Paradox Interactive, the gang behind games including Crusader Kings and Hearts of Iron, have pledged to undo their recent increases to regional prices across much of the world. While many of the price rises were minor, others were huge. For example, the price of Stellaris in Russia went from 699₽ to 1199₽. Paradox had said the increases were "to make our prices match the purchasing power of those areas" but have since decided they communicated this poorly, so they will roll the prices back.
The changes in mid-May sparked upset among players, I'm sure you can imagine, which spilled over to more gripes about Paradox's business plans. Yesterday, Paradox CEO Fredrik Wester responded in a public statement.
"In regards to the price changes you are absolutely right. You deserve more transparency and better communication from Paradox when it comes to changing of our prices and pricing policy. Therefore I have decided to roll back all price changes made; any price changes will have to be for future products well communicated in advance."
He says that Paradox can't roll back prices during the Steam Summer Sale, as they'd be required to remove their games from the sale, but they will make the change after it ends - which is on July 5th. For people who bought at the higher prices, including during the sale, they hope to refund the difference or reimburse it with gifts of games, if possible. If it's not possible -- and Wester does note "I do not in detail know the limits to the Steam platform" -- they'll donate double the total difference to the UN Refugee Agency.
Wester also noted that "Some of the frustration has been expressed due to our DLC policy and how we handle additional content for our games". He responded:
"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. 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."
I do find some of Paradox's DLC releases unexciting, especially for the price. But many aren't 'essential', they do often go on sale, and they have funded keeping Crusader Kings 2 and other games refreshed and expanded with free content updates for far longer than most publishers would. Games like Stellaris have seemed a little light at launch, though, needing a good few updates (and expansions, really) to bloom into more interesting and long-lived games.
And because no video game discussion is complete without accusations of selling out, Wester says:
"Finally - 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. 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."
As for what caused this whole stink in the first place, changes to regional pricing, I would probably expect those to return at some point. As a Paradox representative said back in May:
"The reason for this is to make our prices match the purchasing power of those areas, 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. This is something that all publishers do and we are no exception.
"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."
That underlying condition hasn't changed, and Paradox have only said that they handled communicating the changes poorly - not that the price rises were wrong. (Whether they are wrong or not, well, I'm sure you have your own opinions on the many facets of globalisation.) It seems likely they'll return to this at some point, only with a lot more caution and warning next time.