Paradox’s Wester on Cities: Skylines, Stellaris and a record-breaking 2015

Alex Calvin
Paradox’s Wester on Cities: Skylines, Stellaris and a record-breaking 2015

Paradox has been around since 1999 but it's only recently that the Swedish firm has reached mainstream attention.

Its stock has risen so much that Chinese games giant Tencent recently took a five per cent stake in the firm for 286m. In March 2015, Paradox released Cities: Skylines, a title that showed SimCity how city builders are done. It sold 250,000 units in its first day, before reaching half a million copies in its first week. Today, sales sit at 2m units.

The past 12 months has shown us that we can achieve a lot of growth within a limited time period and that our organisation is ready to take the next step,” CEO Fredrik Wester says.

We had a record year with record selling SKUs but that was also true for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013 with the releases of Magicka, Crusader Kings 2 and Europa Universalis IV respectively. This is a long-term trend of Paradox being able to build better games and continue to support our fans with great content.”

During 2015, the firm's net revenue increased 241 per cent to SEK 604m (51m). And this was largely driven by the surprise success of Cities: Skylines.

Together with studio Colossal Order we were just trying to give people what they were asking for, no more and no less,” Wester says. Sometimes it doesn't have to be more complicated than that.”

As well as being successful for Paradox, Cities: Skylines was hugely influential and was an indication that the city sim – previously thought dead after 2013's troubled SimCity – was alive and well.

Whenever a surprise hit is released it of course attracts a lot of attention from other developers,” Wester says. We are constantly inspired by other titles and the people at Paradox are avid gamers. It doesn't even have to be a big hit for us to be impressed, sometimes the coolest and most innovative mechanics come from completely new teams without a previous track record.”

Following a successful 2015, it appears that Paradox is on track to have another significant year. The company recently released its internally developed space strategy title Stellaris, a title that broke Paradox's revenue records with 200,000 sales in one day.

Stellaris has gone far above expectations for us, which of course feels great,” Wester says. Stellaris fills a gap in between the traditional 4X games (which is a type of strategy game) and our own grand strategy titles that seems to be attractive to a fairly large audience.”

The title was generally met with favourable reviews, with a 79 Metacritic score. IGN's assessment was on the negative side of things, with Rowan Kaiser giving the game a 6.3/10 rating. This was met with a negative reaction from a vocal minority of gamers. Kaiser even faced harassment online. But Paradox came to his defence, sticking up for his review and the critical freedom of journalists.

We stood against online harassment that the IGN reviewer was exposed to,” Wester says. It was not an endorsement of the review. It's not up to us to comment on specific reviews.”

With Stellaris' success, it seems 2016 is going to be yet another record-breaking year for Paradox.

Our ambition is always to grow and to make better games,” Wester says. We are looking to expand within the genres where we are currently active and hopefully develop new cool services for our fans.”

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