Take a look at the Europa Universalis 4 Steam page and you'll notice something interesting: Overall user reviews, more than 21,500 of them since August 2013, are "very positive," but recent reviews—2400 and counting—are "mostly negative." The sudden surge of vitriol was driven by Paradox Interactive's decision last month to increase the prices of its games and DLC in many regions. The reason, Paradox explained in a May forum post, was to "make our prices match the purchasing power of those areas [where the prices changed], as well as create a more equal price point for our products across the globe."
"Our prices have remained pretty much the same for several years and it's only natural for us to re-evaluate price points at regular intervals based on the strength of various currencies, fluctuations in world markets and many other factors," Paradox wrote. "Sadly this means that the price has gone up for certain regions and whilst this is something we'd like to avoid, it's necessary to keep our price point more in line with our other markets. We sincerely apologize for any frustration this may cause and hope you can understand why we are doing this."
Of course, it didn't quite work out that way, and Europa Universalis 4 was far from the only Paradox game to be review-bombed on Steam: Other popular Paradox games including Crusader Kings 2, Hearts of Iron 3 and 4, Victoria 2, and even Obsidian's hit RPG Pillars of Eternity, have all been clobbered by waves of mixed or negative user reviews. In a message posted earlier this week, Paradox CEO Fredrik Wester apologized for the poor communication and timing of the changes and promised that in the future, "We will do our best to ensure that our community is better informed, that we have a better process for rolling out changes, and that the only surprises you get from us are of the pleasant kind." At the same time, he said, "We stand by our new prices."
Today, however, the situation has changed. In a new statement, Wester said that after spending a day reading comments, feedback, and email, he has decided that you were right and he was wrong—and because of that, he's decided to roll back all the increases.
"I just came off the phone with Steam and they say we can't do the roll-back before the Summer Sale is over (otherwise it would mean we have to take all Paradox products off the summer sale) but it will be done right after," Wester said. "For anyone who bought any of the games during this time (including during the summer sale) we will try to refund (if possible in the Steam platform) or reimburse with games of a value exceeding the difference. If none of this is possible (I do not in detail know the limits to the Steam platform) we will internally calculate the difference in revenue before and after the price change, double the value, and donate the money to the UNHCR."
Wester also addressed the recent complaints about Paradox's DLC policy, and on that point he was somewhat more intransigent. "Since the release of Crusader Kings 2 (Feb 14, 2012) we have adopted a policy where we release paid content and at the same time content for free even if you do not want to pay for the DLC," he continued. "This means that if you only paid for the original game, you still have a completely different game today with thousands of additions, upgrades and changes. This doesn't mean you should stop giving us feedback on how we conduct our business but if you straight out just hate our DLC policy I respectfully say that we have to agree to disagree."
He concluded by saying that the decision to roll back the price changes was not a surrender to "mob mentality," but rather came as the result of ongoing communication with active, long-term members of the Paradox community. He also dismissed suggestions that Chinese gaming giant Tencent's 2016 investment in the company has somehow corrupted it.
"As much as I love a good conspiracy theory, to be frank, the whole 'Tencent bought 5% of Paradox and now they're all greedy' and 'They're now a publicly traded company and therefore do things the market wish for' is below the level of intelligence of this community," Wester said. "I still hold 33.3% in Paradox, I am still CEO, board member and avid gamer. All you need to know is that the buck stops here. All problems/feedback can easily be sent my way, I will not always agree but I promise to listen."
(Wester's email address, by the way, is email@example.com.)