Paradox’s New Indie Label: Mezmer Games Interview

By Kieron Gillen on February 13th, 2009 at 9:31 am.

Lovely green logo

News broke yesterday that Paradox, no strangers to the world of Digital Downloads, were launching a new label specifically for indie games. Mezmer Games aims to create a forum for indie games, merging the retail and community ends and… oh, one of their first two games is cheery RPS-hype Stalin Versus Martians. Hell, yeah! We grasped the opportunity to be the first to talk to Fredrik Wester, Paradox’ Executive Vice President, about their plans for Mezmer…

RPS: Could you explain the thinking behind a separate label? Paradox are no strangers to digital distribution. Why the need to make Mezmer?

Fredrik Wester: Mezmer represents something new and fresh in the gaming industry; while Paradox Interactive is focused a publishing games for a worldwide audience mostly based on our own brands, Mezmer Games is a marketplace where small independent developers can take advantage of our marketing and sales network and hopefully reach a bigger audience than they are able to do by themselves. Mezmer will not own the IP and will pay back a higher share of royalty than the industry standard from a traditional publisher. The aim is to be the meeting place between gamers and independent developers for games that are really great, but for some reason are not able to make a presence in retail. There are lots of good $9.99 – $19.99 games awaiting the gamers.

RPS: One of the more interesting aspects of the idea seems to be the community involvement. Could you explain the thinking? Many indie devs try to do this separately already – is part of the idea is that there’s a synergy to doing it at a central point? As in, it makes it easier for fans of one game to cross over to another?

Fredrik Wester: We hope there is a synergy for the gamers that they can meet a lot of independent developers in one spot, where they can read several different developer diaries, follow the games, read previews and look at screen shots, all while discussing directly with the developers and other gamers.

RPS: How are you going to deal with the multiple-areas problem (i.e. Pricing being enormously different between zones) that has caused some aggravation with traditional online sales. Will the fact these games aren’t being distributed through any other channel simplify this?

Fredrik Wester: With no traditional retail pressure, we’ll be able to apply a “one world – one price” policy. We will charge the same for our games regardless of territory.

We almost don't care if this one's any good or not. It's just got a good name.

RPS: Also, I note you say “digital distribution and alternative channels”. Bar digital distribution, what alternative channels are you thinking of?

Fredrik Wester: As the awareness of some of the games increase either through reviews, word of mouth, etc., we always get a lot of requests from retailers, magazines, and different companies to do special deals of different kinds. This is easiest described as “alternative channels,” even if the word is a bit fuzzy.

RPS: How are you approaching developers? What sort of developers should approach you? Is there anyone particularly you’ll love to work with?

Fredrik Wester: We work with all kinds of developers who create good games, we sometimes approach developers and sometimes developers approach us. We are constantly on the lookout for new games.

RPS: What attracted you to the first two games you’re releasing? RPS are, of course, were amongst the first to hail the genius conceptual engineering of Stalin Versus Martians, but Legio is new to us.

Fredrik Wester: We wanted to start off with two really great games that were extremely different from one another. Legio is a turn-based strategy best described as a mix between Warcraft and Chess; and of course Stalin vs Martians, the action-RTS featuring Russian techno music in the background. We were initially approached by both teams to be published under the Paradox brand and we immediately saw the quality of the games, however the price tag would have to be around $19.99, making it tough to sell them in retail. With the high cost of taking a game to a traditional retail release, it is easy to disregard titles like this and this was the single most important reason why we created Mezmer Games.

I wish real life was turn-based.

RPS: Are there any other games in the pipeline you can talk about yet?

Fredrik Wester: We are currently evaluating another 8-10 titles ranging from RPG’s to Adventure Games to Strategy. Unfortunately I cannot say any names yet, but we’ll get back to you in a couple of weeks.

RPS: And that should be enough! Thanks for your time.

Fredrik Wester: Thanks for your time as well, always a great pleasure chatting with you guys. I really look forward to the moment in, say 4-5 years, when I follow a discussion on RPS and read people commenting; “Oh yeah, I was one of the first members of Mezmer Games back in the day, and you have to say that these guys just keep on publishing great games”. Of course I know this will never happen since gamers are quite nostalgic by nature, but a man can wish, right? :)

RPS: I wish I had a pony.

Mezmer Games’ Site has launched if you wish to go join and make Fredrik happy.

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36 Comments »

  1. Ben Abraham says:

    Stalin vs. the Martians IS a very tempting game…

  2. mellowF says:

    If they had a community based homepage like GOG it might be more interesting…

    At the moment they have hardly any information about the games on their homepage, hard to make a buying decicsion this way…

    A homepage like GOG for indie games would rock though \m/

  3. mellowF says:

    Oh, just saw the google Ads on their mainpage…
    They should remove the ads if they are really serious

  4. Feet says:

    I am the 42nd member. Hooray!

    I do hope it takes off so I can gloat in 5 years time how cutting edge I was now. :P

  5. Punjab says:

    Stalin Versus Martians has got to be the best name for a game ever.

  6. Feet says:

    So is this going to be like Steam or Impulse, where there’s a distribution client on your machine and that handles all the digital downloads, or is it going to be a e-commerce website that just emails you a link to a download?

  7. danielcardigan says:

    @Feet – they talk about it being a platform so I suspect they’ll require a client. Which is starting to get ridiculous.

  8. theleif says:

    @Feet
    Gamergate just dropped their client and lets you download all your purchased games directly from their site. I don’t see why mezmer shouldn’t let you do the same.

  9. QuantumGravitas says:

    @theleif

    YOU can see why Mezmer shouldn’t let you do the same, queastion is – can Mezmer see? I’d hope for the latter – I’m not entirely comfortable with Impulse or Steam having their hooks in my system as it is.

