through most or all of the day so that battles fill, matchmaking goes quickly, and so on. The obvious way to do that is to pay a lot of people to play the game. WoT does this by paying not in cash but in entertainment; they recruit millions of players to play in trade for entertainment, and these players in turn provide the environment that lets them make money from their tens of thousands of paying players. When you examine the economics in this way, you realize that seeing the paying players as subsidising the free players is completely backwards.
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