Paradox CEO Fredrik Wester and COO Susana Meza Graham discussed the future of the games industry at a media round table last week, focusing particularly on the viability of big-budget game development, the challenges facing an exploding digital market, and why a game about pinging a goat off a trampoline is preferable to the biggest shooter series in the world.
"Competition is really fierce," said Wester. "You have to have an edge in there, and that's why I say 'more Goat Simulator and less Call of Duty' for Paradox, because we need the edge. It's easier to get out and market, it's easier to show what you're doing.
"People are tired of explosions and dubstep music. We've seen it a million times now, like, stop doing it. No more."
Paradox' bosses aren't planning to muscle in on the farmyard animal flap-about genre any time soon, but they are thinking hard about how to stand out in increasingly packed market of small and mid-tier releases. It's not surprising that they'd look favourably on a quickly produced viral hit like Goat Simulator, they've had success building niche games with relatively small teams, and are wary of the one-upmanship that accompanies big-budget blockbuster development. Susana Meza Graham thinks the arms race can't last.
"I think we're going to see a little bit of a scaling back as well. As an industry we've just tried to top each other every single time we release something, it's going to be bigger, better, bigger productions, bigger marketing budgets, whatever, whatever. Then all of a sudden it's released and we still can't meet consumers' expectations because some things don't work maybe as planned, the plans were too ambitious."
Assassin's Creed Unity provides a recent example. Wester has another that highlights the sky-high expectations developers and publishers set around their landmark releases.
"One signal there is when Square Enix shipped [Tomb Raider], the latest edition of that, it's like 'it's a new record for Square Enix! Shipping 5.3 million units day one!' And it's still 1.2 million units under their target. Then I feel like 'okay your target is 30 percent more than you've ever done before ever ever ever, and that's your target' There's something that's a bit strange here."
"You can always dream," Susana adds. "And there's reality, and at some point the two need to start meshing together a little bit more. Maybe it's easy to sit here and say—we don't face those realities on a day to day basis—but I just think it's gotten to a point where it's a rollercoaster, it's not going to be able to continue like this."
Paradox has had its own setback recently, cancelling their Norse mythology RPG, Runemaster, to refocus their efforts on other projects. Said projects include the wizardy co-op game, Magicka 2, Cities: Skylines, Hearts of Iron 4 and a new expansion for Europa Universalis IV. They're also publishing Obsidian's Pillars of Eternity, due out next month.