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.
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.
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.