  10. SlappyBag says:

    Except that Steam is just damn wonderful =)

  11. SlappyBag says:

    Its like a cookie from jesus

  12. Premium User Badge Fede says:

    If it has a client, I just hope it’s Impulse like: use it to download, then forget about it.

    But of course no client is better.

  13. QuantumGravitas says:

    Why is a cookie from a 2000 year old fictional guy a good thing? Surely that means the cookie is itself a lie…?

  14. Heliocentric says:

    http://www.mezmergames.com/photo/dont-worry-stalin-is-watching?context=album&albumId=2755333%3AAlbum%3A86

    I hope that isnt a tease and giant Stalin really is really a unit.

  15. QuantumGravitas says:

    @Helio

    Agreed. :) That would seven kinds of awesome (and some previously undiscovered kinds, too). And yes, Punjab, it might be a contender for best named game…EVAR! And how can you go wrong with Russian techno? Who are these madmen with their wonderful ideas???

    I think I’m more interested in Legio, though. I like a bit of Chess/RTS fusion, me.

  16. Fred (Pdx) says:

    Hey guys, thanks for the feedback. The Google Ads will go away within soon, this is something that came with the original Ning package for the web site. We are looking forward to developing this site a lot to become a good community.

    Pls note that this is not a download service, we will use GamersGate, Steam, Impulse, D2D etc to distribute the games for us.

    If you have more feedback, pls email me at fredrik@paradoxplaza.com

    Fred

  17. mcw says:

    @melloF: Do you think it would be feasible for GOG to publish independent games? The pricing range would be sort of similar and they could provide the forums, transaction and hosting of files. Their website seems pretty well suited for the task, only problem i can think of is the name ;) Steam already does it but they seem to be very picky about what they add to the service.

  18. Tom (Mezmer Games) says:

    Hi! Thank you all for great feedback!

    We won’t sell games from MezmerGames.com, but we will link to online stores.

    And yes, that huge Stalin *is* a unit!

  19. Still annoyed says:

    Paradox/Mezmer guys: More quirky russian games, please. Also, sims. Thanks!

  20. cubed2D says:

    “And yes, that huge Stalin *is* a unit!”

    i want to buy this game NOW

  21. Heliocentric says:

    Woo! Okay, now i demand stalin has really abstract super powers. Such a the “even distribution of wealth”. Which tanks your economy but allows all units access to cheap upgrades. “And unity of state” which for 30 has all units on the russian ride share one composite health bar. Meaning nothing dies until every hp is gone. But a group of infantary taking massive anti infantary fire could get your whole army killed.

  22. Pags says:

    While we’re on the topic of Paradox, how about something on the new M&B expansion?

    Also, this is a good idea and I’m glad they haven’t gone the route of distributing the games through yet another download service and decided to use exisiting ones instead.

  23. theleif says:

    A game that lets me play with Stalin!
    A childhood dream come true.

  24. Heliocentric says:

    Other games that let you be stalin? Sim city with cheats on?

  25. theleif says:

    And, if it contains commissars as well as let you secure resource sites by building huge bronze statues, i will be a very, very happy old boy.

  26. Ceremony says:

    So, the developers must release the game on Steam/other DD service first, or are you guys going to be doing that for them, then linking to it from Mezmer?

  27. Munin says:

    If Mezmer uses other download services for the games and does not develop games itself then, uh..what does it actually do?

  28. PHeMoX says:

    The following would be reason enough for me not to buy a certain game if it’s somehow far cheaper to buy when I would reside in the US instead of say somewhere in Europe.

    “Fredrik Wester: With no traditional retail pressure, we’ll be able to apply a “one world – one price” policy. We will charge the same for our games regardless of territory.”

    I very much dislike Steam’s pricing policy at the moment.

  29. Ceremony says:

    @Munin: I think they may be acting as a publisher for indie developers. As in, putting the games on Steam news, advertsing the games on Mezner site, etc. As well as being a hub for indie developers and gamers to interact. I could be wrong, however, which is why I asked as well.

  30. Pags says:

    Oh, this made me laugh:

    Paradox are no strangers to digital distribution

    Given that it was a Paradox cock-up that meant people were able to get a hold of review code of M&B a fair while before release, I just thought there was some delicious irony there. No strangers to digital distribution indeed!

  31. cheeba says:

    Ooh, legio looks interesting. I could really go for a little more turn-based action right about now.

  32. AndyWiltshrieNZ says:

    So it’s just a social network….

  33. Dan Eriksson says:

    Yeah I was member 101 on their site, for a day or two, until I got banned for having reacted to Fredrik (executive vice president) comparing piracy with arson. Regardless of what specific opinion you have in the subject – is that the way to reason, to handle a debate (and to handle a customer)?

    Blatantly disrespectful.

  34. Dan Eriksson says:

    I’m not even trying to say that piracy is the way to go, I’m just trying to explain why I think it can actually help both the consumers AND businesses by forcing new and modern ways of distribution that compete and offer consumers what they want (which isn’t just “for things to be free”).

    Just like Steam. Just like… iTunes. Just like MEZMER for crying out loud! >_<

    But nope.

  35. UK_John says:

    I have been a PC gamer for 25 years, so have seen this all before. This is the same thing as happened 15 years ago when Microprose, Access and SSI, etc were being bought up to add ‘synergy’ and within a couple years the label no longer existed and neither did their particular type of games!

    This is about control. This is about making money out of the little guys!

    I say to any indie company – stay independent. Or we’re going to be starting the same merry-go-round that has got us to the disastrous multiformat market PC gamers ave to deal with now!